Mercedes-AMG has gone all-out in creation of this, the highest-performing version of the brand's GLE luxury SUV. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Like its direct predecessor, the ML63AMG, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC is a luxury SUV with a big petrol V8 and high performance sportscar speed. This means it'll never be the most politically correct of vehicles, but when you have a 5.5-litre twin turbo V8 that's good for a wholly adequate 585PS at your disposal, that's a concern easy to leave way behind.
'Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC'. It's a heck of a mouthful and it's a heck of a vehicle. You're probably more familiar with the 'M-Class' badge on Mercedes' big SUV but the three-pointed star has changed its naming conventions of late, so anything that's vaguely SUV-shaped now gets a 'G'-prefix. You'll also note that with this vehicle, it's not even called a 'Mercedes-Benz', the revised titling recognising the contribution of the brand's AMG tuning division in this model's development. So what is this car? The GLE 63 S is the latest in quite a line of apocalyptically rapid SUVs from Mercedes and it's a significantly more dynamic thing than its ML63 AMG predecessor. In other words, a little finesse has been added to sheer brute force this time round.
Like the ML63 AMG model this car replaces, a 5.5-litre twin turbo petrol V8 features beneath the bonnet. With this GLE though, its power has risen substantially from 518 to 585bhp. It's a fantastic powerplant, sending its prodigious torque through the brand's usual AMG-engineered seven-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. The shift times of this gearbox have been tweaked along with throttle response in an effort to give the car amore focused feel. And that's also been the purpose of chassis revisions made in pursuit of even sharper driving dynamics and agility. Mercedes quotes a sprint to 62mph of just 4.2 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. The Dynamic Select drive controller includes an additional mode in this model, SPORT+, which adjusts the characteristics for throttle response, gear-change strategy, ESP thresholds, steering power assist and the continuous damper adjustment set-up. The 63 S uses a special transfer case for the 4MATIC system, using a 40:60 front-to-rear torque split rather than the 50:50 split found on humbler GLEs. This improves agility and response when accelerating out of corners. It's not so good off road though, so remember that when you're braking into a corner with a gravel trap.
Design and Build
The 63 S builds on the styling of the standard GLE with a distinctive 'A-wing' in the front bumper. The radiator grille features a silver chrome double louvre with integrated AMG lettering and a central Mercedes star. Big wheel arch flares house massive titanium grey 20-inch AMG multispoke alloys shod with 265/45 tyres all round. Get busy with the options list and you can upscale wheels to 21-inches with 295/35 series rubber. The rear bumper houses a black diffuser insert with a black trim strip that mirrors the design of the front A-wing. The exhaust system gets a pair of chrome-plated dual tailpipe embellishers with AMG lettering. In other words, you're probably not going to mistake this variant for any ordinary GLE model. Inside, the 63 S features aluminium trim with a longitudinal grain on an instrument panel trimmed in black 'ARTICO' man-made leather. Perforated nappa leather sports seats, a 198mph speedometer, a race timer and a three-spoke AMG Performance steering wheel with flat bottom and silver paddle shifters give an appropriately sporting effect. Carbon fibre inlays can also be specified.
Market and Model
Expect to pay somewhere in the region of £95,000 for one of these - a conservative estimate given that most owners will spend copious amounts on the options list. A key extra-cost feature you'll almost certainly want is the latest generation 'COMAND Online' multi-media package which offers an 8-inch TFT display and touchpad. The system also includes a DVD player and Traffic Sign Assist with traffic sign recognition including a 'wrong-way warning' function. If required, the customer can equip COMAND Online with a 6-disc DVD changer, a Rear Seat Entertainment System with remote control, a TV receiver or a Bang & Olufsen Sound AMG sound system. This being a Mercedes, you get plenty of safety kit. Twin front, side and full length curtain airbags are fitted, as well as a knee airbag for the driver. Rear seat side airbags can also be specified. The standard equipment package includes the drowsiness detection system 'Attention Assist', the anticipatory safety system 'Pre-Safe' and a tyre pressure loss warning system, as well as adaptive brake lights and 'BAS' Brake Assist.
Cost of Ownership
You won't expect one of these to be especially affordable to run. Nor is it. Though small efficiency improvements have been made to this car in comparison to its ML63 AMG predecessor, you're still only looking at 23.9mpg on the combined cycle - and that would be on a very good day. The CO2 return is quoted at 278g/km.
Mercedes-AMG has a real weapon on its books with the GLE 63 S 4MATIC. It's a hugely impressive technical achievement. Making almost 600bhp this accessible would have been impossible not so many years ago. Remember who this car is likely to be driven by and it becomes all the more amazing. Of course, there will be those who argue that the GLE 63 S is a bit of a dinosaur, that we really ought to have weaned ourselves off these monstrous gas guzzlers by now, but we're not so sure about that. Just as there's a place for electric cars and hybrids, there's also a place for models of this ilk. Yes, this Mercedes-AMG model is hugely expensive and politically out of step but these days, it's the kind of thing you don't need to feel quite so guilty about owning. If you have the means...