Review and road test of the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe [C292] (2015 - 2020)
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By Jonathan Crouch
The Mercedes GLE Coupe is a luxury SUV Coupe that has always revelled in its role as an opinion divider. Like its key rival, BMW's X6, the first generation 'C292'-series version of this model delivered most of what you could get in a large, plush SUV in a more stylish, extrovert and sporting package that brought new buyers to the brand.
5dr SUV (3.0 V6 diesel, 3.0 V6 petrol, 5.5 V8 petrol)
If something works, then you should first copy it, then improve upon it. Take the rather curious, contradictory idea of a luxury SUV Coupe. BMW introduced it with their X6 model in 2007 and sold so many that Mercedes couldn't help noticing the need for something similar. Hence the introduction in 2015 of the Mercedes GLE Coupe.
In truth, the Three-Pointed Star didn't need much persuading to do this car. The company has a much older ownership profile than rival BMW or Audi brands and needed to change that image, not only with more dynamic A, CLA or GLA-Class models lower in the range but also with its larger luxury cars. Creating this GLE Coupe offered a perfect opportunity to do that and target well-heeled thirty or forty-something folk wanting something you'd never see in a SAGA holidays brochure.
Something like this 'C292'-series model? Perhaps. If you'd like a sports car but need a large SUV from the 2015-2020 period and want something that's fashion-conscious and stylish, this Mercedes aims to satisfy. It's certainly an arresting thing to look at, as extrovert, powerful and in-your-face as a car of this kind needs to be. Yet there is perhaps a dash of maturity here too that the rival BMW X6 from this time maybe doesn't quite have. Enough to also perfectly position this GLE Coupe against faster versions of sportier large SUVs like the Range Rover Sport and Maserati's Levante.
That certainly was the plan when the Stuttgart maker launched this car here in the Spring of 2015 complete with a whole portfolio of technology that included a 'Dynamic Select' handling control system, a freshly developed 9-speed auto gearbox, AIRMATIC suspension and 4MATIC permanent 4WD. On paper then, all the ingredients were in place here to take Mercedes into new markets, broadening the marque's appeal to include buyers who previously might have bought into a younger, more aspirational brand. This MK1 GLE Coupe sold until early 2020, when it was replaced by a new generation model.
What You Get
Up close and personal, the GLE Coupe is quite a substantial thing. Standing over 1.7m tall, 2m wide and almost 5m in length, this car dwarfs almost everything else on the road and were it to be bearing down behind in your rear view mirror, you'd scuttle over double-quick. The huge gaping front air intakes emphasise the upright single-louvered sports grille that's framed by three-dimensionally-designed all-LED headlamps. Above, the forward-sloping bonnet with its typical Mercedes power domes aims to characterise this car as one of the brand's sporting models, rather than just another of its SUVs.
From the side, the shape is even more arresting, with the muscular wings and high beltline of a classic sporting GT somehow blended with the large wheel arches and generous ground clearance of an SUV. The wheels themselves are simply enormous, made available to original buyers in a 22-inch size that's bigger than anything Mercedes had previously used. This rising lower character crease connects them, working with a more sharply-defined upper swage line to add a sense of purpose to a profile that dips dramatically over the rear C-pillar.
At the rear the designers replicated the style of Mercedes' exotic S-Class Coupe, with a slim chrome band sitting over three-dimensional LED rear light clusters and a registration plate incorporated into the rear bumper. The way the rear window is rounded off at the top references a look that for generations has characterised large Mercedes coupe models, this feature incongruously blended with SUV touches like the chrome-plated under-ride guard that sits alongside the twin tailpipe exhaust system.
Behind the wheel, much less effort was made to differentiate this car from its standard, practically-orientated conventional GLE model stablemate, so the dashboard architecture and control layout is much the same. Still, to try and make up for that, the development team sweated over the details. So the superbly comfortable, commandingly-mounted sports seats get AMG bolsters in nappa leather. Plus there are sports pedals finished in brushed stainless steel and the steering wheel is a smaller stitched AMG item with a supercar-style flattened bottom rim and tactile gearshift paddle-shifters.
