Critics’ Notebook: 2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S
Don’t diss the coupe.
Note to the dude in the F-150 Ecoboost: It’s not your fault. I know you’ve surprised a lot of unsuspecting, Subaru WRX-driving bros with your shockingly quick mid-range acceleration, but you clearly didn't know that the acronym soup “AMG GLE63 S” on my hatch lid meant one more turbo than your Ford plus 577 ponies. By 30 mph, about when you thought you’d maybe give her just a bit more throttle to fully negate my attempt to merge, 561 foot pounds of torque had already bit and the 5.5-liter V8 was letting out a far more muscular exhaust note than you were probably expecting. As I placed you further and further in my rearview, I could practically feel your surprise:Whatever that red blur was, it wasn’t another grocery getter.
No it was not.
At $109,300 the AMG-tuned GLE is an awesome instrument for emasculating more blatant hot rods. It would be wiser still to order yours minus the AMG logo on the hatch, and maybe have a tuner repaint the bling-red AMG calipers. Wiped clean of all AMG nomenclature, the fun of sticking to the tailgates of everything from slammed BRZs on twisting switchbacks (did that) and a late-model M3 on a more flowing mountain downhill (did that, too) would be all the more amusing.
Wait, do I hear you calling the AMG GLE63 S the worst imitation of a “coupe” this side of an Acura ZDX? There’s a shred of truth there. Pragmatically speaking, the slant-roof GLE Coupe cuts nearly 20 cubic feet of cargo capacity from the square-backed GLE, resulting in 60 cubic feet in total for the Coupe. That's on par with a lot of smaller, and easily more beautiful wagons. Like an E-Class, for example.
Not that any of that matters, because the coupe version, like BMW’s X6, isn’t targeted at the family-car customer, and of course the AMG version is a different animal entirely. In Sport+ mode the suspension gets rough and lock-kneed over wrinkled asphalt—but wow, does it corner uncannily flat for a 5,400-pound four-door on stilts. Leave the dampers in comfort mode and the GLE is a long-mile loper, riding smooth and creamy on its AIRMATIC pillows. And yes, there’s a lot more off-road capability, too, than the stately E-Wagon alternative can offer, with 11 inches of max ground clearance plus AWD. Note, too, that we took our tester on dirt, hauling a fat bike to the trailhead, and it easily swallowed three pairs of skis through the split fold-down rears. Also: rear seat leg- and headroom are quite good, and the driver gets that down-the-road view that’s set crossover sales on fire.
Maybe you’re right, and it’s sacrilege to call this Benz a coupe. But with nothing but the square-bottomed steering wheel and 100 mph's worth of left-lane hauling in my sights, I really didn’t care what market segment the rig fits in, or doesn’t fit in. I only wanted to applaud Mercedes for not giving a damn and building it anyway.
2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S
Price (as tested): $109,300 ($116,240)
Powertrain: 5.5 liter twin-turbo V8, 577 hp, 561 lb-ft, 4Matic AWD
0-60: 3.9 seconds
MPG: 14 city/18 highway
Style Points: 2
"Mine’s Got More" Points: 11