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First drive: Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

First drive: Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé
Massive power in an unconventional body, courtesy of the Mercedes-AMG GLE.

 



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Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé

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Mercedes turns its renamed GLE SUV into a Coupé model, with three versions set for launch in the UK. This is the top of the tree: an AMG-developed monster that can do 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, thanks to a whopping biturbo V8 engine under the bonnet. By any token, it's a brilliant fast SUV, but we have to say that - if we had any - we'd put our money into the 'regular' GLE instead.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé
Pricing: £96,555; GLE Coupé starts from £60,680
Engine: 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, seven-speed automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 278g/km (VED Band M, £1,100 year one, £505 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 23.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited); option to raise to 174mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Power: 585hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 1,750- to 5,250rpm

What's this?

Finally, it's a genuine rival for the BMW X6, and it should come as little surprise that it's one of the premium German marques that has entered the fray. Mercedes-Benz (and, by extension, Mercedes-AMG) is planning a full-on SUV offensive, given the way these things are selling around the world, and it now has a five-model line-up. The GLE, formerly the ML or M-Class, sits in the middle of the Mercedes SUV hierarchy, where it is a rival for any large, premium off-roader you can think of - the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Range Rover Sport, Volvo XC90 and so on. Yet, amazingly, this GLE Coupé is the first vehicle to challenge the X6 since it invented this controversial niche segment back in 2009.

While the looks are sure to be divisive, the GLE Coupé is a better resolution of this SUV crossover concept than the X6. It's just a little more elegant and proportional to our eyes, with the neat rear-end design - with its slim light clusters - a particular highlight. As it is supposed to be more sporty than utilitarian, the three-model launch range features a GLE 350 d (£60,680), likely to be far and away the biggest seller and not one but two AMG models. The first is a halfway-house GLE 450 AMG (£62,800), which uses a twin-turbo V6 petrol engine of 367hp and 520Nm, and the second is a full-on Mercedes-AMG product: this £96,555 GLE 63 S Coupé. Its looks are enhanced with beefy body styling, a gaping lower front airdam, quad exhausts at the rear and absolutely massive 22-inch wheels on 325-section rear rubber. It looks suitably imposing, without being hideously overblown.

The interior of all GLEs, including the new Coupé, is excellent, with the integration of Mercedes' infotainment screen on top of the dash working better here than anywhere else in the carmaker's fleet. Everything you look at and touch is of the highest quality and it's a suitably comfortable place to be... up front. The back has a more oppressive air, especially in a GLE Coupé without a panoramic roof, as it's quite a dark and confined space. Still, two six-footers can sit back there, as the headroom isn't as compromised as that swooping roofline might have you think, and the boot is large enough, albeit hindered in the usability stakes by a very high loading lip. Let's finish on a note of praise for the AMG model, however, which has a number of features that lift it above the regular GLE Coupé fare, none more pleasing than that gorgeous, flat-bottomed steering wheel with the Alcantara 'quarter-to-three' grips and beautifully weighted paddle shifts mounted on it.

How does it drive?

AMG has been making thunderous great performance cars for many a year now, so transferring its skills into a giant SUV coupé wasn't an arduous task. Utilising the 585hp/760Nm biturbo V8 ensures that the GLE 63 S Coupé is stupendously rapid, although curiously it never really feels that quick. So smooth and linear is the power delivery, and so refined is the general air of the Mercedes-AMG, that you need the twin visual aids of the speedo dialling up at a ferocious rate and the world spooling backwards in the windscreen to remind yourself you're going quickly; if you're on a wider road, that sense of speed is diminished. Despite all that torque and two turbos, once above 30mph the GLE never thrusts you back in your seat. This is not a major flaw, though, and the stunning engine is also aided by an excellent soundtrack incorporating an exhaust that burbles and pops on both the overrun and during gearshifts.

So we can't fault the drivetrain. And the ride is also magnificent, all GLE Coupés getting Airmatic self-levelling suspension with adaptive damping as standard. Obviously, AMG adjusts the set-up specifically for the 63 S, but even on 22-inch rims, the Merc's ride never, ever descends into discomfort. Grip levels are high, with the AMG cars splitting torque 40:60 in favour of the back axle (the 350 d is 50:50) to improve the dynamics, while the steering is weighty, communicative and precise, the 7G-Tronic Speedshift is beyond reproach and the gigantic brakes offer plenty of bite. But they need lots of space to rein in 2,350kg of hard-charging GLE Coupé and the body control on the air springs is good, if not astonishing. The way the GLE 63 S carves up a twisting road leaves you respectfully admiring the way AMG has engineered such a physically big and monumentally powerful car to be so benign to throw around, yet at no point are you absolutely marvelling at its dynamic abilities. It'll purely be the aural antics of the engine/exhausts that get you grinning in this particular GLE.

Verdict

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé is going to be a difficult car to recommend, either against the more sensible models in the new model's line-up or against 'proper' driving cars for this sort of meaty outlay. But there are many people who will key in to this idea of an SUV that is a touch sportier than others, as strong sales of the BMW X6 have proved. We prefer the GLE Coupé over and above Munich's offering and it's another cracking AMG creation, yet we also think the new, improved 'normal' GLE is even better still. And there'll be a 63 S version of that, as well, should you need such epic power...

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 14 Jul 2015









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2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.



2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Image by Mercedes-AMG.
 






 

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