Double Apex was invited to sample the latest Mercedes-AMG GLE53 performance SUVs at their national ride and drive event held in Gauteng.
Mercedes’ performance offerings took on a whole new shape in 1999 when the company offered its first performance SUV, the ML55 AMG. That car set the tone for an era of high-riding, high-performance machines. Today Mercedes-AMG versions of the GLA, GLB GLC, GLE, GLS and G-Wagen are available to the public.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa recently added two new derivatives to its range as well as revised some of its existing offerings, which is why we found ourselves in Gauteng earlier this week.
The new addition to the range is the GLE53, which is available in regular, wagon-esque body style and a sleeker Coupe design. The GLE53 twins are powered by the company’s latest-generation inline, turbocharged six-cylinder engine, as with all AMGs that carry the ‘53’ designation.
This petrol unit is accompanied by an EQ Boost component that sits between the engine and transmission. It adds 16 kW of power and 250 N.m to the equation. All up the powertrain is good for 320 kW of power and develops peak torque of 520 N.m. Drive is fed to all four wheels via a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission.
Mercedes says the benchmark 0-100 km/h sprint can be dispatched in 5,3 seconds flat and that both versions have a top speed of 250 km/h. To slow from these speeds the SUVs are fitted with monstrous brake discs that measure 400 mm on the front axle and 345 mm at the rear.
Beefy AMG appearance
The Mercedes-AMG GLE53 variants are set apart from other GLE models by a number of AMG specific touches. These include the signature front air intake with vertical slats, pronounced wheel arches and large alloys that measure 20 inches as standard with 21- and 22-inch items on offer as an option.
In keeping with the GLE53’s sporting slant there are several cues inside that underline the theme. Red contrasting stitching is used on the leather-covered seats and the contoured steering wheel. The latter has rotary dials and buttons to help set up the car’s drive characteristics via the configurable settings for the drivetrain, adaptive suspension, exhaust note and transmission responses, as well as aluminium paddles to flick through the gears.
Other AMG-specific touches include performance displays within the touchscreen infotainment system. Occupants can scroll to the AMG screens and monitor several aspects of the car, including vital temperatures of the engine and transmission fluids… ideal for a stinking hot day in Gauteng.
Behind the wheel
Of all the models we drove at Mercedes South Africa’s event we spent the least time behind the wheel of the GLE53s. However, we have previous experience with this drivetrain (in the CLS53) and in this new application it is still impressive.
The inline six makes an interesting engine note, particularly at higher revs that is quite distinctive for an AMG. It crescendos with a lovely yowl that is completely unexpected. The pace, for such a large car, is impressive and even the ride quality on the large alloys is quite acceptable over Gauteng’s pothole-ridden roads.
Most interestingly is how the GLE53 feels so much lighter on its feet than its larger-engined counterparts. In one exercise where we were allowed to test the cars’ acceleration the GLE53 held its own against one of the ‘63’ badged models over 400 metres.
The Mercedes-AMG GLE53 and GLE53 Coupe derivatives offer, more than likely, enough performance for just about any buyer. The V8 derivatives are impressive but this ‘lesser-powered’ sibling is no slouch.
Mercedes-AMG GLE53 R1 837 000
Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe R1 925 000