Say what you will about this new lot of style-before-substance crossovers, this new GLE Coupe from Mercedes-Benz goes anywhere. Sure, Benz might be a few years behind BMW’s lead with the X6 or Acura’s already forgotten ZDX and their fashionable coupe-like rooflines, but that’s given them time to do better.
With the fundamentals down – more on this GLE Coupe’s epic winter traction later – Mercedes-Benz seems to have concentrated on this crossover’s styling, giving it the most attractive design (or least offensive, depending on which side of the line your opinion resides). While I personally prefer traditional SUV styling for its cargo-carrying practicality (that’s why you buy an SUV, right?), this GLE Coupe is actually downright attractive with the most resolved, most balanced rear styling in the segment.
On the other hand, buyers will either love its styling or move on to something else. If you’re in the category of the former, then stick around because my test revealed just about everything you need to know about the GLE Coupe, since timing coincided with the height of our winter, allowing me plenty of play time in deep snow.
Perhaps the best feature of the GLE Coupe I tested is the suspension, as this unit was fitted with the optional Sport Package that includes the Airmatic air suspension and adaptive damping system. With it, the GLE Coupe has it all – ride comfort is excellent, though tuned a little firm, but body and wheel control is truly impeccable. Furthermore, the all wheel drive system works seamlessly and flawlessly in snow conditions, and rightly so with the fitted winter tires. No matter what the conditions, I could drive this Benz confidently through anything our winter could throw at it.
This 350d is equipped with Mercedes’ familiar 3.0-litre, single turbo, diesel V6 and, as expected, there’s barely a hint that it’s a diesel. Diesel Mercedes-Benzes are massively popular in Canada and it’s no surprise given the lack of noise and remarkably smooth engine operation. The paired nine-speed automatic never skipped a beat during my test and my only drivetrain complain has to do with slow engine response on throttle tip in at low speeds. With the massive 457 pounds of peak torque available form 1,600 RPM, the relaxed throttle response off idle makes sense, if only to save passengers’ necks from surprise bursts of acceleration.
With the current price of gasoline hovering under $0.90/litre, diesels like this make less financial sense, but they do make a lot of torque. While the gasoline-powered GLE 450 makes do with 384 pounds of torque, this 350d makes over seventy pounds-feet more, and it’s usable almost all of the time. Maximum acceleration is at the ready for your motoring enjoyment, Captain. For me, I’m not sure if there was a payoff at the pump, as my mixed driving test resulted in fuel consumption of 13.2 litres per 100 km.
As good as this GLE is dynamically, the seating position just isn’t for me and I’m average height. Not only is headroom limited for me, I had to duck my head when getting into the driver’s seat due to the low roofline. If anything, the front seats need another few centimetres of lower adjustment.
If you jump between audio programming like I do, you’ve got a bit of learning curve with the very logical, but less intuitive control setup. Mercedes-Benz’s infotainment interface has improved massively with the touchpad and scroll wheel, but it’s not quite on par with BMW’s straightforward iDrive set up or the pleasantly hands-free CUE system found in Cadillacs.
In the end, I was pleased with the package, and it’s got far more usability and performance than most buyers will ever need. The GLE Coupe’s got great handling and superb go-anywhere winter traction, both key reasons why you people buy crossovers like this, however, I’m a little too tall for this form factor at 5′ 10″, which is another reason for me to prefer the traditional GLE SUV shape. A mountain goat indeed.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350D 4MATIC Coupe
Base Price: $72,300 CAD
As Tested: $85,125 CAD
Notable Options: Premium package, $4,250; Intelligent drive package, $2,700
Drivetrain: 3.0-litre, turbocharged V6, 240 hp, 457 lb-ft, nine-speed automatic transmission, permanent all-wheel drive
Performance: 13.2 l/100 km/h average consumption
VVUZZ Recommended: To drivers looking for crossover with great dynamics and a style-before-substance approach to design
Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.