Mercedes-Benz is trying to succeed where Acura and its ZDX flopped: taking on BMW's X6 crossover with the new GLE Coupe.
Daimler is following the same recipe as their Bavarian rival, building a slope-roofed crossover with an athletic stance on its existing mid-size SUV, which in this case, is the ML that is due itself for a facelift and a name change to GLE next year.
As we saw in the first leaked photos earlier today, Mercedes designers didn't veer too far away from the Concept Coupe shown in Beijing, but they did tone down the styling, especially at the back where the production car ditched the full-width lights for a pair of separate fixtures, which like the headlamps, remind us of the S-Class Coupe.
"Our GLE Coupé combines typical coupé attributes, such as sportiness, dynamism and agility, with the confident presence, versatility and robustness of an SUV," said Mercedes-Benz Chief Development Officer, Thomas Weber.
It’s certainly far sportier looking than the M-Class, but somehow I find myself thinking of a pregnant goldfish every time I look at the GLE Coupe's puffy silhouette…
Just like the BMW X6, Mercedes' design budget started and ended with the exterior because inside, the cabin is identical to that of the upcoming M-Class facelift / GLE with new controls for the center console, and a tablet-like display screen for the latest COMAND infotainment system. To spice things up a bit, the Germans will offer a wider range of colors and materials for the leather seats and trim decors.
The GLE Coupe sits on the same chassis as the facelifted ML, but with modified suspension, steering and electronic systems to improve handling and feel. The crossover model is 4,900mm long, 2,003mm wide and 1,731mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2,915mm.
In Europe, the powertrain lineup will include both diesel and petrol engines, all paired to Benz's 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive and 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission, but with different setups.
For starters, the GLE Coupe will debut Mercedes' new AMG Sport range that targets Audi's "S" and BMW's M Performance models with the GLE Coupe 450 AMG Sport, sitting right under the full-blown AMG vehicles.
"The GLE 450 AMG Coupé is our first sports model, and further highly emotional and performance-oriented models will follow in the near future. The new product line from Mercedes-AMG has allowed us to make true sports car technology and the fascination of motorsports more accessible", said Mercedes-AMG boss, Tobias Moers.
Power for the GLE 450 AMG Sports Coupe comes from a tuned version of the brand's twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 petrol producing 367PS (362hp) and 520Nm (383 lb-ft) of peak torque, with the new DYNAMIC SELECT transmission mode Sport+ being offered as standard.
Furthermore, whereas the other models feature even torque distribution of 50:50 between the front and rear axles, drive is split in a ratio of 40:60 here.
This version also gets a specific AMG body kit with a front and rear apron, a rear spoiler lip and 21-inch alloy wheels with tires size 275/45 R 21 (front) and 315/40 R 21 (rear), or optionally, 22-inch wheels with 285/40 R 22 (front) and 325/35 R 22 (rear) tires.
At launch, the GLE Coupe will also be available with a 3.0-liter V6 diesel producing 258PS (255hp) and 620Nm (457 lb-ft) in the GLE 350 d 4MATIC, and a 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 gasoline unit rated at 333PS (329hp) and 480Nm (354 lb-ft).
A GLE 63 AMG high-performance model to fight the BMW X6M with Merc's twin-turbo V8 and around 570-horses will be added to the lineup as well.
The new Mercedes model will have its world premiere at the Detroit Auto Show next month and launch in the third or fourth quarter of the year.