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Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe 2020 review

Leaner, meaner - the GLE Coupe is a Mercedes tech showcase.
EXPERT RATING
7.6
It no longer matters if you like - or even understand - the idea of an SUV coupe. The customers have spoken, and these rolling contradictions are here to stay - the question is: has Mercedes improved the formula for the GLE Coupe's second generation?

Not so long ago, even the idea of 'coupe SUV' would have been considered just a little bit silly.

But not anymore. This almost contradictory bodystyle is well and truly here to stay, as evidenced by the expanding catalog of available models pouring out of premium automakers.

Benz tells us, for example, that coupe versions make up some 25 per cent of its GLE sales in Australia.

Which brings us to this car – the second-generation GLE coupe. We were sent to its international launch to find out what’s new, what’s changed, and what Benz has in store for the Australian market, come its arrival in Q3 of 2020. Read on to find out what we discovered.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 2020: GLE300 D 4Matic
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$105,700

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

There’s no dancing around the fact that the GLE Coupe is a niche, gratuitous product, targeted at a well-off consumer.

We don’t know what the pricing will be for the Australian range yet – and we won’t for a few months. But what we do know is Mercedes-Benz will only bring two highly specified variants to our market for the launch.

Those two will be the AMG-tuned GLE 53 which we were able to test at the launch, and a slightly lesser specified GLE 450.

Expect tall pricing, north of the wagon bodied GLE 450 ($111,341) for the 450 Coupe and outgoing GLE 43 Coupe ($145,829) for the GLE 53 Coupe.

The GLE Coupe will go into battle against the new BMW X6 (from $121,900) and Porsche Cayenne (from $116,600) and Audi Q8 ($128,900)

Standard features, as with the rest of the second-generation GLE range will be pretty good. We don’t know exactly what Australian-specified vehicles will get, but the GLE 53 as tested in Europe came with an extensive list of items.

You can expect all variants to get 20- to 22-inch alloys, electric tailgates, LED headlights, and Benz’ signature ‘Artico’ faux leather interior trim. The 53 also had a swish fully RGB adjustable interior ambient lighting suite and real wood in the dash. Very nice.

All variants get 20- to 22-inch alloys. All variants get 20- to 22-inch alloys.

All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX (I’m told it’s said “em bee you ex”, not “em bucks”) digital dash and multimedia suite, consisting of two 12.3-inch screens, one a digital dash, the other a multimedia screen.

The flashy setup also supports Apple CarPlay and Android auto as well as the usual connectivity via Bluetooth and packs several USB C outlets alongside Aux and USB 2.0. Our test 53 had a head-up display, too.

Mercedes’ built-in assistant (summoned by uttering 'Hey Mercedes') has perhaps the best native voice recognition on the market in terms of its accuracy and what it can do.

All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX consisting of two 12.3-inch screens. All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX consisting of two 12.3-inch screens.

You can do things like adjust air conditioning, open the sunroof shade (oh yes, the GLE comes with a panoramic sunroof, too), and even find your specific music tracks via internet radio.

Then there’s the built in nav suite which is also one of the better ones on the market, featuring some very cool innovations.

The system will switch to the forward-facing camera when approaching an intersection and show you where to exit using augmented reality. Neat.

The 53’s system is also uniquely adjustable with AMG-specific themes and modes for the dash cluster, setting it apart from the lesser GLE 450 when it arrives.

It’s safe to assume there will be an extensive options list, including the 'E-Active Body Control' system (a $13,000 option on the wagon version) which uses cameras to detect road quality and optimize the air suspension system to suit. It also leans into corners. We’re keen to test it when it becomes available on the GLE 450.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings, Benz had it planned from the beginning.

It looks mean, especially the 53 with its giant toothy grille. The stance is low and wide for an SUV, and I’m especially a fan of the much more resolved rear end.

It’s less bulbous and frumpy, more slick and menacing, rounded out nicely by the flick of a lip spoiler jutting out the rear.

I’d say the GLE Coupe is even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8. I’d say the GLE Coupe is even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8.

