Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe (2015) First Drive

Gle 450 Amg 12 1800x1800

Mercedes-Benz took the covers off the GLE Coupe at the local launch this week.

The GLE Coupe features in Jurassic World quite prominently and Mercedes SA put on a Jurassic-themed launch to reveal the Coupe SUV. There was even a GLE Coupe wrapped in a ‘Jungle camouflage’ kit. We then had a chance to drive it through the Knysna forest before opening it up on the roads surrounding the Garden Route.

What’s a GLE?

Mercedes-Benz has renamed its entire SUV lineup to confuse everyone. Thankfully however, after thinking about it, it actually makes more sense now. The letter G denotes that it’s an SUV. The L is a linking letter and the E determines the level of luxury. Think of it like the normal range of Mercedes-Benz where it has A-, C-, E- and S- Class. So the GLE Coupe is an E-Class Coupe SUV. It’s a direct rival to the BMW X6 and I’m sure Range Rover’s Sport falls into the segment as well.

Engine range

The GLE Coupe will be available with three engines from launch, one of which is a mega AMG unit. At the bottom of the range there’s a GLE 350 d 4-Matic, meaning it has built in four-wheel drive. The turbodiesel in the 350 d is capable of 190 kW and 620 Nm of torque. It’s a beauty of a diesel motor, pulling as smoothly as you could ask for with no hint of a tractor clutter from the bonnet. Middle of the model lineup is taken care of by a GLE 450 AMG 4Matic. This is the launch of the AMG Sport range that will filter into other models throughout the Mercedes-Benz brand.

It’s like a mini AMG but with real AMG bits. The 450 AMG is powered with a 3-Litre V6 with twin turbocharging and develops 270 kW and 520Nm of torque. Those are impressive figures and it's able to thrust the 2.2-tonne GLE Coupe around with nonchalant ease. Fuel economy is apparently decent on this model too, claiming anywhere between 8.9 and 9.4L/100km. The top-spec engine is the 63 AMG thunder-gargling dragon beast. The 5.5-Litre twin-turbo V8 thumps out 430 kW and 760 Nm of torque complete with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The other two engines have a nine-speed ‘box.

It can off-road

Our first jaunt in the GLE Coupe comprised a drive through the Knysna forest on a very wet and slippery Jeep track. Despite being quite rough and rocky, the GLE Coupe is specced with air suspension, allowing it to raise at slow speeds and hurdle obstacles. The 350 d and the 450 AMG have hill-descent control so they have been built with the idea of ruggedness and off-road ability. The GLE Coupe coped extremely well over the rough stuff, we didn’t hear any undercarriage scrapes and didn't need to be towed out of the swamp. Quite impressive.

Road composure

Out on the road, where it counts for a vehicle like this, the GLE Coupe is both comfortable when it needs to be and then a full-blown corner devourer when called on. Multiple driving modes are key to its dual purpose talents. There’s a Comfort mode that softens up the suspension and lightens the steering for everyday use and then modes for Sports, Sports+ and Slippery. Each mode changes the suspension, traction control, exhaust note or steering to the desired need. It really makes the GLE Coupe an all-purpose vehicle.

Spacious

Enter the cabin and the GLE Coupe is just like every other modern Mercedes-Benz model. There’s a screen in the centre to deal with navigation, media and telephone stuff. Room in the back is cavernous and headroom is more than adequate, despite the sloping roof. Rear passengers around six foot tall will have no problems with the leg or headroom in the rear. The boot is large too, measuring 640-Litres with the rear seats up. Fold the seats down and it opens up to 1650-Litres.

Merc GLE Coupe Pricing

The GLE Coupe is certainly a luxury purchase when you take pricing into consideration. Base pricing is fairly irrelevant as there are loads of options you can add to the GLE Coupe to make it suit you. The 350 d starts at R999 900 and the 450 AMG at R1 099 900. If you want full AMG, the GLE 63 AMG is a gob-smacking R1 859 900.

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