2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe

Goes like a rocket!

"A familiar SUV Coupe silhouette which has been embedded in people's minds"

"Inside, you are welcomed by odes of luxury, typical Mercedes Benz and we love it!"

"Fun to drive the GLE coupe on off-road at times"

"Engine maintained a 2400 rpm with a very light foot on the throttle and the speedometer showing an impressive 130 kph" said Ershad

Sport UTILITY Vehicle v/s SPORT Utility Vehicle; the latter has been gaining a lot of attention in the international SUV scenario. These basically constitute big brawly SUVs with highly tuned engines, tighter suspension and dynamic steering packages.

Mercedes Benz had its AMG engineers clamping on these magic parts to their ML, G and GL range of vehicles, but even though they carried a lot of power and handled better than their non-AMG counterparts there was essentially this feeling of weight and sway and lack of drive feel.

But hold on, we have some great news. Mercedes Benz has just unveiled its latest performance SUV; the GLE Coupe AMG 63S. Well that's a long name but let me go through it quickly. 'GLE' forms the new segment in the Mercedes Benz range which essentially carries over the ML tradition in a slightly bigger packing. 'Coupe' stands for the coupe like design language which is the first for any Mercedes SUV in its history. 'AMG63' brings in a 5.5 litre V8 twin turbo petrol motor with 557 hp on the tap with a load of suspension and steering tweaks to keep all this monstrous power under control. The final 'S' adds a couple of more power to the already manic engine to a total power of 585 hp and 760Nm torque transmitted to all 4 wheels of the GLE Coupe with a 40:60 split between front and rear wheels. So what we have is a SUV which happens to look like a coupe or is it the other way round? Okay; enough of explanations. Time to take the GLE for a spin.

A quick glance and you are greeted with a familiar SUV Coupe silhouette which has been embedded in people's minds; thanks to the BMW X6 and its M cousin. The stance seems imposing but sleek and flowy, in line with the current Mercedes design lingo. The front view has its share of aggression, thanks to the huge air dams sculpted into the muscular bumper. The front mesh grills have been blacked out with two horizontal silver slats merging into the big bold Mercedes emblem. My only concern here would be that the mesh grills leave a feeling of being too empty. The muscular theme continues on to the bonnet which has two air intake vents. This feel is carried on until the GLE's B-pillar from where the roof line flows down and down into coupe territory. It is this roof line which shouts out the 'coupe' factor in this SUV. Continuing to the rear end of the GLE, I would say that I am a bit disappointed. There is a sudden loss of character or let's say that it feels a bit too bland compared to the rest of the car. The horizontally oriented tail light resembles the ones on the S class coupe and feels a tad out of place here. A spoiler runs just above the tail lights which doesn't help much is spicing up things.

On entering the GLE coupe, you are welcomed by odes of luxury, typical Mercedes Benz and we love it. Soft leather, excellent ambient lighting and you immediately feel cozy settling into the AMG styled seats finished in white leather. One thing that immediately rings in your mind is the lack of head room. At 5'10" myself, I feel that 6' plus drivers may feel a bit tight.

Press the 'Engine Start/Stop' button and your senses are awakened by the grumble of the 5.5 litre AMG power plant. It sounds good and yes, very good. Slip the gear into D and you can hear the V8 breathing out through the four tail pipes; lot of mumbling and grumbling again! You will often feel the need to turn off the state-of-the-art Harmon Kardon sound system to listen to the exhaust note!! The GLE offers you Individual, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ driving modes selectable through a dial. The car starts off in Comfort model default and I am already feeling good listening to the eight cylinder soundtrack. Driving off from standstill seems very effortless and at no point you feel that you have around 2,200 kg of weight to lug around. The 7-speed transmission shifts in a predictive and easy manner leaving you plush in the excellent seats. Steering feels very good, wrapped in Napa leather and providing nice feedback throughout the speed range.

Now, shift the drive mode into Sport/Sport+ and what it does is that it turns the GLE Coupe into more of a coupe than a SUV! Engine response becomes razor-sharp, suspension stiffens up and steering is at its dynamic best. Accompanied with this is the thunder and splutter from the AMG exhaust pipes which transcends you into another world. Corners are treated mercilessly and you feel that never ending supply of grip at any speed, into any corner. Ample help from the 22" wheels shod with 285/40 tyres up front and 325/35 tyres on the rear are never forgotten. Straight line performance is breath taking and you can actually feel the front end of the car rising up at sudden throttle responses. Sudden direction changes do not seem to unsettle the car in any manner and you feel cocooned in a perfect blend of luxury and performance. The GLE coupe sports disc brakes all around and they do a commendable job of providing a progressive braking feel even from very high speeds. However there is a mild lack of confidence due to limited rear visibility; a necessary evil of the coupe-ish SUV design. But the excellent electronic safety components make sure that you are informed of everything that is happening around the vehicle at all times. One particular incident I could recollect was when another car swerved into my lane through the blind spot suddenly while I was cruising on the freeway and the safety systems on the GLE initiated braking to avoid any chances of an emergency situation.

After spending a good deal of time on tarmac, it was time to treat the GLE to some off-road and no-road conditions. The Comfort drive mode was selected and I was a bit surprised at how well this vehicle handled in such conditions. We are talking about stiff suspensions and super-sized wheels with low profile rubber grinding their way through stones and gravel. The 4 wheel drive performed well in sand and the AMG engine made sure that there was never a dearth of power. It is fun to drive the GLE coupe on off-road at times, but it feels happiest on tarmac. Superfast corners and arrow straight roads will form a major part of GLE coupe's diet.

Something peculiar I noticed while cruising down motorways was that the engine maintained an rpm of 2400 even with a very light foot on the throttle and the speedo showing 130 km/hr. Something below 2000 rpm would have felt much more comfortable and assuring for the driver.  A small bit about the rear seating. One would expect that the dropping roof line would compromise rear seat passenger head room, but I guess the seats have been mounted a bit low compared to the front seats to compensate.

On the overall, this is one good package of a performance oriented SUV and except from the minor tid-bits mentioned above, the GLE coupe performs in every manner as a coupe and as a SUV. It goes like a rocket, seats 4-5 people comfortably, can carry a good amount of luggage and can run your occasional off-road trips too. Good work Mercedes Benz, Good work AMG. You have a winner.

Pros:  Style quotient, good mix of luxury and dynamics, hellish AMG exhaust note, Good luggage space
Cons: Uninspiring rear design, engine likes to be pushed hard always, interior may feel a bit cramped for tall passengers
Rivals: BMW X6 M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Range Rover Sport SVR
Engine: 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged, V8, 585 hp @ 5500 rpm, 760 Nm @ 1750-5250 rpm
Transmission: 7 Speed Automatic with manual shifting mode, 4WD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 4.2 secs, 12.5 L /100 km, Top speed: 250-280 kph
Chassis: 2200 kg

One word: skyrocket

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