Mercedes’ mid-size luxury SUV, the GLE-Class, started life in 1997 as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The five-door crossover received two generational updates since its initial debut, the first of which was issued in 2005. The third gen arrived in 2011, and four years later, Mercedes gave it a facelift, revealing the update in January at the North American International Auto Show. With the facelift came a name change, with the M-Class badge retired in favor of GLE-Class, per Mercedes’ revamped naming strategy. Now, for the 2017 model year, Mercedes is replacing the GLE400 and GLE450 AMG with the new AMG GLE43. Essentially the same five-passenger performance SUV as the outgoing GLE450 AMG, the AMG GLE43 is framed as a stylish, high-tech, relatively quick SUV, with a dollop of family-oriented practicality and autonomous safety features spread on top.
The AMG GLE43 joins its slightly slimmer sibling, the GLE43 coupe, in Mercedes’ ever-expanding AMG lineup. In case you were unaware, AMG is essentially Mercedes’ in-house tuning division, similar in purpose to BMW’s M division.For 2017, AMG will be celebrating 50 years of making fast Mercedes vehicles even faster, with plans of offering no less than 34 different AMG-branded models for the new model year. Included in the list is a host or performance SUVs, including the GLE43 featured here.
EXTERIOR AND LOOK ;
The front area has been mildly revised in its look, making for only a loose resemblance of the other variants. The conventional Mercedes-Benz grille stretches all across the front section, and the large star at the centre sends out an aggressive effect. The company seems to have a good understanding of the love of chrome among us Indians, and this shows in the shimmering highlights placed on many regions of the front and the side. The headlamps on either side are sharper than the conventional version, and they are intricately detailed for a more powerful visual effect when driving. It is quite stunning the way the polished metallic skin slides down and forms the bumper. We found the slender layout of the air dams to fit into the layout of the front with utmost perfection. Coming to the sides, the large fenders instantly grab your attention, while the stylish wheels are factors that further reinforce this effect. There are serene design lines around the door sides, creating a more ambient effect which further enhances the vehicle’s look. Perhaps the most sensational element of the car’s exterior, in our opinion, is the well sculpted rear portion. The car’s roof tapers down towards the rear, blending right into the image with a dab of sportiness.
INTERIOR AND COMFORT ;
Just like the exterior, the AMG GLE43 is basically the same as the outgoing GLE400 on the inside. In fact, the cabin is even more of a copy/paste than the styling outside. Drivers grip a three-spoke steering wheel with a flat bottom and numerous buttons placed at thumb’s length on the sides. The wheel is wrapped in leather and trimmed in brushed metal. Behind the wheel is a gauge cluster with a left-mounted speedometer and right-mounted tachometer, which sandwich a center-mounted digital driver’s information display. More brushed metal trim is found around the gauges, not to mention the center console and vents, while in the foot well, there are drilled metal pedals with rubber inserts for greater grip.Mounted high on the dash is an 8-inch color screen. Below the screen is an array of hard buttons and switches that look pretty dated on something for the 2017 model year. On the central tunnel, you’ll find the standard touchpad controller and other infotainment system navigation tools. Other anticipated features include Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, and app support.
Tunes are provided by a standard Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system, but audiophiles can opt into the high-end Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system if desired. The AMG GLE43 also gets the latest lineup of safety and driver-assist tech. See the Safety And Convenience section for more information.Further features include the standard AMG paddle shifters on the steering column, random AMG trim pieces scattered here and there, and if you’re feeling frisky, optional sports seats. Premium materials pervade throughout, including wood trim and leather upholstery.On its own, the AMG GLE43’s interior doesn’t look too bad. However, once you prop it up against the competition, it starts to look a little… less good.I mean, look at the Porsche. Sure there are copious hard buttons and the layout could use some simplification (okay, a lot of simplification), but the way the central tunnel sits above the seat line gives it a sort of fighter jet cockpit feel. And that’s cool.
