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.
But as BMW's X6 has demonstrated, sport sells in in the crossover segment, and Mercedes is giving the people what they want.
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.
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.
Other News and Views
North American car award finalists announced
The short list is out for the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards, and Ford Motor Co. has three of the six vehicles. The car category is composed of the Ford Mustang, Volkswagen Golf/GTI and Hyundai Genesis. The truck sector has the Ford F-150, Lincoln MKC and Chevrolet Colorado.
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.
Porsche 918 Spyder sells out
The 918 Spyder is sold out. Porsche took the last order for its $845,000-hybrid supercar in mid-November. Production was limited to 918 models. Though it's sold out, Porsche now has to fill those orders, and the 918 factory in Zuffenhausen, Germany, is expected to be busy with that through next July. The United States was the single largest market for the 918, with 297 of them sold here. About 50 copies of the 918 have been delivered in the US market, a spokesman said. Germany and China each accounted for 100 sales of the 918.
Bentley expands R&D for work on new SUV
Bentley is opening a massive research and development center at its base in Crewe, England, to accelerate work on its upcoming SUV that's due in 2016. The sprawling new facility will encompass more than 484,000 square feet, and it will expand Bentley's historic headquarters at a cost of more than $60 million. Work is expected to begin next year, and when full, the structure will hold more than 1,300 engineers. The expansion also will result in the addition of 300 jobs in a variety of fields. The company has been in a period of growth for the last 18 months, adding 950 jobs as its sales have increased.