MO­TOR­ING

The green-eyed mon­ster is sure to rear its ugly head now that GLE, Mercedes’ new coupé-SUV, hits the road.

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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

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