We’ll cut to the chase. Here at EngageSportMode we’re not huge fans of SUV based ‘coupé’ creations like the BMW X6, so a new offering from Mercedes-Benz is not really the early Christmas present we were wanting.
We fully respect the right of people to drive what they want, and manufacturers to create what they see the market needs. But sometimes there’s just the suspicion that a creation like this is an answer to a question nobody actually asked. How many people have walked into a Mercedes-Benz dealership and said “I like that M-Class [or GLE as it’s now known] but really I wish the roofline was lower at the back” to the salesperson? We’re willing to bet not many, but then how many wanted the CLS ten years ago?
At least the CLS-Class – a four-door coupé version of the E-Class – had a more obvious reason to exist in producing a more rakish looking version of a saloon. However, even this was stretching the concept of what a coupé is, from the original definition of being a two-door fixed roof car. The more recent CLS Shooting Brake took things further, by making an estate version of a four-door coupé, based on a normal saloon car. There is a lot of confusing ideas in the desire for Mercedes to fill every gap in the market, but at least the intended purpose for some of its creations is more apparent.
So, just what role does a coupé version of an SUV serve? Mercedes calls the GLE Coupé an “attractive symbiosis” of intelligence and emotion, which apparently reflects the differing outlooks of the company’s founders; Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. That appears to be shorthand for the notion of wedging two product types together, in order to fill another market niche. Tellingly, at no point in the press release for the GLE Coupé is there a mention of off-road prowess. Granted most SUVs never get dirty, but then to not mention mud-plugging ability at all surely questions the need for the SUV ingredient in this strange-looking dish.
Looks are, of course, subjective but the GLE Coupé is hardly elegant or refined in the traditional Mercedes-Benz sense. Mercedes likes to point out that the rear is inspired by the S-Class Coupé; which is an attractive vehicle. We’re just not convinced taking that curvaceous booty and grafting it onto a SUV is the best way to produce a good-looking car. A coupé top half and SUV bottom half create some weird proportions, and the 21″ AMG wheels pictured give the effect of the GLE Coupé almost teetering on tiptoes. SUV elements such as illuminated running boards, large squared off wheel arches, faux underbody protection at the rear have all been deliberately included on the GLE Coupé. Yet this creates an even stranger juxtaposition of the two competing body styles. Perhaps it might work better in the metal, but compared to some of the firm’s more recent efforts, it’s hard to be instantly seduced by this one.
To be launched, along with two diesel variants, the GLE Coupé most relevant to ESM is the 450 AMG version with its 367 bhp 3.0 litre V6 biturbo petrol engine. All versions come with a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, although the 450 AMG gains a 40:60 front/rear torque distribution, compared to the 50:50 setup of the diesels. This is all presumably for on-road ability, and not any reference to the GLE Coupé being able to cope should you take it green laning. We’d expect more engine variants to follow in the future, with the inevitable 63 AMG V8 biturbo to appear somewhere along the line to rival the BMW X6 M.
BMW is in fact probably the origin of the SUV Coupé market sector, with the X6 and now X4 models providing less practical versions of the X5 and X3 respectively. Audi has also teased the idea of a TT SUV model for a number of years, and recently let journalists try the TT offroad concept car, first shown off in Beijing earlier this year. Rumours also exist for Porsche making a coupé derivative of the Macan, so it looks like this market area is one not going away anytime soon.
As we stated at the top of this post, we’ve no issue with people having the freedom to choose what car they want. However, it is sometimes difficult to get away from the feeling that manufacturers are churning out new products purely for the sake of being different. The German “big three” of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and the Volkswagen Group have seemingly taken the goal of filling any potential gaps in the passenger car market as a real challenge. It’s just difficult to see the point in some of those niche creations, other than solely existing to create solve a problem which didn’t even exist.
UK pricing and specification are yet to be confirmed, so expect that in the new year when sales start. No word on whether Mercedes is planning an estate cabriolet version just yet either, but we’ll bring you that news when it inevitably happens.