We spent the recent long weekend behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupe and we share our thoughts on the large SUV here.

Mercedes-Benz was a bit late to the SUV coupe party. Once it saw the success achieved by BMW’s X6, arguably the creator of this sub-segment, Mercedes also wanted in. The GLE Coupe is now in its second generation and the ‘base’ model GLE400d is the only non-AMG version one can buy in the SA market.

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Large and in charge

Coupe versions of SUVs are about style and making a statement. They are based on more utilitarian SUVs with regular design profiles. However, a fair few buyers want an added dash of style to the practicality an SUV affords. The Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupé is certainly an imposing and noticeable presence. 

Read our launch report of the GLE53 at this link.

It looks, and is, large at a whisker under five metres in length. The overall length is well balanced by a curving roofline that is much lower than its GLE sibling. The GLE400d’s wheel arches are filled by dual-tone 22-inch AMG alloys (more of which in a bit). Its imposing appearance is highlighted by the speed at which Cape Town’s usual lane hoggers jumped out of the way when they viewed the GLE’s distinctive, ‘diamond’ grille in their rear view mirrors. 

Modern inside

Once behind the wheel the Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupe is as modern as the exterior appearance suggests. Mercedes has installed two full-colour wide screens in the cabin. One takes care of driving info and the other is a touchscreen for the infotainment system. The instrument cluster is totally configurable and can be set to the driver’s preference. That latter feature is handy when you don’t need the rev-counter and would prefer a map to find your weekend accommodation.

Click here to read our Mercedes-AMG G63 driving review.

The infotainment cluster allows one to access a myriad of systems from car settings to mobile phone connectivity, satellite navigation, etc. Both screens can be controlled from the steering by two little touch pads that have swipe functionality similar to a mobile phone. There is also the option of voice control.

Space aplenty

The latest GLE Coupe has grown by 20 mm between the wheels, which adds legroom for the rear passengers. Mercedes says that the boot volume has also grown to 655 litres. The tailgate is electrically operated from the rear of the rear of the car, and can also be opened from the remote as well as a button in the cabin. There’s a deep centre console and large door pockets for smaller items such as phones and water bottles.

Over the recent long weekend we had four adults aboard, plus luggage and supplies for a few days at a self-catering apartment, and the GLE held it all with ease. Though one of the occupants kept reaching for an imaginary grab handle on the roof, which led us to wonder why there aren’t any…

Our Audi Q8 driving review can be found at this link.

Under the hood

The Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupe is fitted with an inline six-cylinder engine. The 3,0-litre turbodiesel unit produces 243 kW and a healthy 700 N.m of torque. The latter is delivered in a plateau from 1 200 to 3 200 r/min. Power is sent to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Although there are shift paddles behind the steering rim we didn’t find the need to use them during our time behind the wheel.

Check out the next-gen, electrified G-Class by clicking here.

With 700 N.m on tap the GLE400 can cruise along at the national speed limit without so much as breaking a sweat, barely registering 2 000 r/min. With the slippery shape the low engine speed also means little road noise filters into the cabin. 700 N.m also makes for swift and safe overtaking, something we did often while passing slow-moving holidaymakers on the coastal road away and to the Mother City. Over our 400 km trip we achieved an average fuel consumption figure of 8,8 L/100 km – pretty impressive for a car of this size.

Ride quality

If there is an area that did not impress us wholly, it was the ride quality of the GLE. In and around the urban grind the 22-inch alloys shod with 285/40 rubber certainly make their presence felt. The suspension bumps and thumps over roads that are in less than ideal condition. The fidgety ride is amplified when you have to tackle unpaved roads, as we did for  a brief spell. The suspension is overtly sporty in set-up, which we didn’t think suited a car with this drivetrain.

Those sensations are, however, not the case on the open road where the GLE400d lopes along with a relaxed and pliant gait. If you enjoy traversing the motorways of SA the ride quality is not an issue, if you own a game farm or your holiday house is off the beaten track then you should definitely consider smaller alloys on larger profile tyres.

Summary

As a family car the Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupe fulfills its role ideally. There is loads of space and it is comfortable for all occupants. The engine sips fuel at an impressively slow rate for a car of this size and power output. At a shade over R1,8m there are some nice vehicles to choose from. There is the BMW X6, Audi’s Q8 and the Porsche Cayenne Coupe. Your choice among these rivals will very much depend on the type of driver you are/personality you have. From a user-friendly/space/luxury point of view the Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupé makes a good case for itself.

Model: Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupe

Price: R1 814 000

Engine: 3,0-litre, inline six turbodiesel

Transmission: nine-speed automatic, AWD

Max power: 243 kW

Max torque: 700 N.m

0-100 km/h: 5,7 sec

Top speed: 240 km/h 

Fuel consumption: 7,4 L/100 km