Now look at the Bimmer. The dash swoops through the cabin in a futuristic curve, and the various controls are set at an angle to provide maximum benefit to the driver.Now look at the Mercedes. It looks like something from 2010, but with a slightly bigger screen. Gripes over the layout aside, you do get some pretty decent kit for your money. A power sunroof and heated front seats come as standard, while extra outlay will land you ventilated front seats with three levels of heating or cooling. There’s also an available heated steering wheel.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION ;
Most of the AMG cars are powered by Bi-Turbo V8s with insane amounts of power. However, the GLE 450 not being a full blown AMG is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine which produces 364 BHP and 520 Nm of torque. The power figures translate into a 0-100 km/hr time of just under 6 seconds which is very impressive considering it isn’t a light car by any stretch of imagination. The exhaust note of the car is very addictive too and keeps one well entertained.
The engine is paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission which makes cruising at highway speeds very relaxing with the engine spinning at very low RPMs. At 100 km/hr, the RPM needle hovers around 1400 RPM and a slight dab on the accelerator is all that is needed for a quick overtake. When you pin down the accelerator, the acceleration is linear and in no time you are at triple digit speeds. The power delivery is very linear and the engine redlines at 6500 RPM.
Holding the brake and pressing the accelerator completely makes the car launch perfectly (two thumbs up for launch control) and gear shifts happen smoothly instead of the slight jerkiness in Sport+ mode. Speaking of Sport+ mode, the GLE 450 AMG does a kickback from the exhaust when upshifting and that adds to the drama. No, it doesn’t mean anything is broken, it is just to add that bit of character. The most surprising part is despite the engine not having too many ponnies, you feel that it is accelerating faster than it actually is. And the exhaust note adds to the whole experience. Full marks to the blokes at Mercedes for getting the setup right.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
Being an AMG Sport badged car, let us talk about the handling and braking aspects of the GLE450 AMG sport first. In normal comfort mode, the GLE450 behaves like most normal SUVs would around a bend, but just like with the engine, the Sport and Sport+ modes turn it into a different animal. The GLE450 AMG Sport corners well for something this large and this heavy and is certainly a lot more poised than the likes of the previous generation ML63 AMG. The large tyres and big wheels of course help but on the whole, the GLE450 coupe certainly feels really sorted for an SUV. Of course, the fact that it doesn’t make astronomical amounts of power also makes it a lot more usable around the tight and twisty roads that we tested it on. That said, as a balancer, chucking the GLE450 coupe into a corner, even with the great suspension setup working overtime still cannot mask the fact that this is a heavy SUV an not a nimble sportscar.
If you want to use the likes of the GLE450 AMG on a daily basis, here is a word of caution. It is not comfortable. Not by a long shot. In comfort mode, the firm suspension makes it extremely jittery over undulated roads that we here in India are ‘blessed’ with. Surprisingly, the moment you stiffen the GLE450 up by putting it into Sport, the car becomes a lot more comfortable and usable. We are guessing the ‘Sport’ part on the AMG sport series is a very subtle hint then! The GLE450 also gets a huge set of brakes and although they are pretty much on point, use them hard over extended periods of time and they do start to show signs of fade. Again, this is not because of the way the brakes are constructed, it is just about the fact that the GLE450 weighs as much as a moon and this puts a lot more stress on them.
Safety and German cars go hand in hand and same is the case with the Mercedes GLE 450 AMG Coupe. It carries over all the safety technology from the standard GLE SUV. When it comes to after sales service, Mercedes is one of the best in the game in today’s time. Mercedes offers service packs for a time period of upto three years. Extended warranty is also available which protects the owner from unpredictable failures. The sales reach of the three pointed star is also very good with showrooms in most major cities.
If you are looking at the GLE Coupe as a practical buy then it scores a big zero. The luggage area is tiny and despite the massive size the rear bench is not the most comfortable. This being an import, its price of Rs 86.40 lakh comes as a pleasant surprise and makes it quite of decent value. So this luxury crossover is for people who are looking for a sports car performance without compromising on everyday usability thanks to its great ground clearance. With its unique styling, buying the GLE coupe is more like self-indulgence but then for the enthusiast, car buying is not a rational decision anyway.