Wednesday 21 August 2019

A beastly roar is heard from the The GLE Coupe

The GLE Coupe is a two-ton giant that seems to represents all that was wrong with the boom

A VERY EXPENSIVE STATEMENT: The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe tested will set you back nearly €100,000.
A VERY EXPENSIVE STATEMENT: The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe tested will set you back nearly €100,000.

Campbell Spray

Towards the end of the massive boom, whose bust we are just recovering from, something really horrible started to happen to some very elegant cars.

For instance, BMW had produced a lovely coupe, which sat very stylishly between the 5 and 7 Series. However, not content with that 6 Series, the company pandered to the growing demand for SUVs by jacking the car up and making the X6 a particularly ugly, big and in-your-face crass SUV/Crossover.

Porsche was doing much the same and now Mercedes-Benz has decided to go along the same - and for me - utterly dispiriting route with its GLE Coupe.

As written in this column before, I'm not in love with the way all saloons are going down the coupe route, as views and comfort suffer, especially in the back.

That crossovers are going the same way makes even less sense; you are cramped in under a low roof without being able to enjoy any 'king-of-the-road' feelings.

The GLE is difficult to get in and out of, with a very low roof line and high floor. The back doors don't open enough and the rear-load area has a ridiculously high lip that militates against using the vehicle as a load-carrier.

It looks sporty and has plenty of muscle under the bonnet. The big 3-litre 258bhp diesel (ugh) will power this more than the two-ton beastly giant with permanent 4WD to 100kmh in seven seconds.

It has plenty of off-the road ability but when I tried to reverse up a very dirty track, I wished for a real rugged vehicle. rather than one with lovely spats, chrome and very expensive paint.

On the motorway, it is a dream, but start throwing it around country corners and the passengers will be holding on tight. The handling becomes clumsy as the weight begins to take over.

I'm sure there are many Chinese, perhaps smaller in stature but richer in purse than me, who will love this car. Good luck to them.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4Matic Coupe that I was driving starts at €86,455, but by the time 'Designer Hyacinth Red Metallic' paint (€2,908), 'AMG line' trim and exterior (€8,950) and 'Remote Online' were added, it was €98,665 before p&p.

It didn't do it for me at that or any other price. The ride is pretty poor and my partner couldn't believe that most of the time we were in 'comfort' rather than 'sport' mode. Yet the massive 9-speed automatic box does make things very easy. Inside, it is a very refined car, although I found it difficult to enter, but that is an age and suppleness issue - although it was worse here than in many other vehicles.

When, in the early years of the bust, I tested an SUV or luxury car, I often could see the disgust in onlookers' faces and I was occasionally give 'the finger'. Out driving the GLE last weekend, I felt a bit of the same reaction. There was very little admiration. The feeling is that if "we're back", we still don't want these grotesque machines.

I will leave my colleague Martin Brennan to give a run through on other Mercedes developments on my right. And I'm looking forward to a revised A-Class next month.

But as for the GLE, it isn't for me or very few of you either.

I hope I don't see many around, whether from Mercedes or its rivals. If there are, it will mean Big-Mickey syndrome is back and taste has gone out of the window.

Sunday Independent

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