When BMW launched its X6, the world's motoring press wondered if the Bavarian giant had finally gone insane. After all, who would want a coupe combined with an SUV? As it turns out, the X6 was popular enough to warrant a second generation, and the concept has also been applied to create the smaller X4. Mercedes is also keen to get in on the coupe/SUV combo action with its new GLE Coupe.
Powering the new GLE, which combines the high-riding visibility of an SUV with the sporty profile of a coupe, will be two different petrol engines and a diesel. The GLE 350D is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel motor, producing 258 hp (192 kW) and 620 Nm (457 lb.ft) of torque between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm. Mercedes is yet to reveal fuel consumption figures for the GLE, but all engines meet Euro 6 emissions standards.
For those who prefer petrol power, the GLE will be offered with two variations of the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. The range starts with the GLE 400, which gives you 333 hp (248 kW) and 480 Nm (354 lb.ft) of torque - 40 Nm less than the range-topping GLE 450 AMG is making. Both do produce peak torque between 1,400 and 4,000 rpm, however. The GLE 450 AMG is also more powerful than the 400, with peak power pegged at 367 hp (274 kW).
Mercedes' "dynamic select" system allows drivers to choose between five different drive modes, ranging from smooth riding "comfort" mode to "sport plus," where the suspension, gearshifts and steering are sharpened. In the GLE 450 AMG, Sport plus mode also brings up a special section on the car's COMAND display which shows information about the g-forces you're pulling: presumably as you dodge traffic to get the kids to school on time.
All GLEs are fitted with Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, and channel their power through a 9-speed automatic gearbox. The GLE 450 AMG comes standard with air suspension and Mercedes' "active curve system," which can stiffen individual anti-roll bars to help the car stay level across rough roads or when the driver is throwing it around in the corners.
The GLE's coupe body style helps it stand out from the crowd of SUVs. Wide, slim rear taillights and strong haunches make the car look wide and low on the road, and big wheels (up to 22 inches) give it a sense purpose. It's not conventionally pretty, but there's no denying the GLE is distinctive, something the target audience should love.
Inside, the GLE Coupe's interior isn't quite as distinctive as its exterior. The central COMAND screen will be familiar to anyone who has seen inside one of the German brand's recent cars. Elsewhere, there are a broad range of leather and wood designs, including eucalyptus wood and open-pore ash.
Although the coupe-style roofline offers less headroom and trunk space than a normal SUV, Mercedes is still keen to highlight the practicality that the GLE Coupe offers, going so far as to claim the vehicle sets a new world record for luggage space in coupes.
Pricing has not been announced for the new GLE Coupe, although you can expect to pay a small premium over the equivalent ML-Class (soon to be renamed GLE) SUV for the extra style the GLE Coupe offers. It will debut at the Detroit Motor Show.