While there’s no rain in Austria right now, there is plenty of snow, as I discovered during a 400km drive from Innsbruck into the heart of the Tyrol in the new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
After overnighting near the top of the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road, I identified a model more agreeable in look and drive than its predecessor.
Powered by the same in-line six with electrical assist found in the AMG E53 or a six-cylinder 3.0-litre turbodiesel, Mercedes has also introduced something fresh in the way of a plug-in hybrid, capable of delivering 100km of pure electric driving.
All engines are paired with a nine-speed automatic and 4Matic all-wheel drive, run on 19 to 22-inch rims and wrap into a body based on the latest GLE wagon, but 60mm shorter in a wheelbase that's 20mm longer than before.
An opportunity to compare old with new suggests, overall, the shape is better proportioned, less bulbous at the back, more hunkered and with a more natural sweep to the roofline.
It’s a stretch to suggest the roof doesn’t compromise the rear, yet getting into the back is easier than in the previous car thanks to enlarged door openings. A falling window line makes the GLE Coupe feel cosy.
The boot is larger, yet the GLE wagon is still more commodious. Visually, though, the Coupe will stand up well against the usual opposition.
The instrument console is directly from the wagon, which means the Coupe has the impressive MBUX digital dash and touchscreen found in the GLB, including augmented-reality satellite navigation.
The New Zealand spec has yet to be set, but expect optimal plushness — ambient lighting packs, electric tailgates, full auto LED headlights and ‘‘Artico’’ faux leather interior trim.
The AMG edition has a brasher grill, the biggest-rimmed and its interior has a racier steering wheel and sports seats.
Choosing between the 400d and AMG 53? Not easy. The pure diesel has less power than the mild-hybrid petrol, but other than when the electric starter-alternator-motor unit in the transmission adds a further 16kW/250Nm for short periods, the diesel has 180Nm more torque, making for noticeable difference in energy on hillclimbs.
And the petrol flagship unit is brilliant in its ability to blend smoothness and quietness while cruising with effortless performance, has a 0-100kmh sprint time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 250kmh. The 48-volt assistance makes this engine really efficient and economical, too.
If you want only power? A GLE 63 S featuring the 500kW twin-turbo V8 is assuredly coming.
As on the GLE wagon, the standard suspension system is steel-sprung, but with sportier tuning. Air suspension comes in two options: self-levelling system that varies stiffness based on the conditions and ‘‘E-Active Body Control’’, a $15,000 option on the wagon.
- Richard Bosselman