Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de Coupe 2019 review
5 December 2019 - autocar
New diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain adds new dimension to second-generation GLE Coupe, with a class-leading electric range and tax busting CO2 qualities
What is it?
Mercedes-Benz, by its own admission, was late in joining the SUV Coupe ranks, preferring to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach as its more progressive premium brand rivals led the way into what has now become an indispensable part of any large scale luxury car maker's line-up these days.
But after tasting initial sales success at the more profitable end of its line-up with the first-generation GLE Coupe, it has wasted little time in launching this new second-generation model, which boasts both more resolved exterior styling and greater interior luxury than its predecessor launched in 2015.
The new GLE Coupe is aimed directly as the likes of the Audi Q8, BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne Coupe. Unlike the model it replaces, though, it is not merely a re-bodied version of the GLE SUV.
To help provide it with a more individual appearance than previously, Mercedes-Benz has rung the changes, giving it a 62mm shorter wheelbase than its more upright US-produced sibling at 2935mm among other measures. Compared to the old GLE Coupe, though, it has grown; length is up by 39mm at 4939mm, width has increased by 7mm to 2010mm while its height is a scant 1mm lower than before at 1730mm.
As with the bullish exterior, the interior has been thoroughly redesigned in line with moves made with the GLE SUV. Key elements include a pair of 12.3-in digital displays for the instruments and infotainment functions. As in other recent new Mercedes-Benz models, they are housed within single panel atop a new multi-layered dashboard and are controlled by the German car maker's new MBUX operating system with touch screen, conversation speech and gesture control functions complimenting a small touchpad controllers within the horizontal spokes of a new multi-function steering wheel and a larger touchpad within the centre console.
What's it like?
It's an agreeable driving environment; the high seating position affords a commanding view out front while higher-grade materials throughout the cabin create a genuinely upmarket feel throughout. Leading the new features is an optional head-up display unit boasting 720 x 240-pixel resolution across a screen area of 45cm by 15cm. Active Stop and Go assist, an optional function that permits semi-autonomous driving in traffic jams, is also among a wide range of driver assistant programs adopted by the new model.
Despite the increase in external dimensions, accommodation remains much the same as before; front seat shoulder room has increased by 21mm but other measurements go largely unchanged, according to Mercedes-Benz. That said, the new GLE Coupe is imminently practical in spite of its swoopy roofline and liftback style tailgate, offering more than adequate space for five adults and, with a boot whose through-loading width has been increased by 24mm, a slight 5-litre increase in luggage space at 655-litres – 25-litres more than the GLE SUV, no less. In a move that aids the loading of heavy items, the loading lip at the rear is also now positioned 59mm lower than before.
The basis for the new model is Mercedes-Benz's MHA (modular high architecture) platform, as used by the latest GLE and GLS SUVs. It is claimed to offer an impressive 33% increase in rigidity over the structure used by the first-generation GLE Coupe, thanks in part to the adoption of cast aluminium nodes for the front and rear suspension mountings.
The new GLE Coupe will be sold in the UK with a choice of petrol, diesel and diesel-electric plug-in hybrid drivelines. All come mated to a standard nine-speed torque converter equipped nine-speed automatic gearbox and Mercedes-Benz's 4matic four-wheel drive system, which in its latest form offers fully variable apportioning of drive between the front and rear axles, as standard.
We address the sole petrol unit, a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with 429bhp and 382lb ft used by the AMG GLE 53 Coupe, in a separate review. The two diesel models both use a turbocharged 2.9-litre in-line six-cylinder, which develops 268bhp and 442lb ft in GLE350d 4Matic Coupe and, in a higher state of tune, 325bhp and 516lb ft in the GLE400d 4Matic.
It's the plug-in hybrid unit in the GLE350de 4Matic Coupe driven here that represents the biggest advance, though. It runs a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine in combination with a gearbox mounted electric motor for an overall system output of 316bhp and GLE400d 4Matic Coupe equalling 516lb ft – sufficient, claims Mercedes-Benz, to endow it with a 0-62mph time of 6.9sec and limited 210km/h top speed.
The dual power sources are terrifically integrated in hybrid mode, to the point where you're scarcely aware what one is doing the driving in urban driving conditions. With a deep reserve of torque, the delivery is engagingly flexible, giving the GLE350de 4Matic Coupe outstanding cruising qualities. That said, there are times out on the open road when the diesel engine has to work quite hard to deliver the performance requested and therefore is quite vocal.
With a 31.2kWh lithium-ion battery housed within the floor of the boot, the GLE350de 4Matic Coupe delivers a class-leading WLTP electric range of between 82 and 100kms at speeds up to 100mph. You can switch into electric mode and complete extended commutes without depleting the electric stores. As a result, its combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at between 256.8mpg and 217.3mpg – figures you'll never replicate in real-world driving but which endows the most economical of all the new GLE Coupe models with true tax busting CO2 qualities that should make it attractive to company car buyers.
The amount of electric energy regenerated under braking and coasting is very impressive. It is achieved via all four wheels rather than just two as on earlier plug-in drivetrains offered by Mercedes-Benz. Full recharging of the battery, meanwhile, can be completed in 30mins at a rate of up to 60kW, making it faster to "refill" than any rival in this respect.
Dynamically, the 2690kg GLE350de 4Matic Coupe can't match the heightened agility offered by other new GLE Coupes models. However, its roll and pitch movements are nicely contained, even over challenging alpine roads. The added weight brought on by its diesel-electric driveline and large battery also robs its standard steel suspension of some of its otherwise fine compliance. However, with Mercedes-Benz's E-Active Air Maticc chassis technology as an option, it still manages to deliver cosseting qualities that suit its upmarket interior ambience.
Should I buy one?
The GLE350de 4Matic Coupe will not be to everyone's taste, particularly those without easy access to a charging pile. But if you're looking for genuine zero-emission capability over extended distances, truly luxurious qualities and want to stick out from the SUV crowd, it might just be for you.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé specification
Where Hochgurgl, Austria Price £65,000 (estimated) On sale now Engine 4cyls, 1950cc, turbocharged diesel plus synchronous electric motor Power 315bhp (combined) Torque 516lb ft (combined) Gearbox 9-spd automatic Kerb weight 2690kg Top speed 130mph 0-62mph 6.9sec Fuel economy 217.3-256.8mpg CO2 30-34g/km Rivals Audi Q8, BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne Coupe