Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S

NZ Autocar - - Contents -

It would seem there’s an AMG 63 model now for just about ev­ery Mercedes model line from the C-Class up­wards. That ap­plies to the SUVs as well, and here you see the top GLE-Class of­fer­ing, the AMG GLE 63 S. In black. Lots of black, in fact black on black be­cause it fea­tures just one op­tion, the Night Pack­age. As a Mercedes spokesper­son said, “We just couldn’t re­sist it”. The night pack­age adds black­ened wheels, black­out tinted win­dow from the B pil­lar back, and items like aprons, mir­ror caps, roof rails and the like also in black. Sin­is­ter is how you might de­scribe it.

Rapid too, as you’d ex­pect of any AMG 63. It used to be that big pow­er­ful SUVs were con­sid­ered bench­mark fast if they could run from stand­still to open road speed in un­der five sec­onds. Nowa­days, with many run­ning biturbo set-ups and quick shift­ing au­tos pack­ing up­wards of nine cogs (just the seven here though), they’re now crack­ing into three-sec­ond ter­ri­tory, and the Cayenne Turbo S has done ex­actly that, re­cently set­ting a bench­mark of 3.89sec. How­ever, you pay over $300k for the priv­i­lege, whereas the AMG GLE 63 S, rated at 4.2sec for the same pa­ram­e­ter, lists at $100k less ($205,900). It al­most met its mark too, achiev­ing a best of 4.33sec on chipseal. That’s all with­out the ad­van­tage of launch con­trol too. Given it also uses a con­ven­tional seven-speed au­to­matic, that’s quite an achieve­ment. It’s only 0.08sec slower on the over­take than the Porsche, which is also quite some­thing.

Like all AMGs the 430kW biturbo V8 erupts into life rather than just start­ing, thanks to the stan­dard fit per­for­mance ex­haust sys­tem, ter­mi­nat­ing in a quar­tet of black­ened tailpipes, nat­u­rally. On the cruise, you get the im­pres­sion you can hear each of the com­pres­sion strokes of the big V8, such is its abil­ity to lope along seem­ingly just above idle at high­way speeds. Mercedes sug­gests a lab rat­ing of 11.8L/100km over­all but that’s in some fairy­land where 70km/h is the open road limit. Good luck at achiev­ing any­thing lower than 15L/100km in the real

world; you’ll be hold­ing up lines of traf­fic do­ing so. That said, on cruise con­trol 16s or 17s is pos­si­ble, de­pend­ing on how much gear you have on board. Per­for­mance test­ing and the like, ex­pect high 20s.

Men­tion of cruise con­trol, it’s of the ac­tive va­ri­ety and was a real boon when head­ing out into the big south­ern carpark (a.k.a. Auck­land’s South­ern Mo­tor­way) of a Fri­day evening rush hour. Set it to 100km/h and it con­trols speed and dis­tance to the ve­hi­cle in front, right down to a dead stop where it promptly shuts down. Min­utes later (by which time I’d been able to sync my phone to the GLE’s Blue­tooth sys­tem) and the traf­fic starts mov­ing again, sim­ply brush­ing the gas pedal reignites the en­gine and ac­tive cruise once more takes over. Bril­liant. Even if the 90min grind to the Bom­bays wasn’t.

The GLE may tote new nomen­cla­ture but be­neath it’s es­sen­tially run­ning the former ML’s ar­chi­tec­ture, rein­vented. The AMG un­der­pin­nings in­clude air sus­pen­sion with adap­tive damp­ing, and Mercedes’ Ac­tive Curve Sys­tem com­pris­ing ac­tive sta­biliser bars that stiffen in cor­ners to keep the big hauler (rated to tow 3.5 tonnes braked) on an even keel. Un­like some of its com­peti­tors there’s not the ac­tive torque shuf­fling front to rear (it’s fixed 40/60) or side to side, but for some­thing this big and tall, it can still scoot through cor­ners, dy­nam­ics en­hanced by 295/35ZR21 Pirelli PZeros, no less. The top Sport+ set­ting of the Dy­namic Select han­dling sys­tem amps ev­ery­thing to op­ti­mise cor­ner­ing and straight line speed. With­out the torque shuf­fling de­vices and with 55 per cent of weight over the front axle it ul­ti­mately pushes to­wards the grass verge, and lift-off can oc­ca­sion­ally make it loll into over­steer. Mainly though it makes a com­pe­tent com­fort­able point-to-point mover, with gen­er­ous seats and lug­gage ca­pac­ity for five. On your own you’d use the Sport and Com­fort modes mainly, whereas with oth­ers aboard the Com­fort mode en­sures a smooth ride with­out cor­ner­ing abil­ity los­ing out. We’d imag­ine that most own­ers wouldn’t shift it out of that mode ever, af­ter an ini­tial fid­dle with the sportier set­tings.

And there’s plenty to fid­dle with here, the mul­ti­con­tour sports seats do­ing ev­ery­thing ex­cept talk­ing to front seat oc­cu­pants. There’s heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion, mem­ory set­tings, four types of mas­sage on the go, you name it. My high-res MP3 player in­ter­faced well with the Co­mand sys­tem too, fir­ing up in­stantly af­ter ini­tial hook up. Same with the phone. The HK sound sys­tem is great, but if you just must have the best there’s a 1200wpc Bang and Olufson set-up avail­able for $9500. Most of the rest of the op­tions list comes as stan­dard in the AMG vari­ant, in­clud­ing vir­tu­ally all ac­tive safety sys­tems. Items like the elec­tri­cally ex­tend­able trailer cou­pling and rear seat en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem are cost op­tions.

Pri­mary com­peti­tors in­clude the more ex­pen­sive and not-so-fast Range Rover Sport SVR, and the X5 M, sim­i­larly quick for sim­i­lar money.

We’d imag­ine that most own­ers wouldn’t shift it out of com­fort mode, af­ter an ini­tial fid­dle with the Sportier

sus­pen­sion set­tings

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