As BMW and Mercedes-Benz out-niche one another with cars that buyers never realized they wanted, the GLE Coupe finally enters a space BMW's X6 has occupied for years. Look beyond the X6's low sales volume and you see a high-profit crossover for extroverts who are tired of traditional SUVs. So what's the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe like? Mercedes recently invited us to drive the style- and performance-focused crossover on winding roads in North Carolina and Tennessee, and here's what we learned about the GLE450 AMG Coupe, part of Mercedes' strategy of expanding the reach of the AMG sub-brand.
One of the most polarizing features of the GLE450 AMG Coupe and the new C450 AMG sedan is the way the exhaust snaps and crackles when you lift off the throttle in Sport Plus mode. We learned that although the GLE450 AMG's engine was tuned to be a little louder than what you'll hear inside the C450 AMG, the volume level of the cars' take-it-or-leave-it exhaust note and overrun pops will become more standardized in time. When we stopped our GLE450 AMG at Stitch the Dragon (celebrating the nearby Tail of the Dragon road), a couple motorcyclists told us they heard us coming before we pulled in, likely thanks to those occasional pops in Sport Plus.
The smallest wheel size offered on the 2016 GLE450 AMG Coupe is a staggering 21 inches. (22s are optional.) It's a look that really makes an impression in person?and yes, that's more than you can get on a BMW X6. It's one of those superficial advantages I appreciate on a look-at-me! vehicle like this.
The GLE450 AMG's 362-hp, twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 produces 384 lb-ft of torque and will propel the curious crossover to 60 mph in a manufacturer-estimated 5.6 seconds. In Motor Trend testing, however, the all-wheel-drive GLE450 AMG hit 60 in 5.1 seconds, quicker than a 2015 BMW X6 xDrive35i we tested at 5.8 seconds. That should come as little surprise, though, as the BMW has just 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque and also makes room for an eight-cylinder X6 xDrive50i model before you reach the insane X6 M. With the GLE450 AMG reaching 60 in a respectable low 5-second range, does that make the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe pointless?
The real AMG model of the GLE Coupe lineup still serves a purpose; its 577-hp, twin-turbo, 5.5-liter V-8 helps the GLE63 S reach 60 in only 3.9 seconds. But that's only half the story.
"The best part of the GLE 63 isn't that spectacular engine, however. It's what happens to your fingers. It has beautiful weighting and incredible accuracy, some of the most communicative steering this side of a hydraulically assisted Aston Martin." The GLE450 AMG won't shove you forcefully in the back of your seat at wide-open throttle in the same way the GLE63 S will, so if you've got more than $100,000 to burn on a car, definitely add the GLE63 S to your shopping list beside the X6 M.
The U.S.-spec GLE Coupe has no base model. Whereas the family-oriented non-Coupe GLE offers four gas engines plus a plug-in hybrid and a diesel, the GLE Coupe debuts with the GLE450 AMG model as the least expensive model you can get. At $66,025, the GLE450 AMG isn't cheap. The less powerful X6 xDrive35i comes in at $63,095 including destination; go for rear-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive, and you'll save another $2,300 with the BMW.
About $15,000 separates the C450 AMG sedan from the GLE450 AMG Coupe, but the more pricey GLE Coupe "AMG Sport" model might sell better. The C450 AMG, which is said to accelerate from 0 to 60 in just 4.8 seconds, is just one model in an expansive lineup that will soon stretch from the C300d diesel and C300 gas turbo-four to the C350e plug-in hybrid plus the C63 and C63 S.
Mercedes-Benz isn't done in the coupelike crossover segment, so if you like the idea of the GLE Coupe but can't stomach paying $70,000 or more on a car, don't forget about the GLC Coupe. Currently just a concept, the GLC Coupe concept debuted with the GLE450 AMG's engine and nine-speed automatic. So if you don't mind a smaller interior package, know that a production-spec GLC Coupe?with a lower base price than the GLE Coupe?is most likely on the way.
The GLE450 AMG Coupe offers sport seats with aggressive side bolsters that do a decent job of holding you in place around curves. There's a massage function, too, but my only reservation is a minor one folks on test drives might want to briefly consider: Are the bolsters so thick that getting over them as you enter the vehicle becomes more trouble than it would be on a coupe or sedan?
Whether you're interested in the GLE450 AMG Coupe or the X6 xDrive35i, we'd avoid the darker color choices. Why get a vehicle whose main purpose is to make a memorable visual impression only to choose a dark color that will hide the way the side windows highlight the gently sloping roofline?
Because the GLE Coupe is based on the GLE, a refreshed and renamed version of the ML, you won't find a head-up display on the GLE Coupe's extensive options list. With an options list that can push the GLE450 AMG Coupe's price more than $20,000 beyond the base MSRP (like the X6), though, you might not even notice the omission.
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