When the kids head off to college, you might not mind making the move to something that flaunts your affluence a little more—something just a little bit more ostentatious. That move used to be made by putting a big touring coupe in the garage; but times have changed, and it’s now more rakish utility vehicles with swoopy rooflines—models like the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe.
BMW calls the X6 a “sports activity coupe,” while Mercedes-Benz actually puts the “coupe” badge on its GLE-Class variant. These two vehicles, if you line them up side by side, are near clones. But if you walk around them, there are key differences in the front and rear detailing of these vehicles, as well as in the shape and nuance of the sheet metal.
MORE: Read our reviews of the 2017 BMW X6 and 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class
We should point out from the beginning that this isn’t a fair fight: the 2017 BMW X6 has been rated using our new system—the GLE hasn’t. We’re working the numbers as we speak, so stay tuned to see the final result. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Although both of these models are closely related to the X5 and GLE mainstream luxury SUVs, they’re only offered in a fraction of the powertrain variants. For now the Mercedes GLE Coupe is only offered in gasoline variants, with no plug-in hybrid or diesel versions yet. Both automakers offer a choice between 3.0-liter V-6 and 4.4-liter V-8 engines—all turbocharged. In the X6 xDrive35i, that engine makes 300 horsepower, while xDrive50i (V-8) versions make 450 hp. Meanwhile the Mercedes-Benz GLE450 Coupe is only offered with a 362-hp output, and those who want the V-8 need to head toward one of the far pricier AMG models.
Both of these models are indeed offered in high-performance variants that push near-supercar levels of horsepower and torque into these heavy ‘utes—resulting in some impressive, track-ready capability. In the BMW X6 M, there’s a 567-hp, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive, while the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 makes 550 hp and the GLE 63 S gets 577 hp. The X6 M can reach 60 mph in about 4.0 seconds, while the Mercedes-AMG models take two- and three-tenths longer, officially.
Dynamically, we tend to like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupes a bit more than their BMW counterparts, because they seem to nail the on-the-road balance between ride quality and handling a bit better. Both of these models now have accurate, well-weighted steering; and we particularly like the GLE’s feel on center (although models with the widest tire-and-wheel combinations, like the GLE63, are the exception). A rear air suspension with Dynamic Damper Control is available in the X6, while there’s a four-wheel air suspension with dynamic damping—the first of its kind in the Mercedes SUV lineup—offered on the GLE lineup. We’d describe the X6 models’ ride as a bit sharper (and transmitting a little more road noise inside)—so those commuting on heavily potholed, frost-heaved roads may want to pay extra attention on the test drive. Neither of these models are really intended for off-roading, by the way, and the rugged-oriented packages (like the Off-Road Package in the GLE) aren’t offered here in these “coupes.”
Inside, there’s no doubt the packaging suffers as the result of the more radical rooflines. Front-seat space is abundant, and there’s no significant sacrifice in space from the driver’s seat, although in back both of these models sacrifice some head room. While we found the back seat in the Mercedes to be a bit easier to get into, the BMW seems to offer more usable head room to taller folks, as passengers’ heads will be uncomfortably wedged into as carved-out headliner in the Mercedes-Benz. In either case, cargo space and versatility are impressive, and these models offer nearly as much usable stow space as their full-fledged SUV counterparts.
Since both of these are niche models, relatively speaking, it’s unlikely we’ll see full crash-test results from either of the U.S. agencies. That said, both the BMW and Mercedes SUVs on which they’re based carry generally impressive safety reputations. Attention Assist, which helps identify the signs of drowsy driving, is standard on the GLE Coupe, while a package of potentially accident-avoiding features are available. Night vision and head-up displays add up to what, fully loaded, amounts to some impressive tech wizardry.
In both cases, sticker prices can be astronomical. Modestly equipped versions of both of these models could land around $65k, but with tempting technology and active-safety options, as well as various appearance and trim packages that could prove hard to resist, we suspect most will have bottom-line sticker prices for far, far more. And then there are the X6 M and GLE63 models, with their solidly six-digit price tags.
Summing it all up, both the X6 and the GLE have so very much in common. In everything from profile to engine size, features, and options. While we see the BMW X6 M to be just a bit ahead in driver engagement, the GLE450 Coupe, with its higher power output, and more settled ride, may have the advantage here if you can overlook the backseat.
And if you can see them as coupes, it’s a win-win.