Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ review NZ
There are, of course, many reasons why large performance SUVs are pointless. I mean, why would a carmaker want to create something that’s designed to carry multiple passengers (often in luxury), ride high (and therefore feel safe), tow boats, go off-road (softroad) and usually weighs over 2-tonnes, race off the mark at blistering rates and reach mind-boggling top speeds, it doesn’t make sense – that is until you get behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG 53 4MATIC+.
The ‘regular’ new Mercedes-Benz GLE is bigger and bolder than ever. It comes with five or seven-seat options and with a powertrain that begins with a 2L diesel. It’s elegant, Mercedes-Benz refined and with a large dual-screen MBUX infotainment system, smart too. However, when they handed the GLE’s keys to their AMG department, it would appear that all gloves came off.
Aside from a few hints of chrome, our review AMG GLE 53 came in black. Black paint, black 22-inch AMG alloys, black splitters, black exhaust tips, even black tinted privacy glass and the result is both stately and menacing. Think FBI or Mob boss, whatever floats your boat.
The AMG 15 vertical slat grille takes pride of place on the bonnet and underlines the fact that this is no ‘ordinary’ GLE. For behind it sits the AMG devised engine and where much of the the fun/performance starts.
It is an electrified (mild-hybrid) 3.0-litre engine featuring twin-turbocharging and an electric auxiliary compressor. This 6-cylinder in-line engine generates 320 kW (435 hp) and delivers maximum torque of 520 Nm. PLUS, Its EQ Boost starter generator, that sits between the engine and the AMG SPEEDSHIFT TCT 9-speed automatic transmission, briefly provides an additional 16 kW of output plus 250 Nm of torque and additionally feeds the 48 V on-board electrical system. Zero to 100 km/h in just 5.3 seconds and achieves an electronically limited speed of 250 km/h. Bear in mind, this vehicle weighs over 2.3-tonnes!
Oddly though, despite having so much power to play with, thanks to this EQ Boost, this performance SUV delivers a combined fuel consumption of 9.3 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions of 212 g/km, it actually goes a long way between petrol stations (as if you care).
But power alone isn’t what makes this giant SUV so epic, there’s the way it handles too. AMG-specific drive programs adjust for all manner of terrains and weather conditions, lowering the air suspension 15mm and raising the accelerator/gear change/steering response when driving spiritedly while conversely raising the ride height 55mm and slowing things down for off-road or mud/sand. However, again, things don’t stop there.
This mean machine also comes with AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL air suspension which is based on AMG RIDE CONTROL+ but with electro-mechanical roll stabilisation. It sounds very special and that’s because it is. A clever combination of tech and mechanics has you attacking corners with the flair of a racing driver and all the confidence to go along with it, the AMG’s massive 22-inch wheels barely bother to squeal, but you do.
Last but by no means not least is the Mercedes-AMG special interior finishing. Sports seats that grip you in the corners but feel welcoming when not, plus fine, tactile materials on virtually all the surfaces, knobs and dials you come in contact with (just a bit of hard plastic around the lower door cards). Leather throughout and quite simply a cavern of room in the rear.
The previously mentioned MBUX system responds to the touchpad on the centre console, touch screen, thumb dials on the sports steering wheel and by voice, you end up saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ for everything from putting your seat heater on to finding your way home – yes some of it is unnecessary but why do it yourself when MBUX can do it for you? The powerful Burmester audio system is a plus too.
Around the town and on the motorway in ‘Comfort’ the big GLE does what it can to conserve fuel and keep you relaxed. The EQ Boost starter-alternator combines a starter motor and alternator in a powerful electric motor making that unusually annoying start/stop modern car function happen unknowingly. It also ‘coasts’ towards junctions and red lights, giving the fossil-fueled 3L respite whenever possible.
But when out on the open road and free of watchful eyes (including the family’s) the desire to drive this big SUV in AMG fashion is almost uncontrollable and the GLE 53 is with you every step of the way. Sports + opens up the Sports exhausts baffles, the engine ignites, the EQ Boost chimes in and the entire vehicle comes alive. It drives like a sports car and crackles and pops like a champion. It’s thrilling and yet so in control. So unbecoming of such a large SUV.
Yes, in the grand scheme of things, performance SUVs are a little bit unnecessary but I am here to tell you that with its inimitable Mercedes style and AMG fettling, this GLE 53 4MATIC+ makes all the sense in the world.