Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The sporty and luxurious Mercedes-AMG 53 GLE Coupé
The SUV loaded with tech and fun to drive is great on hilly roadsUpdated: Oct 18, 2020, 08:23 IST
This month I’ve been hitting the road with a vengeance with what I like to call a series of ‘Unlock Drives.’ It stems from a desperate need to break out from the WFH (and a bit of office) routine and there’s nothing as liberating as a road trip to clear your mind. I kicked off my first long drive with a dash to Mahabaleshwar over the long (Gandhi Jayanti) weekend in the brand new Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 coupé. This SUV coupé (yes, another one) seemed the perfect choice with its mix of power (to charge up the ghat) and good ground clearance (to tackle pothole infested roads destroyed by the monsoons) for this 540km round trip.
The deepest growl
The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupé is a direct rival to the Porsche Cayenne Coupé (which I recently reviewed) and, to some extent, the lower-powered BMW X6 and the Audi Q8. Talking of power, the GLE 53 gets substantially more than the GLE 43 it replaces, thanks to a brand-new 3.0 litre, straight-six cylinder turbo petrol coupled to a mild hybrid system, which boosts power to 435hp. The electric drive in this AMG mild-hybrid powertrain not only bumps up power but, along with a nine-speed auto transmission, makes this big SUV pretty responsive. In comparison, the previous GLE43 used the older seven-speed auto and developed only 385hp.
The new firepower under the GLE 53 Coupé’s muscular hood translates to an impressive 0-100kph time of 5.3 seconds but how does it feel in the real world?
Push the start button and the turbo petrol comes to life with very little drama. The cabin is so well-insulated and the start-stop so seamless that it is difficult to tell when the engine is idling and when it is off. This changes the second you tap the throttle and 435 horses under the hood make their presence felt with a proper AMG growl.
For a car that weighs 2.2 tons, the GLE 53 feels remarkably sprightly off the line thanks to the combined pulling power of the engine and electric motor. On the Pune-Bengaluru highway, before the turn off to Mahabaleshwar, the GLE 53 came into its own, making light work of slowing moving traffic and even lighter work of the potholed and bumpy diversions that circumvent the many nearly completed bridges on this arterial highway.
The air suspension offers a distinctly better ride than the older GLE 43, especially at low speeds
The air suspension offers a distinctly better ride than the older GLE 43, especially at low speeds. In the extreme Sport + mode though, the suspension stiffens up and sharp edges and broken roads can be felt in the cabin. It’s best to leave the sportier modes to perfectly paved roads. Also, the fat tyres throw up a fair bit of noise at high speeds, otherwise the refinement is pretty impressive for a high-performance SUV.
Life’s a sport
In fact, it’s the sporty character that marks the GLE 53 Coupé out. Though it doesn’t feel as agile as the Porsche Cayenne Coupé, this is still a very engaging car that you will enjoy hustling on a twisty road. Powering up the twisty and narrow 10km Wai Ghat, the GLE 53 was a hoot to drive with its huge reserves of grip, meaty steering and strong brakes.
The all-black GLE 53 looks the part with all the AMG design elements, like the ‘Panamericana’ grille, power bulges on the bonnet, sporty bumpers and four exhaust pipes. The cabin dashboard is similar to the standard but gets a few sporty touches. As on the most new Mercs, the GLE 53 also gets the feature-packed dual 12.3-inch infotainment screens and instrument cluster running Mercedes’s latest MBUX software.
Loaded with tech, luxuriously appointed, and fun to drive, the GLE 53 is one attractive package, which at Rs 1.20 crore is more affordable than its rivals. Definitely one to keep on your shortlist if you have this kind of budget for a sporty SUV coupe.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, October 18, 2020
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