A new dawn: Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupe S review

Mercedes has muscled its way into the SUV area with its big, beefy new coupe. We take it out for a spin...

Neil Churchill December 29, 2015

Choosing between an exhilarating V8 sports coupe or a more practical four door SUV is a decision usually reserved for the middle-aged professional; a man accepting of his next decade but unwillingly to completely let go of his last. 

It’s a generation-wide conundrum that has allowed the mid-size sporty SUV and crossover segments to flourish in recent years. And after its nomenclature adjustments one year ago, Mercedes has finally entered the foray with this: the GLE 63 Coupe S. 

Let’s address the rather large elephant in the room straight away. It looks incredibly similar to the BMW X6, which isn’t that surprising given Mercedes has been quite clear that they see BMW’s racy SUV as their director competitor. 

To Mercedes’ credit though, despite coming late to the mid-size SUV party, their style and design balance favours a luxury look and feel over sporty necessity, which is a reverse of the X6 and may give the GLE 63 some pulling power for buyers who are now familiar with the BMW’s aggressive exterior. 

It is the same inside. The interior’s design focuses on distinctive upholstery and contouring lines, with bold black and white stitching piercing the off-white leather dashboard. The sport seats are wrapped in perforated nappa leather allowing for the heated and vented seat controls to take immediate effect, and the three-spoke performance steering wheel has a smooth and slippery touch at the three and nine o'clock positions, allowing it to spin through your hands when straightening after corners. 

Mercedes has used the car to introduce its new Dynamic Select system in the shape of a rotating knob below the central armrest, that allows the driver to scroll through the five driving modes: Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Slippery. There are also buttons to slip the car into manual and use the paddles, raise and lower the car’s ride height, and take the traction control off. In other words, cruise around town in default mode, then activate all of the above and select Sport + for an optimised track performance. 

There is also a touchpad and wheel selection tool next to the Dynamic Select, which manages everything on the infotainment screen and also allows you to pick your favourites for faster access. The touchpad in particular works well with the sat nav, making scrolling across the screen and zooming in and out of a location a breeze. 

The infotainment screen itself is the same model Mercedes has used across its series of cars for a good while now, and while it works fine and is clear enough, it always looks like it’s been stuck on as somewhat of an afterthought, and could still be angled more towards the driver than as it is straight down the centre. 

Vehicle settings include aesthetic options such as changing the mood colour inside the car and the strength of illumination outside, as well as adjusting the transmission and studying the engine data. But it is the 360 camera that really impressed us, offering a bird’s eye view of the car on a split-screen alongside the standard rear view. The option is activated automatically when reverse gear is selected, making parking the simplest it’s ever been. 

We drove the S version of the coupe, meaning its hand-built 5.5-litre V8 biturbo engine pumps out 585 hp at a more reachable 5500 rpm, compared to the standard coupe’s 557 hp at 5750 rpm. Peak torque is also increased to 760 Nm from 700 Nm. That’s about as far as performance differences go however, with the S going from 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, only one tenth faster than the standard model, and both going onto an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h - 280 km/h with the limiter removed.

With such fine margins between them, you may ask is there a need for the S version? Well yes, because Mercedes needs something in its AMG stable to compete with BMW’s M and Audi’s S series. The bigger question is therefore is there a need for the standard coupe version? If buyers can afford to throw AED 445,000 at a sporty SUV, then they can probably afford to - and likely will - pay a further 10 per cent of that for the top of the range S, priced at AED 490,000. And it would be money well spent.

Specs

  • Engine: 5.5-litre V8 biturbo
  • Power: 585bhp @ 5,500rpm
  • Torque: 760Nm @ 5,250rpm
  • Transmission: 7-speed automatic
  • 0-100kmh: 4.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 280kmh
  • Price: AED 490,000