Mercedes SUVs breathed on by its AMG branch are in high demand around the world, which is why the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic+ Coupe is available from launch of the new, sleeker version of the GLE. And while it's an undoubtedly polished and competent creation, we can't help but feel that Irish buyers would be better served by the GLE 400 d with a few choice chassis options. Still though, if you want petrol power in your GLE Coupe, this is the way to go.
In the Metal:
Although quite a few body parts are unique to the AMG version of the GLE Coupe, it's not obviously very different to the AMG Line cars, at least not in isolation. I suspect that most buyers that are willing to pay more for the '53' would like it to stand out more. Nonetheless, it gets a bonnet with 'powerdomes', a bespoke design of radiator grille, new bumpers front and rear, quad exhausts, a body-coloured styling kit, rear diffuser and 20-inch alloys at a minimum (with the option to upgrade to 21-inch or even 22-inch wheels). The optional AMG Night package adds a darker, more brooding appearance to the car.
Inside, it's the usual AMG theme of black with red highlights. The AMG seats are upholstered in a mix of Artico and Dinamica (man-made alternatives to leather and suede) and there's a lovely three-spoke AMG Performance steering wheel. The extra drive setting controls fitted to the wheel of our test car are optional.
While the GLE 53's straight-six, 3.0-litre petrol engine doesn't quite have the fireworks or soundtrack of its V8 brethren, it's still an aurally interesting engine, especially when you dial up the driving modes and set the AMG Performance exhaust to 'Powerful'. That liberates its voice and the Sport+ driving setting adds a few gratuitous pops and bangs on the overrun, enhanced by the automatic throttle blip feature of the excellent nine-speed automatic transmission. It's not short on go, either, with 435hp at a relatively high 6,100rpm and a useful 520Nm of torque on tap at 1,800-5,800rpm (that wide range helped by the use of an auxiliary electrically driven compressor, as part of the on-board 48-volt system). That's before you take into consideration the 'EQ Boost', which is a 16kW electric motor that acts as a starter/generator. It adds up to 22hp and 250Nm to proceedings, depending on a variety of factors, though Mercedes doesn't quote the system maximums. You don't really sense that at work of course; it just feels particularly torque-rich in the midrange, and it's very quick to get off the line - hitting 100km/h from rest in just 5.3 seconds.
That is assisted by the AMG-tweaked 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, which always drives the rear wheels, apparently, and can fully vary the split front-to-rear as needs be. It feels moderately agile and rear-lead, but this isn't really a car for throwing around a twisty back road with abandon. Saying that, you soon forget you're steering something so big. That's thanks in part to the steering itself, which is a speed-sensitive and variable ratio electromechanical system, but also to the way the suspension deals with the weight and, more importantly, the weight transfer.
To that end, the 53 gets AMG Ride Control+ and AMG Active Ride Control. The former pairs self-levelling air springs (with variable ride height depending on driving mode and the speed of the car) with adaptive damping that has three distinct settings. Meanwhile, Active Ride Control operates on the beefy anti-roll bars (front and rear) to increase or decrease their stiffness as required. It does a fine job of keeping the body level, no matter how fast you pile into a tightening corner, yet it means more comfort when driving in a straight line, as the left and right sides of the car are not so tightly coupled.
There are plenty of driving modes to choose from, and loads of other settings to play with as well. The AMG Dynamic Select system has Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Trail, Sand and Individual options. We tried them all and then settled on Sport+ for our full day of driving over a mix of roads in Austria, from twisty mountain sections to the motorway and even some urban traffic. Never once did we think the suspension too firm or uncomfortable for the situation, and yet the body control was exemplary as well.
The Sport+ mode does come with razor-sharp (too sharp for low speed smoothness) throttle response, and an over-eager transmission, but you can always use the Individual mode and tweak the sub-systems to your liking. And the extra controls on the wonderfully tactile steering wheel make it easy to switch between settings, too. Saying that, you'll probably want an excuse to use the solid metallic gearchange paddles behind that wheel, even if there's rarely a need to override the transmission's calibration.
We didn't, in truth, get a chance to put the big brakes to the test, but the pedal is well-weighted and easy to modulate. Finally, there's a distinctly raised feeling to the driving position, despite the 'Coupe' billing. That does allow for good visibility (even if the rear screen is quite shallow) and it's easy to get comfortable thanks to the range of adjustability in the steering wheel and driver's seat. This is not the sort of AMG car you only take out for special drives; it's perfectly capable of daily use and long journeys, too.
What you get for your Money:
We don't need to be told the exact price of the Mercedes-AMG GLE Coupe to know that it's going to be considerably more expensive to buy than any of the Benz-badged variants in the line-up and, while it justifies that to some extent with its AMG powertrain and chassis, plus a generous specification, judged against other versions in the range, it just isn't good value for money. We'd not expect such a thing to put off the type of buyer that wants a petrol-fuelled high-performance SUV, of course.
As with all the '53' AMGs, this GLE Coupe manages to retain a lot of the AMG personality, performance and poise without compromising on everyday usability. It's a relatively subtle looking car depending on how you specify it, yet it's fast and competent by any measure. There are only a few direct rivals on the market, and it compares well to those, though, with our sensible hat on, we'd argue that the meeker Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 d Coupe would be a better value option for most buyers.