• Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz

But as BMW's X6 has demonstrated, sport sells in in the crossover segment, and Mercedes is giving the people what they want.

BMW proved there is a market for crossover utility vehicles designed to look like coupes – as much as a vehicle with four doors and noticeable ground clearance can look like a coupe, anyway. Now comes the reply from Mercedes-Benz: the GLE Coupe.

The rakish crossover is a harbinger of things to come from Mercedes, as it begins the company's transition to a new nomenclature and marks the debut of the AMG Sport line. It also continues the recent coupe craze. Designers from many automakers, like Nissan and Volkswagen, have increasingly turned to swoopy, dramatic styling to make utility vehicles and sedans seem more desirable.

By revealing the GLE 450 AMG Sport model first, Mercedes is clearly hoping to cast the GLE Coupe as a sportier, lifestyle-oriented alternative in its lineup of beefy crossovers and SUVs. Mercedes used the word "sport," or a variation of it, 53 times in its press release, so uh yeah, it's sporty.
It's not an empty promise: Benz means business with the AMG Sport line. This GLE Coupe gets a 3.0-liter biturbo V6 rated at 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque paired with Mercedes' new nine-speed automatic transmission, and it runs with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Specs on the other GLE Coupe models were not disclosed.

Mercedes GLE 450 AMG Sport

But as BMW's X6 has demonstrated, sport sells in in the crossover segment, and Mercedes is giving the people what they want. After all, more than 260,000 people have bought X6s since 2008, and Mercedes wants a piece of that. From certain angles, the GLE Coupe even looks vaguely like an X6.

"This is really a vehicle that is all about status," said Dave Sullivan, product analysis manager for research firm AutoPacific. "You can buy a SUV that doesn't have the inherent qualities of a SUV, such as cargo hauling. People will likely be drawn to the looks. Coupes are all the rage."

BMW, however, isn't running from the fight, and the updated 2015 X6 is arriving in showrooms this month. It also added a smaller sibling, the X4, to its coupe-crossover stable in July.

The GLE Coupe arrives next year, though Mercedes hasn't specified exactly when it will hit showrooms from the factory in Alabama, or specified details on the rest of the non-AMG Sport models. In 2008, it was surprising the X6 was a hit. In 2015, it will be even more surprising if the GLE Coupe isn't.

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There's one winner in each category, and the awards will be announced next month at the Detroit Auto Show. Last year, Chevy swept the awards as the Corvette Stingray won top honors among cars, and the Silverado captured the truck crown. The awards are determined by a vote of 57 North American media members.

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