A launch of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle is always a special occasion, but when South Africa’s most prominent luxury car brand showcases new additions to their AMG range, Driven will always have a front-row seat to the action. This was the case at the recent introduction of four new fighters from the Stuttgart-based marque.
Mercedes-AMG’s long-awaited performance offering for the GLE generation has reached South African shores, with the SUV and Coupé versions of the GLE 53 4MATIC+ and GLE 63 S set to liven up the mid-size SUV market with a combination of head-turning looks and scorching performance. At the same time, the “S-Class of SUVs” also gets endowed with blistering AMG performance. South Africa may be Big Five country, but never in its 22-year history has Mercedes-AMG offered its “big five” with so much raw power.
GLE 53 4MATIC+
At the heart of the new AMG GLE 53 lies a 320 kW 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line engine, which is good for a 5.3 second zero to 100 km/h sprint, thanks to the fully variable all-wheel drive and an agile nine-speed automatic transmission.
At first glance, it becomes evident that the new performance GLEs are part of the AMG family, with the AMG-specific radiator grille setting the tone for a car that oozes sportiness and muscular lines. The wheel arches in the same colour as the car provide space for the large 20” light alloy wheels (optionally up to 22”) with AMG lettering, which comes as standard.
It is, however, not only externally that the GLE typifies AMG performance luxury. The sporty look and feel are also evident throughout the high-quality interior. AMG-style colour highlights such as red contrast stitching on the upholstery and red seat belts provide a thoroughly sporty ambience with a dynamic and exclusive touch. AMG-specific interior features and controls lend a typical AMG atmosphere to the cockpit and support the sporty, precise handling.
The innovative Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) is included as standard and contains numerous AMG-specific content. With the widescreen cockpit, the instrument cluster and touchscreen multimedia display optically combine into one unit. And drivers will be pleased to note that the AMG Performance steering wheel, which comes in black Nappa leather with red contrasting topstitching and red 12-o’clock marking, combines functionality, intuitive haptics, and exemplary ergonomics.
Naturally, the AMG GLE’s centrepiece is its electrified 3.0-litre engine with twin-turbocharging and an electric auxiliary compressor. The six-cylinder in-line engine generates 320 kW and delivers maximum torque of 520 Nm. Total power is delivered to the road through AMG’s 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system that combines beautifully with a nine-speed automatic transmission with its extremely short shift times. Multiple downshifting enables fast bursts of speed, and it includes a double-clutching function that makes changing gears an emotional experience.
Being such a sporty beast, the GLE has an exceptionally sporty spring/damper set-up, with AMG RIDE CONTROL+ air suspension and adaptive adjustable damping (ADS+) combining excellent dynamics and ride comfort. Thanks to pneumatic self-levelling, the GLE 53 models maintain a constant ride height, regardless of the vehicle load. The vehicle level is generally lowered by 15 mm in driver-selected Sport and Sport+ mode, while in Comfort mode, the vehicle is lowered by 15 mm from a speed of 120 km/h. To increase the ground clearance on poor road surfaces, the vehicle body level can be raised by up to 55 mm at the touch of a button with the engine running – both with the car stationary and in motion.
GLE 63 S
In 1999, what was then known as the M-Class, saw the mighty ML 55 introduced as the top model in the range. It boasted a 255 kW V8 engine. Today’s Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S range again features state-of-the-art engine technology, this time a hand-built AMG 4.0-litre V8 Biturbo engine that now generates a whopping 450 kW. This is combined with the luxury SUV features that we have come to expect from Mercedes-Benz – good all-round visibility, plenty of space for passengers and luggage, high-quality materials and the latest driving assistance, infotainment and connectivity functions.
Adding to the already distinctive AMG style of the 53, the exterior design of the 63 is even more muscular, with the side skirts, exterior mirror housings, and flared wheel arches all painted in the vehicle colour, seamlessly blending into the athletic look.
The high-quality interior is characteristically sporty inside the cabin, with AMG seats upholstered in Exclusive Nappa Leather as standard. The GLE 63 S further features individually adjustable ambient lighting as standard, while the second seat row is optionally available with full electric adjustment.
All vehicle functions are directly visualised on the instrument cluster and touchscreen display and visually blend into the Widescreen Cockpit system. The centre console has an AMG-specific control panel with additional switches with which the three-stage ESP, manual transmission mode, the adaptive damping adjustment, the optional AMG Performance exhaust system, and the suspension level can be controlled.
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 (also in the 53 range) that can be called upon from standstill or when overtaking. It also supplies the 48-volt onboard electrical system to use as a power generator and perform hybrid functions. These include boost, recuperate, load point shift, gliding and restarting of the engine with a start/stop function.
As in the 53 range, power is regulated through a nine-speed transmission.
Mercedes-AMG has also equipped its new generation of V8 engines with cylinder shut-off that deactivates cylinders two, three, five and eight to reduce fuel consumption for increased efficiency. When the driver has selected the Comfort drive program, the cylinder deactivation system is available from 1,000 to 3,250 r/min.
Similar to the 53 range, the GLE 63 S range is equipped with air suspension and pneumatic self-levelling, but in the GLE 63 S, the all-wheel-drive system is controlled depending on the selected stage of the three-stage Electronic Stability Program ESP® – from sporty, with a focus on safety, to highly dynamic. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S4MATIC+and Coupé have an electronically controlled locking differential at the rear axle as standard to further improve traction and dynamism.
The GLE 63 S also takes driver support to new heights, with the optional Driving Assistance package supporting the driver on a situational basis. The system includes speed adaptation, steering, lane changes and more.
A seven-seater SUV that blasts you from zero to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds while wrapping you in the lap of luxury? It is absolutely possible in the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+.
The new AMG GLS 63 combines striking design, exclusive appointments, and space for up to seven people.
What’s more, its 4.0-litre V8 Biturbo engine delivers 450 kW and 850 Nm to all four wheels, with a nine-speed automatic transmission conducting the operation with effortless precision. No wonder, then, that the top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h, although 280 km/h is possible with the optional AMG Driver’s package.
From the outside, it is clear that this SUV means business, as the expressive exterior is both dominant and sporty. Again, the AMG-specific radiator grille with vertical louvres in high-gloss chrome is more prominent than in other AMG models. The vehicle comes shod with 21” 10-spoke light-alloy wheels in tantalite grey as standard, with six further wheel variants with diameters of up to 23” available.
The new GLS 63 has a significantly longer wheelbase than its predecessor, increasing space, particularly for occupants in the second seat row. The legroom here is increased by up to 87 mm. Naturally, the rest of the GLS 63 interior is just as spacious and displays outstanding quality. Seating comes standard in black AMG Nappa leather, with a choice of seven other colour and material variants, while a three-spoke AMG steering wheel completes the look.
The Mercedes-AMG range of performance SUVs is undoubtedly the brand’s most powerful yet, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re all about brute force. The GLE 53 is a supremely comfortable vehicle that should, in my books, be the frontrunner in the range for its agility and effortless presence. Nevertheless, for discerning customers who demand nothing but the best, the “big five” from AMG should tick most boxes, as they set benchmarks on several fronts in the luxury SUV segment.
Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © MERCEDES-BENZ SOUTH AFRICA