We drive Mercedes' X6-chasing GLE Coupe in punchy 350d form. Has it done enough to catch its BMW rival?

What is it?

The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is the more overtly sporting sister to the facelifted third-generation M-Class, which has also adopted the GLE moniker.

It will be launched in the UK with two standard engines: a 254bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel fitted to the GLE350d 4Matic Coupe we've driven here, and a 328bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 in the GLE400 4Matic Coupe.

They will be joined next month by two AMG-developed petrol engines: a 362bhp version of the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 in the GLE450 AMG 4Matic Coupe and a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 developing 549bhp in the GLE63 4Matic Coupe, as well as a gutsier 577bhp version in the range-topping GLE63 S 4Matic Coupe.

As their names suggest, all models receive Mercedes' 4Matic four-wheel drive system as standard. 

What's it like?

Using the GLE as its base, the GLE Coupe has been extensively re-engineered. The two models share the same steel monocoque platform and 2915mm wheelbase. However, in a move that provides it with a larger footprint, the GLE Coupe has modified axle geometry with track widths that increase by 3mm at the front and 60mm at the rear over those of the GLE, at 1658mm and 1725mm respectively.

At 4900mm in length, 2003mm in width and 1731mm in height, the GLE Coupe is 9mm shorter, 14mm wider and 29mm taller than the second-generation BMW X6. Taking a lead from its strong-selling rival, the new Mercedes receives four conventional front-hinged doors and a large liftback-style tailgate.

The V6 diesel in the GLE350d Coupe is not greatly distinguished in either performance or fuel economy, giving away 55bhp and 4.7mpg to the similar-sized six-cylinder engine fitted to its most obvious rival, the BMW X6 xDrive40d.

However, the GLE's motor is pleasantly refined in all but the upper reaches of its rev range and, with a stout 457lb ft of torque on tap at 1600rpm, is flexible across a wide spread of revs. There's plenty of punch for overtaking, although an official 0-62mph time of 7.0sec and 140mph top speed is nothing special, being a respective 1.2sec and 9mph slower than the X6 xDrive40d.

A standard nine-speed automatic gearbox feels smoother and more intuitive than the older seven-speed unit used in the GLE400 Coupe; it provides quick, decisive shifts up and down the 'box. The engine requires so few revs at 80mph that you can barely hear it over the constant rustle of wind around the sizeable mirror housings.

It may tip the scales at a hefty 2185kg, but the GLE350d Coupe handles with great panache when hurried along on winding back roads. There is moderate body lean, even in the firmest of the three settings offered by its conventional front steel springs and optional rear air springs setup, as used by our test car. However, the car's overall agility is quite impressive for something so big.

Decent levels of grip provided by a four-wheel drive system enhanced with a torque vectoring function let you maintain good pace through corners with confidence. It's good fun exploring the car's potential, although it takes a good deal of commitment to experience the understeer that eventually emerges.

The ride, in the softest damper setting, is excellent both around town and out on the open road. The overall control of the suspension over high-frequency bumps at lower speeds is very impressive, as is the car's ability to settle quickly on undulating sections of road.

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Road noise is also well suppressed; at least, that’s the impression we got on the smooth surfaced roads in Germany. We’ll have to wait to see how it handles the coarser surfaces in the UK.

The GLE Coupe gets standard steel spring suspension, although Mercedes expect the majority of customers will choose the optional Airmatic air suspension, which uses air springs and new ADS Plus adaptive damping system with an additional valve over the system used in the GLE until now.  

A further notable feature is the standard Dynamic Select driving mode control system. It provides the driver with selectable driving modes; in the case of the GLE350d Coupe, Individual, Comfort, Sport and Slippery. Other models also get a Sport Plus mode that brings a double de-clutch function on the gearbox during downshifts.

You step up higher into the GLE Coupe than you do in the regular GLE, due to an additional 12mm of ride height brought on by its larger wheels. When you settle into the broad driver’s seat, you quickly discover one fundamental downside to the swoopy exterior styling, namely limited rearward vision because of the extreme angle of the rear window. This immediately makes it clear why Mercedes has decided to provide its latest model with a rear camera as standard. 

Cost considerations mean the interior is largely shared with the newly facelifted GLE. The familiar-looking dashboard is a relatively busy affair, with a free-standing monitor set high and varying controls adorning the centre section.

The latest generation of Mercedes' Comand infotainment system is mounted between the front seats along with the controls to alter the aforementioned driving modes.

Despite its heavily curved roofline and angled liftback-style tailgate, the GLE Coupe offers plenty of cabin space all round. The low-set rear seats cater for three adult passengers, with adequate leg and head room for the outer seat occupants. However, the middle seat is compromised by a narrow seat cushion and transmission tunnel.

Boot space is a claimed 650 litres, some 100 litres more than the X6, although the boot of the GLE has an unusually high loading lip, making it fairly awkward to lift heavy items over. The rear bumper extends so high, in fact, that it is used to house the opening mechanism for the automatic tailgate.   

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Should I buy one?

Whatever your thoughts about the showy styling, there’s no ignoring the sheer presence of the GLE Coupe on the road. This, I suspect, will be higher among the considerations of potential customers than any other aspect of the new Mercedes, including its engaging handling. 

Mercedes GLE350d Coupe

Location Germany; On sale July; Price £60,680; Engine 6 cyls, 2987cc, diesel; Power 254bhp at 3400rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 1600rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2185kg; 0-62mph 7.0sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 40.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 180g/km, 34%

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JOHN T SHEA 28 June 2015


An Audi A7 Allroad would make more sense than this or the X6.
Dark Isle 24 June 2015

Comically Bad

It looks like the elegant, sophisticated brand I loved growing up in the late 80s and early 90s has long gone. The GLE perfectly encapsulates what can happen to a legendary company that has been desperately chasing BMW and Audi sales levels rather than sticking to what they did best.
scrap 23 June 2015

Horrid. Ugly in every sense.

Horrid. Ugly in every sense.