We took the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe on a road trip over one of the recent ‘long’ weekends. We share some of our thoughts on our time together in the driving review below.
Mercedes-Benz has no shortage of SUVs within its portfolio. There is an SUV sibling for just about every sedan in the range. The E-Class’ SUV counterparts are the GLE and its more swoopy sister, the GLE Coupe. It is the latter we recently spent time with for an extended period.
The vehicle in our care was no ordinary GLE coupe either. It was the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe. This is one of two AMG versions in this line-up. The other is the range-leading GLE63 S.
As an AMG car the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe has several cues that earmark it as a performance derivative. There are the obligatory large wheels, a body kit to match, AMG’s vertical-slat grille and bespoke front bumper. Just in case onlookers didn’t get the hint, a smattering of AMG badges underline the message. However, judging by the head-swivels and nods we noted, people seemed to gauge they were looking at something a little more special.
Sporty and comfy
AMG’s designers have carried over the sporty nature of the exterior into the cabin as well. The front chairs are figure hugging and, in the case of this test unit, featured an optional massage function. There are AMG badges and contrasting red seat belts.
The steering wheel is a flat-bottomed item. It also happens to feature several buttons that mean one never has to take your hands off the wheel. Capacitive touchpads on the wheel rim allow you to access the menus within the infotainment system and the digital display ahead of the driver.
There are even separate controllers whereby one can change suspension, powertrain and ESP settings. A rotary dial on the RHS allows quick selection of different drive modes. On the LHS is another set of switches that allows the driver to mix and match between the presets.
Overall space in the cabin is plentiful, as it is in the boot. We stuffed multiple bags into the long cargo area without so much as stacking any of them. One gripe we have about the cabin is access. The high-ish ride height requires you to climb up into the cabin. If, however you set the seat high you can conk your head against the arching roofline… but only once.
Under the domed engine cover lies one of the most advanced six-cylinder engines fitted to any car (check out the video at the bottom of this post). Dubbed M256 the inline six uses two air compressors to force feed the engine. Interestingly, one of those is a 48V electric compressor that is said to go from off to full boost in 0,3 seconds. It supplements the exhaust gas compressor which works at higher engine speeds. The net result is 320 kW of power and 520 N.m of torque.
There is also an integrated starter alternator that provides up to 16 kW and 250 N.m of additional oomph. The ISG replaces a traditional starter motor and does away with all drive belts. The ISG is mounted in between the engine and driveline. Full motive force is sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. As a result the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe can sprint from rest to 100 km/h in 5,3 seconds.
Hitting the road
Over one of the recent ‘long’ weekends we grabbed the keys to the sporty SUV and headed west. Our destination was the scenic town of Knysna. However, we chose to get there using Route 62. This lesser travelled path through the Klein Karoo offers wide open roads and little traffic.
On the open byways we set the cruise control at a comfortable speed for the dry empty conditions and simply enjoyed the view from the elevated cabin, usually with the seat massagers activated. Every so often the driver assistance systems would give us a slight reminder that we needed a firmer grasp on the wheel.
No canyon carver
Using this route does present plenty of interesting/twisty roads and passes. The most entertaining could be Tradouw Pass, which is set within rugged mountainous scenery. This pristine section of tar links the towns of Barrydale and Swellendam.
Attempting to zip through this narrow stretch of tar highlighted the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe’s sheer size and mass. The wide rubber and adjustable suspension are set up to provide maximum traction, but there are limitations to what they can do.
Wide and fast
However, for our return trip from the Garden route we stuck to the national road. The N2 south of George is in such great condition. Thanks to the punch provided by the powertrain we hardly spent any time behind slow-moving traffic. When faced with the situation, we simply mashed the throttle and sped by cars crawling along.
The open, flowing sections of road with wide corners are far more suited to the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe’s dynamic repertoire. It feels far happier and at ease, even at speed, when the road isn’t spaghetti shaped. Over the five-day trip we average just below 11 L/100 km – not bad considering its performance credentials.
It must be difficult to live within the shadow of an illustrious sibling. Ralf Schumacher never quite measured up to his brother Michael. It cannot be much easier being Valentino Rossi’s brother, Luca Marini, constantly being measured against his illustrious brother, we imagine.
The same can probably be said for the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe. Just a step up from this adept sports SUV is the monstrous GLE63S, with its rip-snorting twin-turbo V8. And not many folks build a better V8 than AMG does.
However, take the chance to get to know the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe and you will realise that it is almost as adept as the more lauded 63 version, but at a fraction of the cost It offers about 80 per cent of the performance and ability, while being thirty per cent dearer on the wallet.
Model: Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe
Price: R1 975 000
Engine: 3,0-litre inline six, turbopetrol
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, AWD
Max power: 320 kW
Max torque: 520 N.m
0-100 km/h: 5,3 sec
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption: 9,3 L/100 km