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ROAD TEST: Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupé SUV is swift and smooth

(SOUTH AFRICA) – Mercedes-Benz was not first with the concept of a large coupé SUV. BMW’s X6 established this market niche and despite having reduced rear headroom and lower overall luggage volume, these sloping roofline luxury vehicles remain popular.

They have an inarguable road presence and Mercedes-Benz’s GLE400d coupe is a case in point. The sloping roofline, huge wheels and bold proportions give it a meaningful stance and dramatic appearance. But what it is like to live with, as a daily driver?

Mercedes-Benz GLE400d Coupé ‘never fails to draw attention’

We spent a week with the GLE400d coupé and it never failed to draw attention, finished in Mercedes-Benz’s Hyacinth red colour. Even those who dislike the potentially compromised utility of an SUV in coupe configuration, will find it impossible to argue with the purposeful GLE400d design.

Image: Lance Branquinho

HUGE HOOPS – WITH MATCHING TYRES

A crucial part of what makes it look so good, are huge 22-inch wheels, rolling some of the largest tyres you’ll find on any vehicle. Pirelli supplies the 285/40 front and 325/35 profile rear tyres for GLE400d and despite their size, they generate very little road noise. A credit to the excellent harmonics engineering, that Mercedes-Benz has achieved, with the GLE vehicle platform.

What these huge tyres do, beyond harmonizing the GLE400d’s overall design, is deliver incredible cornering grip. There is denying that Mercedes-Benz’s large coupe SUV is a heavy vehicle, at 2195kg and despite its mass and high centre of gravity, the GLE400d corners with very little body roll.

Enormous wheels and low-profile tyres might deliver great cornering grip, but overall ride quality can suffer. Especially when traversing South Africa’s road network, with its patchy surface quality and an abundance of imperfections.

Image: Lance Branquinho

TRICK SUSPENSION WORKS WELL…EVERYWHERE

Mercedes-Benz’s engineers are experts in air-suspension systems. This is a legacy that began with the company’s S-Class limousines, where engineers discovered that to stabilise a heavy vehicle cornering at speed, and retain ride quality, air-suspension was the best solution.

 The GLE400d uses the Mercedes-Benz Airmatic system, which can vary its ride height and smooths over bumps with uncanny authority. If you need to traverse some off-road terrain, the air-suspension can raise this luxury SUV, increasing its ground clearance from 200mm to 250mm.

It looks deeply impressive and rides with aplomb, but is it quick enough?

UNDER THE HOOD

Powering the GLE400d coupe is a three-litre in-line six-cylinder turbodiesel engine. It has mild-hybridization to boost efficiency, and rated at 243kW and 700Nm, it moves this heavy Mercedes-Benz SUV along with urgency.

Once rolling along, the in-gear acceleration is very impressive and driven with restraint, you’ll see very reasonable fuel consumption of just under 9-litre/100km. Quite remarkable, for a vehicle of this size and weight.

EFFORTLESSLY POWERFUL RIDE AT A PRICE

The nine-speed automatic transmission is wonderfully intuitive and you never have that horrible neck-straining moment, when applying full throttle. With very heavy SUVs, powered by turbocharged engines, there can be an abrupt throttle response, but the GLE400d’s drivetrain is smooth and predictable.

At R1 814 000 the GLE400d coupé is a significant automotive investment, but in our experience, by far the best choice that Mercedes-Benz offers in this configuration. The AMG 63 versions are too manic, with performance that is hardly usable in the broader South African driving context and a compromised drive on gravel roads.

With the GLE400d coupé you get all the dramatic design features that make this Mercedes-Benz SUV desirable, with an effortlessly powerful and frugal diesel engine.

 

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