All well and good. Where you might be expecting problems though, is when it comes to a seat in the rear. As with every other car in the Coupe SUV segment, that sloping rear roofline has to tell somewhere and, sure enough, really tall folk will have to duck a little to avoid it as they enter. Once inside though, there aren't too many issues. Yes, a third centre-seated person won't be especially comfortable, but since this is supposed to be a 'coupe', we can't see too many likely buyers objecting to that. One of the biggest advantages this car has over its BMW X6 arch-rival is that it offers you around 15% more boot space, the 650-litre total only 40-litres less than you'd get in the conventionally boxy standard GLE model.
What to Look For
The GLE's air suspension system can suffer expensive problems, so it pays to make sure it rides smoothly, with no untoward harshness over bumps, and that you can feel the ride comfort change when you're on the move when you switch between Comfort and Sport modes. Also be wary of any suspension-related warning messages on the dashboard, such as 'Please wait, car is rising', which might come up when you start the car. These could point to leaks, which will take a bit of time to sort and could lead to a costly burnt-out compressor. Otherwise, you'll want to check that all the electrics function, the sat-nav does its job properly and there are no concerning warning lights on the dashboard. Few cars will have been used off road, but check the underside just in case. And look out for the usual scratched alloy wheels and signs of back seat child abuse. Obviously insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2015 GLE Coupe 350d - Ex Vat) An air filter is around £63-£123. An oil filter costs in the £17 to £8 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £98-£148 bracket for a set, while rear brake pads cost around £102-£123 for a set. Front brake discs are around £158-£170. Rear brake discs can cost in the £109-£122 bracket. A pollen filter is around £8-£16. A wiper blade is in the £4-£28 bracket.
On the Road
On the road, this GLE Coupe carries a little more weight than its BMW X6 arch-rival thanks to underpinnings sourced from Mercedes' more conventional GLE SUV model. That's a little limiting in the base 258bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel 350d variant, though even here, there's decent traction and relatively agile handling for a car this high and heavy. Plus there's the benefit of a 'DYNAMIC SELECT' handling set-up that allows you to tweak steering feel, throttle response, gearshift timings and the settings of the AIRMATIC suspension's adaptive damping system to suit the way you want to drive.
Things improve significantly though, if you're able to stretch up to the 367bhp 450 AMG V6 BITURBO petrol model, a variant capable of 62mph in 5.7s, 31.7mpg on the combined cycle and 209g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). This version's lighter than its 350d stablemate and comes with a more responsive 40:60-split rear bias for the 4MATIC 4WD system that's fitted across the GLE Coupe range. Petrol people also get an extra sportier 'Sport+' mode for the 'DYNAMIC SELECT' system that delivers a brilliant crackling engine soundtrack. And there's the option, denied to diesel buyers, of a 'Sports package' that includes Mercedes' clever 'ACTIVE CURVE' system, this significantly improving ride quality and reducing bodyroll. The 'ACTIVE CURVE' set-up comes as standard on the top version of his car, the frantically quick 585bhp V8 BITURBO petrol-powered Mercedes-AMG 63S model.
The MK1 GLE Coupe isn't the 'true sports coupe' that Mercedes promised, but then no car in this sector is. There's too much size and weight on offer here for that, weight being a particular issue for this design in comparison with its BMW X6 arch-rival. Potential buyers won't care very much though, for what you do get is more what they'll be looking for anyway; prodigious power, sumptuous luxury and real overtaking presence. True, an X6 from this era can give you that as well, but with a Mercedes badge on the bonnet, this extreme package carries a bit more credibility.
In years to come, when considering this market segment, we might well forget who got there first and who tagged along. Who knows, we might even forget about SUV-coupes. In the here and now though, here's one of the very finest of its era.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe [C292] (2015 - 2020) review by Jonathan Crouch