Colin-on-Cars: Road Review – Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupé

This car is legally insane!

This car is the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupé kitted with an AMG 4,0-litre V8 biturbo engine whacking out 450 kW and 850 Nm.

Impressive numbers indeed. However, the numbers themselves do not mean that much despite much beer-fuelled banter around the braai fire. Consider a race car with similar numbers that offers them up only in small band between, say 6 000 r/min and 9 000 r/min.

Not ideal for negotiating the morning traffic. What makes the numbers significant is how they are delivered and the GLE releases maximum torque from 2 250 r/min with peak power around 5 750 r/min – mean it is not only blisteringly fast but gives and keeps on giving.

In fact, on the private landing strip used during my test I ran out of road before the GLE ran out of breath.

Acceleration from 0-100 km/h comes up in 3,9 seconds!

For the first time, the new GLE 63’s 4,0-litre V8 biturbo engine is fitted with an integrated EQ Boost starter-alternator that combines a starter motor and an alternator in a single, powerful electric motor. It provides an additional 16 kW of output and 250 Nm of torque which can be called upon temporarily and also supplies the 48-volt on-board electrical system to use as a power generator and perform hybrid functions. These include boost, recuperate, load point shift, gliding and the virtually imperceptible restarting of the engine with the start/stop function. 

Power is regulated through a 9-speed transmission, which features extremely short shift times and fast multiple downshifts, and delivers an especially emotive gearshifting experience thanks to the double-declutching function. 

For increased efficiency, Mercedes-AMG has also equipped the V8 engines with cylinder shut-off. In the partial-load range, cylinders two, three, five and eight are deactivated, which crucially reduces fuel consumption. When the driver has selected the Comfort drive program, the cylinder deactivation system is available from 1 000 r/min to 3 250 r/min. The transition between these two operating states is so smooth and immediate passengers will scarcely feel it.

And, herein is the conundrum. The ‘G’ portion of the nomenclature signifies a car with off road capability but, why would anyone want to take this high-rise on steroids off-road?

Perhaps it is just the ‘old school’ in me but, when I’m nudging over the 200 km/h mark, I like my butt to be mere millimetres from the ground. Talking of that 200 number, from that speed the GLE picks up some buffeting from its own wind both smashing a hole in the air ahead of the car and from the vacuum effect created at the rear.

It is not hugely significant, rather a touch disconcerting.

Perhaps, even surprisingly, the GLE handles rather well for what it is and will take on tight corners with minimal body roll and even less feeling of wanting to come unglued from the road, even with its 2 445-kilogram mass.

Being a 4Matic all-wheel drive, it will plough on at initial turn-in but quickly steady and follow steering directions precisely.

In ‘Race’ mode all bets are off though and ill-considered entry into corners will produce some lurid moments as the ‘nanny’ systems cease to provide assistance to the driver.

For daily driving and standard use set in ‘Comfort’ mode, the best is tamed and remains absolutely gentle, just the choogling boogies of the V8 a delicious reminder of what lurks within. In this frame of mind, fuel consumption is around 12,9 l/100 km.

The exterior design of the AMG GLE is muscular and distinctive, with specific radiator grilles with vertical louvres affirming its membership of the AMG model family. The side skirts, exterior mirror housings and flared wheel arches are painted in the vehicle colour and seamlessly blend into the overall look.

I mulled over the look for a long time and could not get away from the side view appearing a bit like one of compacted cartoon drawings of a car. It is a big vehicle, yet the proportions just did not seem right to me – perhaps just missing that elongated bonnet of the sedan.

Also, unless you are a tallish driver with the seat position set low, the more vertically challenged (like me) with a higher seat position tend to fall foul of the rake coupé shape, clocking the head on the door frame getting in and out.

Once inside, it is more spacious than it might convey from the outside, although tall people in the rear seats may be compromised by the sharply dropping roofline.

AMG-specific interior appointments and controls lend the cockpit a hallmark AMG atmosphere and the latest generation, three-spoke AMG Performance steering wheel with aluminium shift paddles looks the business.

AMG seats are upholstered in Nappa Leather, as a standard and individually adjustable ambient lighting also comes as standard, while the second seat row is optionally available with full electric adjustment.

The vehicle functions are directly visualised on the instrument cluster on the left side and on the touchscreen display on the right, and visually blend into a Widescreen Cockpit. The centre console has an AMG-specific control panel with additional switches with which the 3-stage ESP, manual transmission mode, the adaptive damping adjustment, the optional AMG Performance exhaust system and the suspension level can be controlled. 

Through the voice control – activated with the phrase ‘Hey Mercedes’ – the AI software recognises and understands practically all commands common in infotainment and vehicle control. 

The standard AMG RIDE CONTROL+ air suspension and the adaptively adjustable ADS+ (Adaptive Damping System) can be preselected in three stages – Comfort, Sport and Sport+, allowing a much more obvious distinction between high long-distance comfort and sporty vehicle dynamics. 

Thanks to pneumatic self-levelling, the GLE maintains a constant ride height regardless of the vehicle load. This can be adjusted depending on the driving mode, or manually using a rocker switch in the centre console. The vehicle level is generally lowered by 10 mm in Sport, Sport+ and RACE mode, while in Comfort mode, the vehicle is lowered by 10 mm from a speed of 120 km/h, and raised back to normal level when the speed falls below 70 km/h.

In Trail and Sand modes, the suspension is raised by 55 mm to increase ground clearance on poor surfaces, and automatically lowered to normal level when the speed reaches 70 km/h. This function can also be controlled using the rocker switch.

The all-wheel drive is controlled depending on the selected stage of the 3-stage Electronic Stability Program ESP – from sporty, with a focus on safety, to highly dynamic. To further improve traction the it has an electronically controlled locking differential at the rear axle as standard. The slip is thus suppressed at the inner wheel on bends, allowing the driver to accelerate out of corners earlier and with more power thanks to the improved traction.

The GLE 63 Sis equipped with 400 mm x 38 mm brake discs at the front, plus 370 mm x 32 mm discs at the rear. As an option, a high-performance ceramic brake system can be ordered. 

As with all Mercedes-Benz products there are raft of options that can be added to the basic package including the AMG Night Package, MBUX Innovation Package, MBUX Augmented Reality for navigation, AMG Performance Exhaust system and Magic Vision Control among them.

Base Price – R2 970 920.

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