You are an individual who has made his mark. You own a fair few cars including the luxury sedans to go through the daily grind. But, now you want something better. Something more exciting. Something with a petrol motor. However, you look at the V8 powered options and realise that your accountant won’t be happy with the fuel bills. Distressed, you walk into the Mercedes-Benz showroom and ask the sales executive whether there is some other option. And sure, there is the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 AMG. An AMG that is not completely one but provides you the thrill of one.
Before we delve into the visuals, I’d like to clear up this car’s name. Standard Merc road cars feature the name Mercedes-Benz followed by a three digit suffix – think A 200 or E 350. Then, the chaps at AMG get their hands on these cars and in the process of turning them into blisteringly fast sportscars, they change the name to Mercedes-AMG followed by a two-digit suffix like A 45 or E 63. Now the GLE 450 AMG Coupe, with its enormous name, sits in the middle ground. The GLE 450 gets AMG-tuned brakes, suspension and drivetrain as well as some visual trim but all subdued to a milder extent than the full blown GLE 63 AMG. It remains a Mercedes-Benz but earns an AMG at the end of the name to identify the specialness.
It’s very striking – there’s no doubt there. People stop, stare and some even shout out when they see it fly by. The bold face is my favourite angle, its full LED headlamps generating an aggressive air. The bumper gets a milder form of the AMG-flared air intakes while the grille gets a butch blacked-out theme. Then we come to what this SUV is all about, the side profile with its sloping roofline and huge wheel arches filled with 21-inch rims. Unlike sportier cars like the Audi RS 7, the wheels are wrapped in more practical rubber with a decently generous sidewall that should hopefully prevent them from disintegrating on impact with a pothole. It happens far too often with these ultra low profile tyres.
The rear end gets AMG signature quad exhaust pipes and large tail lamps with some lovely LED detailing that looks striking at night. In fact, the rear end takes quite a bit of influence from the handsome S 63 AMG Coupe. The GLE does a fantastic job of grabbing attention but it’s not really what I’d call a traditionally good looking car and I don’t much care for the high waistline and that Kardashian derriere.
For a SUV that looks this cool on the exterior, the interior is a tad bit disappointing in terms of sheer design. Sure, the overall look, feel and touch is extremely premium, but there is just that bit of drama missing and that is a real disappointment. You do get just a hint of sportiness with the flat bottom steering wheel, the chequered flag speedometer console and the black leather interiors all around but there is no carbon fiber accents or even simpler contrasting color accents on those either. I for one am sure that most of these options are available in international markets and Mercedes-Benz India should seriously consider incorporating them. And while you are at it, maybe a set of red or yellow seat belts would be great too.
That said, it isn’t all dull and gloomy in here. There are positives. Space for one is not short like you would expect on some of the coupe SUVs. At the rear, there is more than enough headroom for even the taller person to sit comfortably. The seats are wide and offer great under thigh support which would mean enough space and comfort for three passengers. At the front, the GLE coupe’s seats that can be adjusted electronically to get the perfect driving position are comfortable and offer great side support. And side support is definitely something you need in this SUV, as you will find out a little later. Other features of course include the likes of a large sunroof and the excellent large screen that is combined with the easy to use Mercedes-Benz control knob.
Who would have thought that a big, powerful, fuel-guzzling petrol is politically more correct than a torquey and frugal diesel? But with the anti-diesel sentiment at an all-time high and a ban on big diesels in Delhi, that’s just how it is. Mercedes has cleverly launched the GLE Coupe with a petrol only option (for now), and it’s not just any petrol but the 450 AMG version. But don’t let the AMG badge completely mislead you. This isn’t the completely mental 63 AMG version with the no-holds-barred 550bhp 5.5 litre twin-turbo V8, but the much milder three-litre turbo-petrol that delivers a more sedate 362bhp.First impressions when you lean on the nicely sprung throttle pedal is that it’s not madly quick but then this heavy crossover weighing a portly 2.2 tonnes isn’t going to take off like a sportscar. That said, the V6 will wind quite freely to its 6,200rpm redline propelling this four-door coupé to 100kph in a more than respectable 5.7 seconds What was seriously impressive though was the 53kgm of torque and the creamy way its delivered from as low as 1,400rpm.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox responds quite well and is quick to kickdown. The last two gear ratios are seriously tall which allow for very relaxed cruising at highway speeds but all it takes is a small flex of the right foot for the 9G-Tronic transmission to rapidly shift two, even three gears down for a quick overtaking manoeuvre . It’s only at city speeds, when you’re on and off the throttle, that the gearbox gets caught out and feels a bit hesitant.The V6’s sound track is a bit of disappointment – it isn’t AMG enough. There’s a bit of a burble but you miss the throaty growl of the full-fat V8. Truth is that the GLE in its 450 AMG version has all the power you need but it doesn’t feel exciting enough even in the most aggressive ‘Sport +’ mode and is a bit too soft for true enthusiasts.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
Handling and SUVish stance don’t go too well in most cases. But in the case of the GLE 450 AMG, things are a little different. There’s little body roll when cornering at high speeds which lets you push the car harder. The suspension is setup very well with it taking care of bad roads and being sufficiently stiff at the same time. The fly in the ointment are the brakes with the brake pedal being spongy and requiring a lot of effort to apply brakes.
However, it may be a case of some issue with our test car. Another issue is the lack of space in the footwell due to the huge front tyres which means your foot will rub against the wall when on the accelerator. There’s a slight hint of body roll when cornering at high speeds which is inevitable due to the high ground clearance and centre of gravity. Speaking of centre of gravity, the infotainment system display has a mode to display the centre of gravity and accelerator as well as brake pedal input in terms of percentage. It does look very neat.
One of the biggest focuses of the 2017 AMG GLE43 was on the various safety systems.Mercedes lists a variety of both active and passive features. Standard kit includes Attention Assist (keeps the driver focused while driving), Automatic Braking (applies brakes to avoid collision) and the Pre-Safe system (when an imminent impact is detected, the system will prep by tightening the seat belts, raising the windows, and closing the sunroof, which makes me wonder what happens if you happen to have your arm out the window).More safety gear can be had with the optional Premium 3 Package, which also throws in the Driver Assistance Package. Features include Distronic Plus with Steering Assist (radar adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous steering input, capable of operating between 0 and 124 mph depending on road conditions), Pre-Safe Brake (autonomously brakes up to 31 mph and lessens the impact of a collision), Pre-Safe Plus (uses rear-facing radar to detect possible rear-end collisions, then preps for a possible secondary collision), BAS Plus with Cross Traffic Assist (uses stereoscopic cameras and rear-facing radar to detect cross-traffic conditions, then uses brake assistance to avoid collisions), Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Protection (keeps you in your lane and warns you if there’s a car adjacent to you when you are about to switch lanes), and Speed Limit Assist (uses a camera to detect speed limit signs, then relays the info into the gauge cluster).
The Coupe gives some, and takes some away. It’s no overstatement to say that the vehicle offers an exhaustive range of thrills for its occupants, from the cosmetic elements to the comfort and entertainment benefits. However, all of this comes at a huge price which will take a toll on your bank balance. So at the end of the day, if you’re the type that just doesn’t compromise and settle for second, this is the machine to suit you. But if you’re one with a tight budget, steer well clear of this vehicle.