I barely had a chance to drive a Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de Coupe crossover home and park it before the government dropped its bomb that would have dropped the grant for those who buy a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).
I think, with the grenade launchers erupting, this was more of a firecracker than a tall boy. PHEVs have been squarely in the crosshairs of environmental intersections for some time now, with debate raging over whether or not they should be allowed to grant in the first place; Since it can cover vast cumulative distances on electric power, however, it requires the owner to make an effort to connect and charge it regularly.
Squaring this circle is, in part, the full point of the GLE 350de. Mercedes continues its current demolition of the electric vehicle by mating an electric motor with diesel power. From one point of view, that’s a perfect combination: zero-emissions electric power for city driving, where diesel pollution is at its worst, and a diesel vehicle for long highway commutes when you need to. To add an electro-catalytic carrot to the whole plan, Mercedes boosted the GLE 350de’s electric range to up to 100 kilometers on a full charge.
Then again, there is another point of view: one that asks why development money and construction plants are wasted on another dirty diesel car, no matter how big its battery is?
very big battery
Its battery is pretty big by the way: 31 kWh, which is about the size of an original Nissan Leaf. Not only will it take a long time to use electric power (we saw an easy 80km run, even with some dual-lane driving mixed in) but you can also charge it quickly. The 350de will charge to 80 percent of power in about 20 minutes from a 50 kWh quick charge point, though you’ll have to suffer the dagger-of-death stare of electric car drivers when they see you find a charging point with one of these .
I think the chassis doesn’t help in that regard. The regular Mercedes GLE is big, obviously expensive, and certainly doesn’t look interested and involved. This coupe version is all that, but with an added v-sign for the rest of the world that says, “Yes, I wanted a big SUV but didn’t need it to be practical.” Honestly, it’s not a car that I felt particularly comfortable driving in that respect.
Nor regarding general comfort, to be equally honest. With massive 21-inch wheels, you might even expect the intelligent air suspension to struggle, but you’ll throw in the weight of that battery (more kilowatts means more kilograms) and the result is a very strong, turbulent ride quality.
Around town, the GLE 350de feels lumpy and unhappy. On twisty roads, it feels impractical and even very heavy, groaning and swaying when asked to bend excitedly. She only feels really happy when cruising on the highways, which is a bit restrictive.
At least on the cruise, you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful cabin, which has been wholesaled well raised from the standard GLE – levels of quality that would put Rolex to shame as standard. Our test car was equipped with the optional optional Burmester stereo. Comfort can be found here at least because the front seats are excellent.
However, other frustrations soon surfaced. While legroom is good in the rear seats, headroom isn’t, and the cut-out roof makes the door opening too small for easy access in or out. It would be wise for anyone to wear one of these helmets on a regular basis, so you often hit your forehead on the surface when entering or exiting. The luggage compartment has shrunk from 655 liters to 510 liters, thanks to the need to fill the massive battery.
The thing is, it’s excellent transmission power. On long trips, even with all that hefty weight and size, you can still break the 7L/100km barrier easily, and you’ll do even better if you start with a full battery and carry as many electric miles as you possibly can. Switching from electric to diesel to both and back again handles smoothly, the brakes do a reasonable job of pulling the 2.5t back to a standstill, and counteract the weird, woody feel so common on PHEV brakes as they play with regeneration and frictional braking.
The problem is that the GLE Coupé is completely wrong. She tries to look sloppy, but she drives big and heavy. It’s capable of remarkable fuel economy and zero-emissions driving, but people will still hate you for buying one – not least the Irish government. Basically, it’s a more compelling argument than ever for buying the same awesome powertrain in the chassis of the least, sleeker, and more fun E-Class.
Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de Coupe 4Matic: the inside info
- Energy A 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel plus 89 kW electric motor generates 320 horsepower and 700 Nm of torque with a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
- CO2 emissions (car tax) 23g/km (€140)
- oil consumption 1.1 l / 100 km
- Electricity consumption 25.4 kWh / 100 km
- battery capacity 31.2 kWh
- electric range 99km
- 0-100 km/h 6.9sec
- price GLE from 80,795 euros; 101,295 euros depending on the test *
- to rule Great tech, but the GLE Coupe as a package just doesn’t do well enough
*Currently shown price includes a discount of 2,500 euros for VAT