Up to now, the BMW X6 has defined the “crossover coupe.” With the demise of the Acura ZDX, the just-introduced Mercedes-Benz GLE coupe promises to be the BMW’s first serious competitor. Beyond the standard version, the GLE450 AMG coupe, with its 362-hp twin-turbocharged V-6, Mercedes is also fielding a full-fledged AMG model: the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S 4MATIC.
Could this be the new performance-SUV king?
Under the hood, the GLE63 packs the 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged M157 V-8, one of the finest engines ever to come out of AMG’s assembly plant in Affalterbach, Germany. It’s rated at 577 horsepower, with maximum torque of 561 lb-ft in the S version, the only GLE63 model coming to the United States. (We might have expected AMG to go with the newer and more efficient M177/178 4.0-liter V-8, which is fitted to the Mercedes-AMG GT and the upcoming next-gen C63 AMG, but we prefer the better-sounding 5.5-liter unit.)
The GLE63’s awesome output translates to a factory-estimated zero-to-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed that is limited to 155 mph. The power is channeled to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic, and the 40/60 rear-biased torque distribution will make it easier to rotate the thing in corners. Meanwhile, active anti-roll bars should reduce body lean to almost zero. A driving-mode selector allows the driver to adjust the vehicle’s character for mellow cruising or various degrees of more ambitious driving, as well as for slippery conditions.
The styling of the top-dog GLE63 looks even more intimidating than the already imposing and aggressive GLE450. It features large front air intakes, a unique rear bumper with quad exhaust outlets, AMG badging all over, and 22-inch wheels wearing 285/40 front and 325/35 rear tires.
Inside, the GLE63 S coupe gets a sporty, three-spoke steering wheel; a 200-mph speedometer; and aluminum shift paddles. Still, the cabin betrays the model’s origins as an M-class (soon to be rechristened GLE). The dashboard is familiar fare, and the GLE63 S uses the same, dainty, column-mounted shift lever as the most pedestrian M-class. The GLE63 S also retains a Bang & Olufsen stereo system, while the most recent Mercedes models such as the new C-class and the S-class are being offered with upscale audio supplied by Burmester. The touch-sensitive COMAND controller appears in the GLE coupe, but our staff opinion on it is divided. Despite the vehicle’s sloping roofline, the GLE63 S coupe does claim a measure of practicality, with plenty of room in the back seat.
Mostly, though, this vehicle is all about style and performance. With the GLE63 S topping the power of the recently redesigned BMW X6 M, and also outmuscling the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and the Range Rover Sport SVR, this Mercedes might well emerge as the sportiest of them all when it hits dealerships in August.