DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz, which pioneered the luxury offroader with the boxy G-class 36 years ago, is now adding curves to its SUV lineup with the new GLE coupe.
The mid-sized crossover, which featured today at the Detroit auto show, has a low sloping back end and bears a remarkable resemblance to the BMW X6 as Mercedes targets drivers that want a sportier family car.
“The GLE Coupe is the trailblazer for a versatile vehicle class,” said Ola Kaellenius, head of sales and marketing at Mercedes. “It will enable us to win new customers.”
Coming seven years after the X6 hit the roads, the GLE Coupe is part of Mercedes’s push to regain the top spot in global luxury-car sales from BMW by the end of the decade. The curvy Mercedes is expected to nearly match the X6 in sales next year, with GLE Coupe deliveries of about 39,000 compared to 43,000 of the racy BMW SUV, according to forecaster IHS Automotive.
The GLE Coupe is based on the $48,300 M-class SUV, but differs visually.
Alongside the sloping rear, the GLE Coupe has a sloping hood, pronounced front air intakes, sleeker slides and 20-inch wheels, two inches bigger than the M-Class. It will be built at the automaker’s plant in Alabama and is scheduled to hit the U.S. market in August. The top-of-the-line variant will be the GLE 63 AMG, which boasts a 585-horsepower V8 engine.
Expanding in SUVs is key for Daimler AG’s Mercedes, which lost the sales lead to BMW in 2005 and dropped to third behind Audi in 2011. SUV demand is expected to grow 32 percent to 23.9 million vehicles globally by 2020, according to IHS.
“SUVs will continue to be very popular globally,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Bankhaus Metzler. “BMW has been a pioneer in a niche that’s bigger than expected. A lot of customers seem to find the combination of an SUV with sports car design elements attractive.”
BMW established coupe-style SUV with the X6 in 2008 and has since added the X4. The Munich-based carmaker will add a new full-sized crossover with the X7 in its bid to keep ahead of the competition.