You don’t need to talk with many of the roughly 2,500 people who live on Fogo Island to find someone who has spent time away from this tiny piece of rock off the northeast corner of Newfoundland. It seems to be a rite of passage here: go elsewhere to “find yourself,” discover you actually left most of yourself behind, and move back to get reacquainted.
That’s what Zita Cobb did. After growing up one of seven kids in a house with no electricity or running water, she left to get a business degree at Ottawa’s Carleton University and later made millions as an executive in that city’s high-tech scene. Like so many Islanders before her, she came home, using her wealth to establish both the Shorefast Foundation, which runs a micro-lending program to help local business initiatives, and the Fogo Island Arts Corporation.
The most visible part of the Foundation (and its biggest moneymaker, we’d guess) is the Fogo Island Inn, a five-star, high-end hotel whose modern architecture stands in stark contrast to the rocky landscape, simple homes, and fishing stages that dot the shoreline. Since 2012, the hotel has catered to wealthy tourists who can afford nightly rates that start at $875 – likely the same people Mercedes-Benz hopes will spend seventy grand and change on its new GLE Coupe, a rakish design that competes in the oxymoronically-named sport utility coupe segment. This slice of the new-vehicle marketplace now claims a population as sparse as Fogo Island: this Benz, and a forthcoming compact GLC Coupe, the BMW X4 and X6, and Infiniti’s QX70. The X6 and QX70 are the cars against which Mercedes says the GLE Coupe will compete for buyers.
Just as the hotel stands out on its tiny island home, so do high-end vehicles like this new Mercedes. One local resident we spoke to said people on Fogo tend to live simply, evinced by the predominance of pickup trucks, compact cars and small crossovers. So an upscale crossover is a bit of a sight here, especially when its visuals are dominated by a massive three-pointed star up front and the GLE’s significant bustle at the rear.
Mercedes-Benz Canada offers the GLE Coupe (which is on sale now) in three trims: the diesel-powered GLE 350d is the base model ($72,300); a GLE 450 AMG, using a turbocharged 3.0L gasoline V6, is the next step up, priced at $77,600; and topping the range at $116,500 is the AMG GLE 63 S, powered by a 5.5L turbocharged V8 good for 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. The former two share Benz’s new nine-speed automatic transmission, while the AMG version uses a seven-speed dual-clutch auto; all three engine/transmission combos get 4MATIC all-wheel drive, but the AMG version’s default torque split is 40:60 (front:rear), while the others do it 50:50. (Some AMG-related notes: other markets get a less-potent, non-S AMG 63 version, but Mercedes-Benz Canada decided to keep it simple; and the 450 AMG is not a true AMG model.)