Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé

Looks can be deceptive with this Merc

The GLE SUV coupé is the type of car that is likely to elicit the response “more money than sense” because it looks like a planet-killer. But writes TONY CONLON it's a lot more eco-friendly than many might think at first glance

The standard Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV I could easily live with all day every day; the coupé version, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about.

But how could a €101,295 Mercedes coupé, bristling with all those luxurious touches and high-end technology, make me feel uneasy? Driving out in the countryside or on motorways, I felt perfectly happy but driving around various towns and in Dublin, there were a couple of peculiar looks thrown my way.

Sitting on 21” alloy wheels and weighing in at 2.5 tonnes, this is a large coupé and it certainly makes a statement. I am a long time driving different types of cars, many of which have received admiring glances.

I have driven Mercedes-Benz sports cars and coupés that are based on the saloon versions and they all got that “I’d love to have that” admiring look - yet the GLE Coupé was different. In this climate-conscious era, it’s not a car you may feel entirely comfortable being seen in.

Although it is large, it doesn’t have that family-friendly look and you probably wouldn’t feel right in it towing a trailer-load of cattle to the local mart. It’s the type of car that is likely to elicit the response “more money than sense” because it looks like a planet-killer. Its powerful haunches, ready-to-pounce appearance and contoured body lines might indeed suggest it’s a climate-unfriendly fuel guzzler. But nothing could be further from the truth. This coupé is an excellent example of why you should never judge a book by its cover.

The Mercedes-Benz 350DE 4 Matic Coupé is the plug-in hybrid version that also has a 1,950cc diesel engine under its bonnet. Although PHEVs were recently in the news headlines because they lost all government grants - as it was deemed owners were not charging them or using them in the way they were designed to be used. In other words, people were getting the tax breaks yet not plugging them in and instead using engine power only.

This coupé’s engine produces 194hp, its electric motor 122hp and has a maximum system output of 320hp with 700Nm of torque, yet it could shame many superminis when it comes to economy. I have always felt the combination of electric with diesel is a better recipe than petrol and electric.

If you leave aside the car’s very capable 0-100km/h timing of 6.9 seconds and claimed top speed of 210km/h aside and drive this SUV coupé using the technology Mercedes-Benz provides, then pure electric distances from 80 to 100km will be achievable from the 31kWh battery. Fuel consumption of 7.5 l/100km (37mpg) is also within reach.

Mated to a 9G-Tronic automatic transmission and offered with a choice of drive modes, I felt the GLE Coupé felt more at home cruising around on its Airmatic suspension than when throwing it into sharp corners at speed.

The wide tyres, which would not look out of place slung beneath a Boeing 737, also relay a more comfortable feeling to passengers when they’re not asked to display their undoubted gripping ability. Inside, the GLE shares numerous common features with other models in the Mercedes premium SUV catalogue. Especially evident is its strikingly shaped instrument panel, the upper surface of which is covered in man-made leather and the two large screens that seamlessly flow into the door trim.

The excellent body-hugging front sports seating and multi-function steering wheel add to the excellent build quality and craftmanship we sometimes take for granted from the German manufacturer.

While rear headroom is not this coupe’s strongest point - nor is getting in and out of the rear seating for those with mobility issues - this Merc does have a bit of a practical side to it as the adjustable boot space means it will carry loads. As ever, the GLE Coupé comes with a host of standard equipment and comfort elements, vehicle safety and driver assistance features. Its commanding driving position and excellent Illumination via full LED lights help to make the driving experience more enjoyable either at night or day.

All Mercedes-Benz needs to do now is to find a way to convince people that although the GLE Coupé is large and macho-looking, it is in fact a lot more eco-friendly than many might think at first glance.