The the GLE line is the replacement for the old ML-Class SUV, under Mercedes’ increasingly (convoluted) diverse naming scheme. “G” indicates that it’s part of the SUV family, under the grandaddy G-Wagon, with the rest of the nomenclature positioning it somewhere on the Mercedes-AMG family branch. The GLE 450 Coupé, with a V6 biturbo engine good for 367 horsepower, is the entry point to the line. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé is the fastest with a V8 biturbo and 585 horsepower. The bigger brother to the GLE 63 S Coupé is the behemoth Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. Same engine as the little brother, but more heft. There’s variants throughout, but for our driving purposes, we went (naturally) for the fastest and biggest.
An SUV with the AMG treatment is an interesting beast. With the 585 horsepower 560 lb-ft 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, you find yourself constantly stabbing at the throttle on the straights out of pure amusement, but pushing it through the turns mainly out of curiosity. Will the ship hold? It will. Mercedes makes a fantastic V8, and even after slapping two turbos on the engine, it still keeps an entirely raucous soundtrack (at any speed). And, to leverage that power best, AMG gives the high horsepower lowered, track-tuned suspension. I took the AMG 63 S up in the German Alps on the way to Kitzbuhel, Austria, and took tarmac turns much faster than common sense would dictate. This is a tall and large vehicle, with SUV ancestry. But, the car tells me to stay on the gas and power through the sweeping turns, the twin-turbo V8 talking me out of any doubts. The SUV doesn’t wallow or lean, it stays relatively flat and planted. It doesn’t make sense. The car works so well. And, the GLE 63 S Coupé’s 0-to-62 time of 4.2 seconds is plenty fast enough to justify weekend time on the back straight. But, while glorious in Kitzbuhel, the question is, who exactly is doing this in the real world?
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé
Engine: 5.5-liter Twin Turbo V8
Transmission: Seven-speed AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic
Torque: 560 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Top Speed: 155 mph
Outside of those who take weekend driving seriously, the AMG GLE 63 S (Coupé or standard) doesn’t make a ton sense. Although it’s fun to set off car alarms in town and rip down the Autobahn, half of that horsepower will be lost on the inevitable demographic of suburban homeowners. Unless life satisfaction comes from ripping to soccer practice faster than all the other dads (or racing the ones in the Porsche Cayenne S, Range Rover Sport SVR or the BMW X6 M), most of this technology and horsepower will go to waste. Thus, Mercedes-AMG’s more “mundane” option, the GLE 450 AMG Coupé, turns out to be the most realistic option in life. Taking the GLE 450 AMG on the winding roads that outline Lake Tegernsee, the 450 takes turns with enough confidence to garner the AMG badge, but still sits too tall to encourage repeated hard cornering. It’s a fine reminder that this isn’t track borne and bred. And, tip-toeing around blind turns, I found a small moment of dynamic use for this Sport Utility Vehicle. I took a right up an unpaved road, my GPS noting: “Road Not Mapped”. Here, the car’s other purpose (and much more viable one, on family vacations and the like) came to light. The gravel ended, but the muddy tracks continued into the forest. I headed through mud, over logs and rocks. The car plowed through. And while its 0-to-62 time of 5.7 seconds may seem cruelly slow compared to the GLE 63 S Coupé (4.2 seconds), that won’t come to light every day. Utility, and a bit less compensatory horsepower, will.
The GLE 450 AMG Coupé lands dead center in the ever-popular sporty crossover segment. It’s a more realistic option than the AMG GLE 63 S, and one that will serve you well in Kitzbuhel, Lake Tegernsee or New Jersey. If you’re a track fiend or simply trying to set yourself apart in the neighborhood, the GLE 63 S will suffice to establish your SUV dominance. But, for the rest of us, we’ll make the most of a car with plenty of utility, sporty styling and confident performance — humbly rolling without the badge of fastest and biggest.