One expected Mercedes-Benz to be quicker in taking the fight to BMW’s niche X6. After all, it was the Stuttgart-based company that pioneered categories like the four-door coupe segment with their CLS way back in 2004. Yet they’ve only just decided to make their foray into the SUV-coupe ambit with this new GLE.
We’ll leave the aesthetics alone – for now. But it’s inevitable that the new big Benz will divide opinion. Still, BMW proved with their competitor that buyers are willing to pay for a big, frivolous crossover with a premium badge. Mercedes-Benz will need some time to catch up to its Bavarian counterpart, which has enjoyed immense success in this segment.
From launch it will be available in three derivatives; the GLE 350d 4MATIC; GLE 400 4MATIC and the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC. The latter will be the first of many new AMG sports models, which will be the brand’s equivalent to the M Sport versions from BMW. The mandate here is to give buyers a middle ground: something not as subdued as the standard derivatives, nor as hardcore as the authentic AMG models. All models are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Dynamic Select handling control system offers drivers various modes, including Sport and Sport Plus for spirited driving. Air suspension will be part of the mix too, as well as the Active Curve System which works to counter roll in the bends. Mercedes describes such exuberance as “heavy, one-sided excitation”.
While this niche takes plenty of flak from the motoring press and public, it seems Mercedes is striving to add substance into the mix. This is not just a prestige SUV that serves to look good, according to the automaker. For example, they’ll offer an electric trailer coupling and the GLE has a towing capacity of 3500 kilograms.
They’ve also been pretty generous with the customisation options. A total of 11 paint finishes are available – some are truly funky, like the designo hyacinth red metallic. Inside you can pick fittings like brown eucalyptus wood or even carbon fibre, in addition to specifying diamond-pattern stitching.
According to Mercedes-Benz SA, the GLE is expected to arrive on our shores in the third quarter of 2015.