You might think proportionally, the very idea of a coupe SUV is silly, and there’s no denying that, but then, you and I might not be the target audience.

That audience is someone looking for an avant-garde take on what a sports car actually looks like. They will be pleased – I’d say its even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8. The incoming Coupe version of the Porsche Cayenne will be a real challenger.

The presence the GLE Coupe exudes extends to the inside, where there’s plenty of Mercedes wow factor. Level what you might at the brand’s use of silver fittings and flat dual-screen set-up, there’s no denying Benz offers an interior entirely unlike its competition.

The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings. The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings.

The GLE has one of the best of the recent Benz interiors, too. I love the way the big dual-screen set-up is framed in a 'leather'-clad bay of vents.

I also like the real wood trim on our test car which runs across the dash and flows into the doors, and of course the wholly unnecessary vent-overload (becoming a Benz signature) pride of place in the centre of the dash.

It’s complemented by the tape-deck style silver switches for the climate controls which protrudes underneath.

The materials are great, with Artico trim running down the centre console, and across each doorcard. Almost every surface you’ll reasonably come into contact with is soft, and the commitment to real metals and wood is admirable.

Other highlights include the comfortable seats (with heating which extends into the armrests!) and AMG wheel which is flashy and aggressive, well suited to such a gratuitous vehicle.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Naturally, the entire idea of shaving a solid bit of roof off of an SUV is going to compromise the amount of ‘practicality’ you get from such a large footprint.

Those compromises are not only there, but they are quite obvious. The sheer height of the GLE makes peering over the edge of the bonnet difficult for parking, and the sloped roofline causes the A-pillar to eat quite a bit of your field of vision.

As you might imagine, it’s genuinely difficult to see much out of the back of the GLE Coupe. I caught myself continually adjusting the rear vision mirror – as though somehow it would grant me more vision out of the letterbox rear window.

Front passengers get away with plenty of room. Front passengers get away with plenty of room.

While front passengers get away with plenty of room, rear passengers are a little harder done by. This is again, largely due to the roof pillar, which eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel.

Thankfully, legroom is fantastic (largely due to that massive GLE platform), the trim is all just as good as it is in the front seats, and the back of the centre console gets its own set of climate controls, adjustable air vents and USB-C power outlets.

The roof pillar eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel. The roof pillar eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel.

I’d hardly say there’s an abundance of bottle holders for occupants, but there are a few. They aren’t big or packaged in ideal locations, but you’ll be able to get away with four 300ml containers in the front and four in the rear.

The boot has been re-worked from the GLE Coupe’s predecessor, there’s five extra litres on tap, for a total of 655 litres (VDA) – so it’s far from useless, but still down significantly from the full size GLE which has a massive 825L of space.

With the rear seats in place, boot space it rated at 655 litres (VDA). With the rear seats in place, boot space it rated at 655 litres (VDA).

Benz has made the boot more useful, too, lowering the sill by 60mm for easier access.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

Australia will only get one engine in the GLE Coupe – a 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol.

There will be two states of tune. The 450 will be able to make use of 270kW/500Nm, while the AMG-spec GLE 53 we were able to drive at the launch has more power still (thanks to extra hybrid augmentation on the turbo) for a total of 320kW/520Nm.

The 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol makes 320kW/520Nm. The 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol makes 320kW/520Nm.

For a quick comparison, the single-variant Q8 produces 250kW/500Nm from a twin-turbo V6, while the equivalent X6 – the M40i packs a 3.0-litre twin-turbo in-line six to make 250kW/450Nm.

The GLE 53 has a nine-speed auto transmission which is specially tuned by AMG to go with the expanded list of available drive modes. All Australian GLE Coupes will be all-wheel drive via a permanently active '4Matic+' system.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the GLE 53 Coupe is 9.3L/100km, and while that’s not bad for something this heavy – keep in mind it’s an NEDC figure and not the widely-used WLTP figure so it could be a bit different by the time the GLE Coupe launches here.

