While there are three Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé models making an appearance in the world, two of them are AMG performance creations with thirsty petrol engines. Therefore, this 350 d example is going to be the biggest seller by some distance in Ireland. Lucky that it's a fine machine, then.
In the Metal:
Shorn of the accoutrements of the AMG models, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 d Coupé remains an attractive machine. No, we've not gone mad - we just called it attractive. If you find the BMW X6 visually offensive, you're unlikely to warm to the GLE Coupé, but in a highly-specialised class of two it's currently the clear aesthetic champion. It seems to wear its sweeping roofline and bluff sides better than the BMW, which is surely half the battle won when it comes to the target buyer - after all, if you're going to pay the premium for the less practical version of the GLE, you're surely in it for the look of the thing. That we prefer the 'regular' Mercedes SUV is neither here nor there for the Coupé customer.
The interior is beyond criticism in terms of fit and finish, as it's magnificent. Everything is nicely put together and there's a certain simplistic beauty to the layout of the centre console, although some rivals do things with more flair. The new dash top infotainment display screen is well integrated into its surroundings and the seats are plump and comfortable, with a good, commanding driving position on offer.
The GLE Coupé doesn't feel markedly sportier than the GLE, a fact that carries through whether you're in the 350 d as here or one of the powerful petrol models. So we don't think there's any advantage to be had in opting for the Coupé if you're a customer with a dynamic bent. That's not to say that the way the diesel model rides, handles and stops/goes all need significant improvement; rather that the GLE Coupé is quietly competent instead of blindingly talented.
As a 350 d variant, it majors on comfort and refinement, both of which it does to a very high level. The 21-inch wheels on our test car didn't upset the composure of the GLE and there was little in the way of external noise contributors intruding into the passenger compartment. The 350 d has a 50:50 torque split, whereas the petrol models slightly bias towards the rear axle (40:60), but it's not noticeably more front-led in the corners. The GLE keeps a firm grip on its body at all times and it proves to be a clean, tidy handler. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is good too, as you don't sense it hunting endlessly for the right ratio among the many cogs contained within its transmission case.
It's not bad in terms of motive force, either, the Mercedes 3.0-litre V6 being one of our favourite turbodiesels of the moment due to its silken demeanour, but we have to sound two notes of caution here: one, there's an odd moment of hesitation if you try to gun the 350 d out of a junction from standstill or very low rolling speed - you plant the throttle and the Merc doesn't go anywhere, and it can be quite disconcerting if there's a heavy goods vehicle bearing down on you at 80km/h; and two, over a long, mixed Alpine route during, which the GLE was mostly cruising around 90km/h, we saw 10.2 litres/100km (27.7mpg), some way off the official combined economy figure. The engine might loosen up with age but that's not a superb mpg figure by any stretch of the imagination.
What you get for your Money:
If you like the looks, you get a stylish, executive SUV with a healthy roster of standard equipment (though we don't yet have Irish specifications or pricing to hand). All GLE Coupés sold here are likely to have Dynamic Select with Airmatic suspension and ADS Plus adaptive damping, Active Parking Assist, keyless go, a powered tailgate, a reversing camera and LED Intelligent Lights. The Coupé does lose a bit of boot space compared to the GLE (40 litres rear seats up and 290 seats down), but Mercedes hasn't deeply shaped the outer pews of the rear bench so it looks like it could accommodate three people at a push, albeit it's going to be much more pleasant for rear-seat passengers as a four-seat vehicle. The diesel model sits in road tax band E, meaning €750 a year to tax it - much better than the €1,200 or €2,350 of the petrol versions.
You can probably tell that while we like the new Mercedes GLE Coupé, we have some reservations. If you're after scalpel-sharp dynamics, it doesn't handle any better than the regular GLE - the Coupé is comfortable enough but no cornering firecracker. You therefore have to like the unconventional looks in order to pay more money for this Merc SUV, and that's the main bit where we have difficulty with the GLE Coupé. Still, BMW hasn't struggled to shift enough X6s to make the idea viable, so we're sure this new Mercedes will be a success for Stuttgart.