When you see a three-pointed star looming in your rear-view mirror, you probably assume that the car behind the badge and about to overtake is a German import. Normally you’d be right. The world’s oldest car maker, dating back to 1886, is based in Stuttgart and most of its vehicles sold in the UK are produced in Germany. Not this particular Mercedes though.
The GLE Coupe is made in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the deep south of the USA. It hails from a factory built 20 years ago to produce the old Mercedes M-Class, later known as the ML. This car is the ML’s replacement, renamed GLE, and including a coupe version for the first time. The G stands for gelandewagen, the German word for an off-road vehicle.
This one is a rival for BMW’s X6, Audi’s Q7, the Porsche Cayenne and home-bred Range Rover Sport. Over in the US, they are classed as ‘mid-size luxury’ vehicles. On UK roads, though, they seem on a different scale. All are bulky big bruisers in our congested traffic, and the GLE feels especially so. Even its name is bulky: try Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4MATIC AMG Line Coupe for a mouthful!
Tall climb aboard
Just getting into it is a steep upward haul, and once installed you are very aware of the elevated seat height and massive bodywork around you. The body size means that cabin space is generously proportioned, although the coupe styling marginally compromises rear seat headroom. It’s fine for six-footers, but anyone taller might get a crick in their neck on longer trips.
The tailgate rises majestically when you press a button on the key fob. The boot has a high lip above the rear bumper, so lifting in heavy luggage is a bit of an ordeal, over a boot edge that is almost at waist height for shorter drivers.
You do feel cocooned in luxury in this car. The front seats have heating for winter, cooling for summer, and a massaging function that gives your back a gym work-out as you drive. The rear seats are also heated, there is a surround sound system for a concert hall effect, and a 360-degree camera to let you see all the car’s edges for manoeuvring. That’s quite essential, because the rear screen is relatively small and wheel-scuffing kerbs are a long way down and would otherwise be out of sight.
Plenty of oomph
The engine is a three-litre V6 diesel, packing a 255 bhp punch of performance. So even though the GLE is a big lump, it is also quite nimble. The 0-62 mph acceleration time is just seven seconds and the combined fuel consumption figure is a relatively thirsty but respectable 39.2 mpg.
Hustled along a twisty country road, the GLE never feels less than bulky, but handles with mannerly efficiency and doesn’t lean much on the bends. It is more at home, though, on a long motorway haul, with its limousine-like ride making it a pleasant mode of travel. Few owners are ever likely to take a GLE off-road, although it has the capability with its four-wheel-drive system. The auto gearbox is nine-speed and does a slick job.
So how much would this huge chunk of car set you back? Its on-the-road price is £60,680, but a long list of options fitted to our test car bump up the price by nearly another £7,000, including £845 for its fetching shade of Hyacinth red metallic paint. Yes, everything about the car is big, bill included.
All images: Sue Baker