Most of these big, flashy German SUVs are never going to see the bushveld; they do the school-run and the morning commute pretty well, but a sedan will do that. So, are we buying them for status? If so then the GLE coupé is the ideal vehicle to flaunt.
For starters, it looks great and has a very muscular appeal. I think it looks better than its main rival, the BMW X6. The GLE coupé is more rounded and with that roundness comes presence on the road - people notice you! I doubt the same will happen in the GLE (previously known as the ML) and everyone has an X5 these days.
The GLE coupé has, as its name suggests, a coupé-like design. A short rear end with long, sleek taillights, which complement its powerful upright front end. It looks big because it is big and is perfect for those who want to tower above the rest. To help the flashiness, the GLE coupé that I drove, was fitted with 21-inch rims.
Inside, its Mercedes business as usual and the car employs a new look design language. The dashboard features familiar designs that can be found on other models - the dashboard mounted tablet-like screen being one of them. Quality is on point and space is ample. Rear head room has been compromised due to the sloping roof but the boot is rather large. If I had to complain, it would be about the front AMG-style seats. I found it awkward to get in because the lower side-bolsters on the seats are quite large and the car is quite high off the ground; I tore two pairs of jeans!
The car is fitted with many extras, some of which I really like; the 360-degree camera system being one of them. It really comes in handy when trying to park this big beast. I also find that the car’s safety features - like Blind Spot Assist - is a must have.
The vehicle comes in either a diesel or petrol engine. I found myself in the GLE 450 AMG. This model not only features a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, which develops 270kW and will reach 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, it is also a kind of an entry level AMG, just one step down from the GLE 63 AMG model.
Grip levels are helped by its standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. It also sounds brilliant in its most violent setting. It really does snap, crackle and pop. It has the brand’s Dynamic Select, which is standard on all models. With up to five driving modes: Individual, Comfort, Slippery, Sport, and Sport+ mode, the GLE coupé can be set up for most driving situations. New to the GLE range is a 9G-Tronic gearbox. Having nine forward gears does help the fuel consumption stay below 10 litres/100km on the highway.
Having driven the GLE450 coupé off-road I found that the 4Matic system is able to cope with most rocky roads however, I couldn't help feeling bad for the car, and for those large wheels. In its defence, it also features Airmatic suspension; this means, one can raise it up, depending on the terrain.
I'm not going to call it useless off-road but a car like this is best suited to the tar. Dynamically, the BMW X6 has the upper hand but do you really care about that when sitting on the N1?
So as far as these German SUVs go, I feel they’re all compromised due to their flashy wheels, sporty body kits and oddly-named paint jobs. Sure, they will go off-road but I wouldn't risk taking my million Rand plus SUV into the bush.
That said though, if I wanted a comfortable, sporty, unique SUV that looks pretty darn cool cruising the highways, then I would definitely turn my attention to the GLE coupé. I might just ditch the V6 petrol and opt for the GLE 350d instead.