The green-eyed monster is sure to rear its ugly head now that GLE, Mercedes’ new coupé-SUV, hits the road.
Make no bones about it – the GLE 63 S AMG is simply brilliant and it’s itching for a fight to prove as much. Push the start button and you can imagine it munching up a poor Cherokee SRT and snarling, ‘Bring me the Range Rover Sport SVR, Porsche Cayenne Turbo and especially the BMW X6M, now!’ Having spent a couple of hellraising days with this brutish coupé-SUV, I have a feeling that Merc’s new monster would suck them up through that giant grille and spit them out of those AMG tailpipes.
Properly quick SUVs have been selling very well and Stuttgart’s response is this big, bad, bold Benz. But it’s really only here because of one model. The X6. The car that literally created this segment and also remains the one to beat.
Standing next to the hulking SUV is a rather intimidating experience; it exudes a powerful dominance – riding on those 22in AMG cross-spoke light-alloys (painted in titanium grey with a high-sheen finish, hiding red-painted brake callipers) – over everything else on the road at the moment. Only the upcoming Urus would garner more attention, but the amount of jaws the GLE dropped would suggest that the current crop of pacey family haulers would be better off finding a good hiding place.
Visually, there is a lot to take in. It’s a feast for the eyes, as it adopts the AMG design philosophy with the characteristic ‘A-wing’ in the front apron (painted high-gloss black), a twin-blade louvre in silver chrome and the biggest Mercedes star I’ve ever seen. They’re obviously proud of this one, and so they should be. The nose is dominated by a pair of extremely focused LED eyes and two massive air inlets, but the profile is where the GLE really reveals its sporting nature. Its dynamic roofline and low beltline give it a hunkered-down, race-ready look, while the illuminated side running boards with anti-slip rubber studs give it an even more distinctive style than the rivals.
Around the back, it wears a neat spoiler lip on the boot, has similarly styled tail lights as the S-Class Coupé, an AMG rear apron with a diffuser and the integrated chrome-plated twin sports exhaust tips.
It’s backed up by ferocious performance levels but before we go there, a word or two about the interior. It’s the complete opposite of the outrageous exterior; calm and refined – it’s almost there to soothe you from the extreme rate of knots it’s capable of going. Luxurious, packing some very talented technology, and loaded with high-grade materials and exemplary fit and finish – as you’d expect from Mercedes – the GLE’s cabin is one of the best in the segment.
For instance, the perforated Nappa leather sports seats offer great support when you’re going at it hammer and tongs (the topstitching and AMG badges look a treat, too) and the three-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel (with aluminium shift
The PROFILE is where the GLE really reveals its SPORTING nature, with a hunkered-down, RACE-READY look and DISTINCTIVE style
paddles) wrapped in black Nappa leather has a grip area in Dinamica microfibre, so the wheel won’t slip out of your hands when tackling corners.
What’s more, the red scale graduations around the speedo and rev counter give it a classy yet angry feel, and aside from all five seats swathed in Nappa leather, the highquality material extends to the dash, centre console (which accommodates the slightly finicky Command controller – BMW’s iDrive is better and more intuitive) and the door trim. The rear seat bench is the widest in its class and in addition, extraordinary wizbangery such as adaptive brakes, attention assist, collision prevention assist, crosswind assist, surround view cameras and a lot more, help keep things from going sour, which is a welcome relief because with 577bhp at your disposal, things can go sour, very quickly.
Thankfully, there’s more tech in the shape of the AMG ride control with active curve system and all-wheel drive to keep you on the straight and narrow. And it’s on the straights where the GLE really shines. But not before some more mind games. ‘Are you man enough to handle this?’ it smirks as you dare to tamper with the five drive modes from the rotary control on the centre console. Unleash its full potential by selecting Sport Plus (the suspension steering and throttle response are at their sharpest) and floor it – what happens next is a bit of a blur. It throws you back into the supple seats, makes such a thunderous roar, and reaches 100kph from rest in such haste (4.2 seconds) that you’ve got to be at the top of your game to rein it all in.
The seven-speed automatic kicks you in the back with every shift. It’s brutally hard and the pulling power, regardless of which gear you’re in, is unbelievable. It rides on a superb air suspension, adaptive damping and active anti-roll bars, but you can feel it trying to get away from under you; the AMG 5.5-litre V8 biturbo has so much torque (760Nm) that I suspect those with a low tolerance to pain would pass out. I’m not joking. You can feel the blood shooting up your leg when you bury your right foot into the carpet.
It’s all well the GLE boasting about having more horsepower (just two more than the Bimmer…) and 10Nm more torque, but if that doesn’t translate on to the road, you have a problem. In this regard, and like all of its rivals, the GLE suffers – you can feel it fighting its 2,350kg mass when you throw it into the corners at speed and this doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
The brakes have a mammoth task and cope admirably with the V8’s immense output; however, they bring proceedings to an eventual rather than a more immediate stop. You have to expect as much because for all of its sporting intentions, this is still a large, heavy SUV. That said, it isn’t half fun gripping on to the steering for dear life when the needle starts to climb rapidly into uncharted territory, and you lose consciousness. OK, that didn’t happen. Came close a time or two though…
I reckon it’s a worthy rival in its class. The Rangey SVR staved off the Bimmer’s attentions in a recent battle of the bonkers SUVs, mostly because it had a bigger sense of occasion. But this is more dramatic than the fettled-with Sport. I’d also say it’s one of the better-looking cars in the segment, but more importantly, it leaves a massive grin on your face every time you nail the throttle.
Models of this ilk are for those who want it all; a well-kitted family hauler that’s able to embarrass sports cars at traffic lights. Sadly, they don’t do all of these things perfectly – but this mental Merc sure comes close.
The AMG V8 biturbo has so much TORQUE (760Nm), you can feel the BLOOD shoot up your leg when you bury your FOOT in the CARPET
The luxurious, refined interior with exemplary fit and finish packs some clever technology and is one of the best in the segment
The epically fast GLE wears a neat spoiler lip on the boot and horizontal tail lights that bring to mind the S-Class Coupé