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​The GLE Coupe Looks Like A Copy… Until You Drive It.

I will never forget the first thought I had when I first saw the GLE Coupe: Did Mercedes-Benz just flat-out, copy BMW’s X6?? I was shocked and bemused but, being a BMW fan myself, I was also proud. The time had finally come. The makers of the automobile have finally swallowed their pride and have literally traced an “all-new” model straight off the blueprints from their fiercest rivals in Munich. It has almost the same aggressive proportions of the X6 and what’s more, if you swapped each of the SUV’s lights and covered their respective badges, it wouldn’t be so easy to tell them apart from afar. So, a copy it was to me… until I drove the GLE Coupe for the first time.

By the time you read this, I’ve already driven the GLE Coupe a number of times, some on roadtrips and on dedicated weekend reviews. The first experience of it came on a marathon dart Mercedes-Benz Malaysia organised up to Penang two years ago. It was an exceptional amount of time in the GLE Coupe. Unlike its subdued, normal GLE sibling, the Coupe is more athletic and needless to say, at the time, it was a head-turner-jaw-dropper. I mean, just look at it… It’s sheer presence, size and body styling is absolutely bang-on the money. Pay more attention, and you’re bound to notice a growing number of these beasts approaching your rear-view mirrors from afar. 

Still, it wasn’t enough for Mercedes. After some time, the brand reshuffled its approach with this GLE Coupe and slotted in a new engine to package the car up with its AMG 43 range and thus, give it a hand-built AMG engine. As part of the AMG 43 model range (which also consists of an AMG model for the C, E, SLC and GLC), this GLE 43 Coupe gets a track-certified, 3.0-litre biturbo, V6 AMG engine. Since the Mercedes-AMG 43 range supposedly serves as an entry-level AMG range, it automatically bridges the gap between Mercedes’ AMG 45 and AMG 63 ranges. While that is a discussion for another day, what you need to understand here, is that while this V6 engine sounds too small for an SUV of the GLE’s make, I must tell you that it’s far from a mismatch.

The argument does arise however; who needs an SUV with 384 hp and 520 Nm? Well, the answer is, no, no one needs such a monster. But hey, if you can have one, why the hell not? That’s the theme behind this GLE 43 Coupe: It’s brillianly unecessary, and that’s exactly why a growing number of these are being seen on our Klang Valley roads. In this AMG application, it’s paired with a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. Where the standard GLE Coupe seemed lofty and bulky, this powertrain in the GLE 43 is perfectly balanced. And, it’s mighty quick for a behemoth of its size: 5.7 seconds on the century dash, before it maxes out at an electronically-capped 250 km/h top speed. Again, is all that really necessary in an SUV? Depends how you like your coffee beans really.

Its AMG heart means that the necessary adjustments have been made to things like its  suspension setup to cope with its turbocharged power delivery. This linear and powerful distribution of all its ponies, courtesy of its biturbo tuning, can be thrilling when you flex this beast’s muscles out on open roads. Her size and stature (she weighs at an odd but beefy 2.2 tonnes) goes from bulky to razor-sharp in such quickness, that you start to wish that every SUV out there should in fact, be made in this unnecessary and over-done manner. What of the comfort levels?

It’s typical Mercedes luxury on the inside. For it’s asking price of almost RM700,000, nothing has been compromised. The leather upholstery and storage appointments are where you’d expect them to be. However, all of this has been carefully done so that you dont notice some of her setbacks, which can be a big grievance: headroom and legroom. Yes, in spite of her size and objective as an SUV, the GLE 43 Coupe doesn’t achieve an SUV’s basic purpose of providing the luxurious comfort of these basic but winning attributes. 

​For the average Asian men and women, it’s not a struggle in the GLE 43 Coupe. The rear passenger seats have been positioned in a theater-seating setting, so you’re seated slightly elevated and this costs you some headroom. It’s easy to rationalise this downside however, only because, hey, the brochure reads “Coupe”. The sloping roof-line towards the rear, which is the distinctive part of the GLE Coupe’s look, is the reason for this. So, if you’re eyeing this for its looks, you best be prepared for some slight compromise in terms of cabin comfort, which again, is a matter of taste and preference. 

​In spite of those minor, un-SUV attributes, this is actually one impressive ride for passengers because lets not forget, it comes with some of the best car-seats in the business, seats that are designed to give your back the best sensations you can have in an automobile. That’s something BMW’s X6 cant give you. Besides that, when you take it easy in the shotgunner’s throne, you’ll find enough tech to please your needs. Using Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND module, most of the auxiliary cabin functions can be operated from it and when you find yourself at the back, there are two touchscreens in similar make for use as well. 

So yes, the GLE 43 Coupe can also double up as that raunchy, chauffeur-driven ride for the weekend but I’d advise you to peruse Mercedes’s options list and have it decked out according to your own expressive tastes. This is another plus point about this beauty: her overall design screams “do me!”. I’d imagine that with a more sexy set of chromes and a customised, Mercedes color hue, this could turn out to be a dream ride for many a strong-willed character.

​These are all strong testimonies as to how the GLE (in this case, the GLE 43 Coupe) is not a copy at all. The huge game breaker between the GLE and BMW’s X6 however, is found below the rump of this sexy beast: the exhaust note. It’s a bass-y buzz that is not just addictive, it’s so distinctive and recogniseable, that to have it with you in a machine of the GLE’s size, makes it quite an expereince each time you tap on her ignition button. The growl is unique and when she kicks up speed, it’s quite a unique chorus that follows your ride. In this respect, Mercedes-Benz have paid full attention to the shortcomings of its fiercest rival from Munich, and has approached this SUV model the way it should be: with flair and the wild. Where BMW have stuck to their conservative design ethos, Mercedes-Benz however have crafted an icon with this GLE 43 Coupe. It might not seem like it now, but ten years from now, we’re going to look back at this model and say, “Yea, it was unnecessary, but damn, it looked and sounded so good.” A copy wont have that effect for sure.

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