Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé (2014)

Like it or not, the BMW X6 has carved out a comfortable “coupé SUV” niche for itself, finding a surprising amount of buyers who enjoy its controversial style. It’s taken six years and two generations for one of BMW’s Teutonic rivals to spring a competitor, and it’s from Stuttgart – the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

Based on the W166 ML, the GLE Coupe was previewed by the Concept Coupe that debuted at the Beijing Auto Show earlier this year. The front fascia is quite a bit different from the current ML, with W205 C-Class-esque headlights and a rounder grille (with a large three-pointed star inset) – we’re expecting the look to be transferred to the facelifted ML, which will carry the GLE moniker when it launches next year.

The low-slung roofline is the most striking aspect, with a fast windscreen rake and a sloping rear hatch. And while one can certainly see shades of the X6’s design, there are also clear references to other Mercedes coupés. The rear end in particular has been inspired by the new S-Class Coupe – there are slim tail lights joined together by a chrome bar, while the rear number plate recess has been moved to the bumper.

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé (2014)

Owners of the current ML will feel right at home inside – almost everything has been ported over, with the exception of the new three-spoke steering wheel (also taken from the W205 C-Class), the new tablet-style screen for the COMAND infotainment system, flatter face buttons as seen on the facelifted B-Class as well as a rotary controller to select the driving mode on the new Dynamic Select. Again, these changes should make it to the regular GLE as well.

All GLE Coupe models come with Mercedes’ new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission as well as 4Matic all-wheel drive. There are three engine choices from launch – at the base of the range sits the GLE 350 d diesel, delivering 258 hp and 620 Nm of torque from 1,600 rpm, while stepping up to the GLE 400 nets you a direct-injected biturbo V6 that generates 333 hp and 480 Nm of torque from 1,400 rpm.

The current range-topper is the GLE 450 AMG, the first of Mercedes-AMG’s new “sports models” to take on the mid-range BMW M Performance and Audi S models. Power comes from another biturbo V6, but uprated to 367 hp and 500 Nm, sent through a performance-oriented 4Matic with a 40:60 front-to-rear power split. Standard on this variant is AMG body styling, sports seats, a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, Airmatic air suspension with variable ADS Plus damping as well as an extra Sport+ mode for the Dynamic Select system.

For the rest of the range, the GLE Coupe comes fitted with the Easy-Pack powered tailgate, a reverse camera, LED Intelligent Light System headlights, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, ESP with Curve Dynamic Assist and Crosswind Assist as well as BAS Plus. The long options list, on the other hand includes a Driving Assistance package, COMAND Online with a larger eight-inch screen and touchpad, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and 21- and 22-inch wheels.

For now, it is unclear where the GLE Coupe will be making its world premiere, but we’re placing our bets on next month’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.