Regardless, the fuel consumption is helped along by the abundance of ratios in the transmission and 48-volt mild-hybrid additions which help to remove inefficiencies from the drivetrain.

Our sweet but brief drive route in the Austrian Alps was not a fair reflection of fuel consumption, so we don’t have a real-world figure for you yet.

Expect the GLE 53 to require premium 98 RON unleaded petrol to fill its 65-litre fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

We don’t know exactly how Australian cars will be specified yet, but expect the two GLE Coupes to come with flagship active features like high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear and front cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree parking sensors and cameras, fully auto LED headlights, semi-autonomous parking, and driver attention alert.

The GLE has nine airbags and dual ISOFIX child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats.

Regular wagon bodied GLE class vehicles have maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings as of 2019, and we’ll update you when we hear more about the Coupe variants.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Mercedes continues with its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which is frustratingly standard across European premium car manufacturers in Australia– particularly its primary competitors, Audi and BMW. We doubt this will change any time soon.

Like VW Group competitors, though, Mercedes is now bundling in service costs in packages which can be tacked on to finance. The GLE requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km – we’ll update you on the cost of the packages closer to the Coupe’s local launch.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun, if chunky, unit to drive.

Acceleration is urgent thanks to the pre-spooled first-stage turbo, and the transmission flicks through the gears like there’s nothing to it.

It’s perhaps not as 'smart' on the downshifts as competitor transmissions from Audi or Porsche, although Mercedes was keen to point out this will get better over time as the car’s computer 'learns' your driving characteristics.

Thankfully though, unless you’re in 'Eco' mode, the GLE 53 does a great job of letting you ride each gear out, giving you that signature in-line six sensation of an entire revolution range of relatively even torque distribution – a characteristic which Mercedes has gone to pains to perfect on a turbocharged engine.

The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners. The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners.

This has the result of letting you bask in the sound for precious extra seconds.

While not as furious as preceding V8s – it is distinct. It’s refined and rich, although more subdued than you might have come to expect from vehicles wearing the Affalterbach badge.

I’m a fan. It’s an engine befitting a more refined sports machine than a garish statement.

The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners, while soaking up bumps (which we’ll admit, there were few of on Austria’s immaculate roads).

The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun. The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun.

It was interesting to read colleague Matt Campbell found the standard suspension less than impressive on the regular SUV-shaped variants, so we’ll see what the more basic set-up on the 450 is like at the Coupe’s launch.

I have no complaints about the steering, which proved to be responsive, smooth and accurate, while not erring too far on the heavy side, even in 'Sport' or 'Sport+' mode.

My main complaints lie with outward visibility and the sheer size of the GLE’s body. There were some nerve-wracking moments piloting it at speed around narrow streets with tall snow embankments encroaching.

And no matter how much I adjusted my seat and mirrors, the view out the back was particularly compromised.

Verdict

Whether you like Coupe SUVs or not is an entirely subjective matter, but there’s no denying the GLE 53 is a tech and spec showcase – some of the best Mercedes has to offer. If you can get past its relatively enormous dimensions and naturally compromised visibility – it’s even a hoot to drive.

The significant proportion of GLE consumers who are picking one of these over the regular version will be pleased with its many improvements. We’ll know more about how its price and specification lines up against primary rivals closer to its Australian launch date, so stay tuned.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Pricing guides

$154,764
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$105,700
Highest Price
$203,828

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GLE 300 D 4Matic 2.0L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO $105,700 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-CLASS 2020 GLE 300 D 4Matic Pricing and Specs
GLE 400 D 4Matic 2.9L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO $124,400 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-CLASS 2020 GLE 400 D 4Matic Pricing and Specs
GLE 450 4Matic (hybrid) 3.0L, Hyb/PULP, 9 SP AUTO $117,400 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-CLASS 2020 GLE 450 4Matic (hybrid) Pricing and Specs
GLE450 4Matic 3.0L, Hyb/PULP, 9 SP AUTO $117,400 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-CLASS 2020 GLE450 4Matic Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving8
Tom White
Journalist

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