Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - GLE - range
Turbo-diesel’s frugality, refinement and pace, brutal AMG bellow, ride comfort
Room for improvement
Rear headroom, rear vision, bootlid function and loading aperture
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24 Sep 2015
THE swoopy liftback/coupe version of the GLE SUV has been imbued with just enough altered character traits to make it a different proposition.
Broader and less angled in the rear than its BMW X6 nemesis, the Benz coupe immediately feels more planted on the road than its SUV cousin, and turns into corners with less hesitation.
Ride comfort is firmer but still good – even in the GLE63 AMG that was the first of the coupes sampled.
Ramping up to Sport Plus mode immediately delivers a grin for the driver – an aggressive auto-directed down-change throttle blip from the 430kW/760Nm twin-turbo V8 is accompanied by solid turn-in it also shrinks around the driver more than the SUV and feels lighter on its feet, despite tipping the scales at an extra 75kg.
It's still a big – and at $198,900 plus on-roads expensive – vehicle and wet surfaces will remind the driver of the laws of physics, which are not broken but certainly pushed to the limit.
Tight and twisty roads at speed maintain the conscious awareness of its girth, particularly in the face of oncoming trucks negotiating narrow country roads, but swift – not stupid – pace can be easily maintained.
Ride comfort doesn't degrade greatly in the sport modes but it’s the coupe's comfort mode that is the best for day-to-day running as it maintains a level of ride control not present in the SUV.
The active suspension fights body roll admirably while keeping the ride comfort reasonable.
Switching into the AMG "lite" variant – the $141,900 270kW/520Nm 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo Mercedes-Benz 450 AMG – finds a soundtrack slightly less aggressive but still bratty enough to enjoy.
The twin-turbocharged V6 when in Sport Plus mode snaps and crackles on the upshift – not as outrageously as the full-bore AMG but still with a sense of cheekiness and fun.
The nose feels a little lighter and the acceleration is less brutal than the twin-turbo V8, but there's still ample pace for a brisk back-road run.
Both forced-induction petrol motors offer deceptive and impressive part-throttle in-gear acceleration, which could easily see demerit points and cash being lost to consolidated revenue in state coffers.
The V6's thirst for 98RON PULP was also less compulsive, hovering in the 13-14 litres per 100km region as opposed to the mid-20s readout on the AMG63 S's trip computer after some press-ahead driving.
But, as was the case in the SUV, the 350d – the cheapest coupe, starting from $121,900 – proved to be the best all-rounder, with the V6 quietly and considerably effective in shifting the big coupe at a decent pace without an unearthly thirst.
Single-digit claims are believable given the diesel's trip computer finished in the 10-11L/100km range after no shortage of proactive and fuel-heavy driving.
The solitary turbo-diesel version sits on adaptive air suspension but is not equipped with the body roll control system, for the most part the absence was not notable.
The coupe body style has its disadvantages – rear vision (straight and three-quarter) is restricted, as is headroom for taller rear passengers.
A taller driver will notice the lower roof height that is exacerbated by a high-set driver's seat. It's not likely to regularly result on cranium colliding with door aperture but for a sports-coupe (even an SUV-based behemoth) the “behind the wheel” driving position offered by a wider range of height adjustment would be welcome.
The cargo area is decent but access is restricted by a high lip and a narrower aperture.
Something that afflicts both the coupe and SUV is the low positioning of the boot release button, which sits beneath the bumper lip.
Benz has mimicked the VW system of having the rear logo concealing the pop-out reversing camera but they haven't managed to integrate the boot release function into the emblem mechanism.
The SUV coupe market was met with scepticism by many when the BMW X6 arrived.
It still is around a quarter of the sales generated by the more practical and versatile X5 (in Australia at least) but the X6 has found its niche.
The GLE Coupe is priced in the ballpark and has the CV to take a solid swing at BMW.
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