Let’s begin with a story…
A few years ago, BMW created an all-new segment. They looked at the idea behind Mercedes’ beautiful CLS 4-door coupe, and then BMW thought… “what if we did that with an SUV?”, And the BMW X6 was born!
Now, unlike the Mercedes CLS, which is essentially just a sleeker, more beautiful Mercedes E-Class with no tangible drawbacks, the X6 didn’t turn out so well. The tapered roofline that makes a car look sleek wound up looking really awkward on the X6’s larger SUV proportions. It also compromised the size of the trunk. So a sleeker, more beautiful BMW X5 the X6 was not, not by a long shot. In fact, it really only served to remove the “utility” from “Sport Utility Vehicle.”
So why, then, would you buy a BMW X6? If you wanted an SUV for all of the reasons anyone wants an SUV, then you’d buy the X5. If you wanted a stylish coupe for all of the reasons people generally want a stylish coupe, then you’d buy a 6 Series. Where is the market for something that looks like a sad humpback whale on wheels?
Well, Mercedes-Benz has clearly been watching closely, and whatever the market may be, they want a peice of it! So, with that, they decided to take their M-Class SUV, break its back like Bane did Batman, and boom!… the Mercedes GLE is here.
Tell me it doesn’t look like a CLA that went on the Big Mac diet…
As you may be able to deduce, I’m not a huge fan of the GLE, the X6, or the idea of a coupe SUV in general (save maybe the Range Rover Evoque, but that’s different). Mercedes is just playing the “me too” card here, and they’re playing it on one of BMW’s very questionable ideas. But then again, this is all really just about branding, isn’t it? BMW and Mercedes could put wheels on a giant turd, and people would be lining up with checks in hand.
We can tell that coupe SUVs are not merely just so attractive that people “must” have one because Acura tried to get into this segment early on with their ZDX, but nobody bought one. The ZDX certainly wasn’t any less attractive than the BMW X6, if anything the Acura was a better value. But Acura doesn’t have nearly the luxury brand clout that BMW and Mercedes have, so people just saw the ZDX for the awkward thing it was, and then went and bought the X6 instead.
Will the GLE sell? Oh, I’m sure it will because it’s a Mercedes, and there is a certain type of person out there that loves any useless, tacky thing so long as it has a fancy brand on the front. Companies with a strong brand identity enjoy a sort of “if you build it, they will come” demand from consumers… similar to Apple with their various gadgets.
Now that Mercedes has followed in BMW’s footsteps, Audi will be obligated to do so as well. Then maybe Jaguar, Lexus, and others will come and join the party too! So, much to the shigirn of those blessed with the gift of sight, I’m afraid we will soon be seeing these awkward coupe SUV things everywhere.
There is one good thing about the release of the GLE, though, or more specifically the GLE 450 AMG, and that is a solid new state of tune for Mercedes’ 3.0L V6 engine. It now comes with twin turbochargers and produces a hefty 362hp and 384lb/ft of torque… only a medium amount in a hefty SUV application, but it should be quite punchy when it inevitably makes it’s way into a C-Class.
The GLE also introduces a new 9 speed transmission, becuase “more” is always better, right? Well, it certainly is for the sort of person who will buy a GLE, so if the shoe fits, wear it, I guess.
So there you have it, folks. Mercedes has gone and validated one of BMW’s more regrettable ideas, one that many of us were hoping would fail miserably and soon be forgotten. It would appear that the coupe SUV is indeed here to stay, catering to the unfortunately plentiful “more money than sense” crowd. I guess we should’ve seen this coming, though, because Mercedes just released their fantastic AMG GT, and it would seem that they needed the GLE to come and balance out their product line karma.
Oh well, you win some, you lose some…