Before we get started, let me address a point of possible confusion. Although Mercedes-Benz’ GLE 350d has “Coupe” in its description, it’s not what you’re probably imagining. The German manufacturer is keeping with a prevailing automotive trend of calling certain four-door vehicles coupes due to their curvy form factors.
On the topic of names, GLE is part of the company’s revised nomenclature where the first two letters describe the model’s sport utility nature, and the last letter identifies where it falls within the lineup, just as with the passenger cars: the executive E-Class, the compact C-Class, and so on.
Officially replacing the former M-Class in 2015, the GLE comes in three all-wheel drive flavours – the 350d diesel 4MATIC, which we drove, the 450 AMG 4MATIC and the spicy AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC.
The side profile of the GLE reveals a turtle-esque shape caused by the steeply sloping rear roofline, also common on competitors like the BMW X6. While this does provide a sporty visual element, from a usability standpoint, visibility out of the sliver of a back window is reduced to nearly nil.
It might be called a coupe, but the 350d is no small animal, even though it may appear so. I was surprised that I was barely able to squeeze into my fairly spacious apartment parking spot. At 4,851 millimetres long, 2,151 mm wide, and 1,760 mm tall, its 25 mm lengthier than the X6 and nearly 41 mm higher.
There are all sorts of styling cues that indicate its athletic pretentions, such as the big air intakes in the front bumpers; a tailgate lip spoiler; rear air inlets (serving to improve the coefficient of drag besides looking darned cool); and lower bumper diffuser with integrated twin exhaust tailpipes.
The passenger compartment strikes a good balance between luxury and sporty with items like its supple nappa leather seat upholstery and quilted door panels, three-spoke steering wheel and racy instrument cluster.
Under the hood of the big swoopy beast rests a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel engine developing 240 horsepower and a whopping 457 lb-ft of torque, exhibiting only the slightest chug-chug-chug sound characteristic of the fuel type. Completing the powertrain is a seamlessly shifting 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic gearbox. The pair works together well to produce low fuel consumption numbers, in my case an observed 13.6 L/100 km in mixed city and highway testing.
Given the vehicle’s size and height, one could assume handling isn’t a strong suit. I certainly wasn’t expecting too much, but the 350d has full-time all-wheel drive with a 50:50 torque split, amongst other gadgets, to ensure the rubber stays on the road.
In terms of safety, there are lots of standard features including, but not limited to, automatic braking, collision mitigation, tire pressure monitoring, 360-degree camera and a function that keeps the GLE inside the proper lane markers during high crosswinds.
In conclusion – the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE 350d proves it’s quick, nimble and good-looking enough to deserve having Coupe in its title. Even if it resembles a turtle.
MSRP: $72,300 (base)
Motor: 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6
Horsepower: 240 @ 3,600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 457 @ 1,600 rpm
Gearbox: Nine-speed automatic
Layout: Front engine, 4MATIC all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 13.6 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)
PHOTOS: Benjamin Yong