Benz aims up with an arsenal of eight SUV weapons to win the high ground.

A two-pronged attack by the three-pointed star is about to stir things up at the top end of the SUV world.

Explore the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLE-CLASS Range

Not content with a midlife update of its popular ML, now called the GLE to link it to the E-Class models, Mercedes-Benz is also lobbing a BMW X6 clone called the GLE Coupe into its showrooms.

The double-edged effort means the GLE SUV can be softer and more family friendly, while the GLE Coupe is tougher in the way it looks and drives.

There is more to like but buyers will be paying more, as the basic GLE 250 diesel jumps by $3000 to $86,900, while the flagship Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe tops the line-up at $210,000.

Mercedes-Benz Australia says value improvements of up to $8000 more than compensate for the price rises.

The Coupe comes as a direct response to defections to the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz is already working on a GLC Coupe after showing it as a motor show concept.

The GLE Coupe definitely makes a visual impact

"There is nothing wrong with coming late to a party, provided you have a special gift," says Mercedes-Benz spokesman, David McCarthy.

The GLE Coupe definitely makes a visual impact, with the AMG 63 hulkster confronting to look at, but at least the curvy newcomers have a usable boot and a back seat that comfortably handles three adults. It's impossible to be sure until we have a head-to-head contest but the Mercedes seems a little more user friendly than the X6 in the body.

The changes to the standard GLE SUV are relatively minor but there is still a bit of differentiation from the ML in the nose and a significant upgrade in the cabin that includes an eight-inch screen, a new steering wheel and updated and upgraded switches and leather treatments.

There are five SUV models — 250d, 350d, 400, 500 and AMG 63 S — with a predictable spread of V6 turbo diesel and twin-turbo petrol V8s, and the latest 9G-Tronic auto but only a seven-speeder on the V8s.

Mercedes-Benz has resisted the temptation of a two-wheel drive price fighter so all come with constant all-wheel drive, and there is also an optional off-road package — complete with crawler gears and ride height gains — although it's only expected to be chosen by a handful of owners.

The Coupe range is only three models — 350d with 190kW/620Nm, 450 V6 with 270kW/520Nm, AMG 63 S with 430kW/760Nm.

Prices are $121,900 through to $141,900 and $210,000.

On the road

There is a GLE to suit most tastes and (upscale) budgets, with the 350 diesel best for towing and the 500 best for badge snobs in the SUV family. On the Coupe side, the 350d is the price leader and the 450 AMG V8 fills the middle ground before the AMG hero everyone really wants.

I spend my driving time at the opposite ends of the action, where I would personally be going, with the 250 SUV and the AMG 63 Coupe. One is the smart family choice and the other is the car to reward yourself and score points from your mates who are still in a BMW X6.

The 250d is quick enough for city and suburban work and the big surprise, once I've adjusted to the new-look cabin and controls, are improved quietness and comfort. It rides more smoothly and there is less cabin noise and suspension thump.

It's a lovely drive on a long country loop out of Melbourne. There is more compliance in the suspension, I can feel the difference in the switchable engine-management settings, the new nine-speed auto has a gear for everything, and 500 Newton-metres of torque means I know it will tow and work well for a family.

Jumping straight to the hulkster Coupe, I'm hit by the performance and the front-end styling. The bold nose makes big promises and the twin-turbo V8 delivers all the response I expect from an AMG car with an extra 44kW over the previous GL 63.

It's a car to enjoy and open up just for the noise and fury

Also, it's a car that I seem to sit more "in" than "on" in the SUV. That's down to a higher bonnet line and a lower roofline, without any change to the seat height or mounting, and I quite like it.

The 63 will puddle about but comes alive when you switch all the settings to "go" and have a lash. It crushes hills and hunkers through corners in a way that makes you forget it's a family hauler at heart.

It will race to 100km/h in just 4.2 seconds and even has a top speed of 280km/h.

There is some kickback and juddering from the suspension, perhaps down to the heavyweight 22-inch alloys and their giant grippy rubber, but it's a car to enjoy and open up just for the noise and fury from the engine room.