First Drive

Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d Coupe 2020 UK review

The second-generation GLE Coupe is a longer and wider car than the first was; it now has a shorter wheelbase than the current GLE SUV, but one that’s also longer than was the previous car’s. The dimensional changes were intended to make it better-proportioned and better-looking, as well as more roomy. I’m still not sure about the looks – but, for what it’s worth, if big, rakish SUVs do appeal to you I’m equally unsure why this one wouldn’t.

Inside there’s now enough space for taller adult passengers in both rows, or three kids across the back seats. In addition to all of the equipment we’ve already mentioned, there’s also the richness and solid material feel to the car’s fixtures and fittings that you’d hope for in a £70,000 luxury car. Cargo space is plentiful below the loadbay cover, although the shape of the car’s plunging roofline would make it a lot less useful for carrying bulky things like bikes and buggies than the regular GLE.

The six-pot engine really is incredibly refined for a diesel. It’s quiet and smooth, barely raising much audible protest even when you make it work a bit, and the truth is that it gives this car every bit of the outright potency and drivability that it needs. That peak torque (516lb ft) is precisely as much as the hybrid version of this car makes (between its combustion engine and its electric drive motor combined) tells you everything you need to know about the wafty sense of roll-on flexibility this car commands.

There are, of course, two AMG-branded derivatives above this model in the GLE range, and so it seems reasonable to assume that 400d buyers won’t be looking for much more than effortless briskness by way of performance, plus perhaps good tank-to-tank touring range. Well, it’s all pretty effortless. Leave the drive mode selector in comfort mode and the gearbox shifts smoothly, timing its actions well, and letting the engine growl distantly up to the top of its torque plateau when you use plenty of pedal before grabbing the next gear. 

Drive this car hard and it can feel pretty fast; not that you will very much. At the more relaxed pace at which it is at its most convincing, it’ll beat 40mpg across motorways and A-roads easily, closing in on six-hundred miles between fills when you’re covering longer distances.

The standard-fit 22in wheels (the same size as either the GLE 53 or -63 S gets, would you believe) don’t hamstring the low-speed ride as much as you might expect, and road noise isolation is quite good. The air suspension makes for a pillowy feel to the car’s gait in default running, with just a little bit of longer-wave lateral shuffling about the close body control as you approach the national speed limit. ‘Sport’ mode dials out most of that ‘corkscrewing’ and makes the body control feel tauter at speed, although the ride becomes a bit less absorbent around town.

The steering feels light, filtered and muted whichever of the driving modes you use, which suits the car’s wider character; but it’s no invitation to go in search of driver engagement. The GLE 400d Coupe actually handles pretty tidily when hurried along and it’s secure and stable enough, too, when you dial up the suspension; but it isn’t the most naturally agile of big cars. If you came to it looking for a more rewarding drive than you might get in a regular big luxury 4×4; something to rival a Porsche Cayenne, perhaps? Hmm; better keep looking.

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