We’re testing an imposing, mile-munching, diesel plug-in hybrid this week. Our 350 de GLE Coupe can do over 1,000km to the tank and is Mercedes-Benz’s answer to BMW’s X6 four-door coupe SUV.
The GLE Coupe is longer and wider than the standard GLE but features a slightly shorter wheelbase. The five-seat Coupe is slightly larger in all dimensions next to the US built Bavarian X6. With pricing starting at €98,065 rising to €229,705 the second generation GLE Coupe is a premium machine with exclusive, or more precisely, small target audience. It is fair to say that like the X6 it fills a niche in the market that a few years ago no-one knew existed. Many dismiss large coupe SUVs without ever driving them and this is a problem. A few kilometres spent behind the wheel and you will see your prejudices slowly fade. The GLE Coupe is quite nice to drive with a commanding view but its no sports car. The hybrid PHEV ‘de’ version is the heaviest model and at 2,690kgs physics will always have its say. There are adjustable driving modes with ‘Sport’ mode essential to stiffen up the cornering characteristics of the big beast.
With a range over 1,000 kilometres from a full tank of diesel and charge of electricity and comfortable standard fit air suspension, the GLE Coupe ‘de’ is a car for cruising> motorways are dispatched with ease but the de also features a massive 80km electric only range that makes city and urban driving a joy. Emissions are remarkably low at just 23g/km CO2. Should the need arise the ‘de’ can sprint from 0-100km in 6.9 seconds, and top speed is 210kmh. Next to the diesel engined GLE Coupe 400d model the 350 de’s additional battery pack and electric motor add some 405kgs! Its brakes can feel a little soft underfoot at times but they do a good job of shedding speed when needed. When cruising the car will often slip autonomously in to brake regeneration mode and you can feel the braking force especially if you have lifted off the throttle for a period when approaching traffic. (There is a host of driving safety aids as standard.)
The cabin seats five with ease. The boot has a lot of volume but is compromised by the underfloor location of the battery pack and the result is a very high boot floor height. The cabin is a masterpiece in contemporary design. Mercedes-Benz famous widescreen one surface dash display (that houses two 12.3 inch displays) truly stars. The technology available is comprehensive and this can be a little intimidating to interact with at first. Once you become familiar with the MBUX (Merc user interface) layout and how to work it, it becomes second nature. A simple “Hey Mercedes” voice prompt will allow you carry out a number of things like inputting navigation destinations or adjusting cabin temperature etc. ‘Mercedes me connect’ is the catch all name for connectivity so you get techie things like live traffic information, ‘send2car’ nav, private car sharing, available parking space info, remote vehicle status, vehicle tracker, pre entry climate control, geo fencing (future proof auto EV selection in mandated cities) and lots more.
Powering our test car is a four cylinder 2-litre diesel engine (194hp/400nm) aided by an electric motor (136hp/440nm) that gets its power from a rechargeable battery pack. The combined system power output is quoted at 320hp/700nm. The lithium-ion battery is huge for a PHEV at 31.2kWh. A Type2 charge socket is found behind a fuel flap on the nearside rear flank (the offside flap conceals the diesel and AdBlue fillers). There is a 7.2kW on board charger so a full charge can be had in 3.25hrs or 11.5hrs using a three pin domestic plug.
The GLE Coupe features 4Matic all wheel drive as standard and are versions have a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Our test car had a few options like aluminium running boards, Iridium silver paint and the Night Pack that brought its price to €101,295. The GLE Coupe range starts with the plug-in hybrid 350de, 400d (300hp/€145,295), 3-litre 53 AMG 4Matic+ (435hp/€150,260) while the utterly bonkers 4-litre ’63 S AMG 4Matic+’’ with 612hp tops the range for a cool €229,705.
Is the GLE Coupe 350 de worth its €100K price tag? The air is pretty thin at this end of the market. The hybrid 350 de coupe is the only version that is in anyway future proof – it has annual motor tax of just €140! Its impressive zero emissions driving ability and low CO2 figure are laudable. Yes buying one is clearly an act of conspicuous consumption but some people deserve it.