Mercedes-Benz hopes to carve out a niche in the crowded luxury crossover market with the launch of the all-new GLE Coupe aimed at buyers looking for a nimbler, sportier crossover.
The 2016 GLE Coupe, a derivative of the four-door M-class crossover, has four doors and a coupelike roofline. It will compete primarily with BMW’s X6, now in its second generation.
The GLE Coupe will be formally introduced next month at the Detroit auto show and will be produced at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. factory near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
It is the first vehicle to be named using Mercedes-Benz’s new nomenclature -- all crossovers will be called GL, and the E represents its size relationship with the E-class sedan.
Mercedes also is using the Detroit auto show to introduce the AMG Sport line offering fewer performance features at lower prices. It will complement full-blown and more expensive AMG-developed models.
“The GLE 450 AMG Coupe is our first sports model, and further highly emotional and performance-oriented models will follow in the near future,” Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG, said in a statement. “The new product line from Mercedes-AMG has allowed us to make true sports car technology and the fascination of motorsports more accessible.”
BMW’s volumes with the X6 have been modest -- it went on sale in 2008 and U.S. deliveries peaked at 6,479 in 2012 -- but the company prices it higher than the X5, a move that generates fatter profits. The X6 also attracts younger and more affluent buyers than the X5. Amid a boom in crossover and SUV demand, X6 sales have tumbled 29 percent this year to 3,438 -- in part because of the change over to the redesigned model.
The GLE also is expected to be priced higher than the M class, which starts at $49,225 in the U.S. with shipping for the ML350 with two-wheel drive and tops out at $99,325 for the ML63 AMG.
The GLE Coupe will be available in Europe with diesel and gasoline engines with an output range of between 258 hp and 367 hp. Initially, the U.S. market will get the GLE 450 AMG 4Matic Coupe with all-wheel drive. The engine is a bi-turbo V-6 3.0-liter with 362 hp and 384 pounds-feet of torque.
Mercedes says the GLE coupe “feels like a true sport coupe,” despite the raised seating and SUV-like view.
It is equipped with a variable dynamic control 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with five modes -- individual, comfort, slippery, sport and sport+ -- that can be set via a rotary control on the center console.
The GLE model also features Mercedes’ Airmatic air suspension that is now available with the continuously variable damping system ADS Plus. The system was designed to provide stable driving and adjusts based on the transmission mode.
An active curve system has active roll stabilization and kicks in when the vehicle is put into the two sport modes.
The crossover also has a new degressive sport direct-steering system with a revised steering ratio. The driver gives input through a new compact sports steering wheel.
The GLE has safety, assistance and infotainment features available on the sedans. Mercedes did not detail the full list of standard and optional features.
On the exterior, standard equipment includes AMG body styling with a front and rear apron, a rear-spoiler lip and larger 21-inch light alloy wheels and tires.
Mercedes’ designers carried over features from the new S-class coupe with similar rear lights and wide chrome inserts above the license plate holder that is incorporated into the rear bumper. The rear window is rounded off at the top.
For more of an SUV look, the GLE Coupe got a chrome plated underride guard in the front and rear and twin tailpipe trim. The front has a sloping hood.
Inside, the GLE Coupe has a rear-bench seat and can fit five passengers. It has an 8-inch display and touchpad for infotainment.