First Drive: Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe GLE 63 S 4Matic 5dr 7G-Tronic
Can that be its real name?
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC Coupe. Oh yes. Because it's the hotter (S) version of the AMG version of the coupe version of the Mercedes' GLE-class. The GLE-class, if you're still following, is the car formerly known as ML-class. The 4MATIC bit is to say it's four-wheel drive, but that's superfluous really as there's no 2WD option. Maybe just as well given it has a stonking 585bhp and 560lb ft to deploy. That puts it in the very top league of high-power SUVS.
Does the world really need another off-road five-door coupe?
Need? Hardly. Want? Very much so, it seems. BMW's X6 might not be a thing of beauty but plenty of people bought it, so BMW did an X4 too. Anyway the GLE Coupe is a lot better looking and integrated than the new GLE itself. Also, it's wider and lower, which helps dynamics - the arches have room for the humungous 22-inch tyre options fitted to our test car.
From the back, the GLE Coupe's arched window, tapering pillars, strong haunches and horizontal tail-lights bring to mind the S-class coupe. There are even hints, through the bottom of a beer glass maybe, of the AMG GT. There's enough headroom in the back for grown-ups, and a huge boot.
The boot? Come on, this is an AMG. What's at the other end?
Oops sorry. Glad you asked. It's a biturbo V8. Not the new 4.0-litre one but the older, torquier 5.5-litre. It does an absolutely brilliant job. At low revs it does what you ask, almost completely effortlessly. But when you add more revs and and throttle it sucks in the vanishing point. There's so little drama you don't always realise how crazy the performance actually is - though you can call up a load of pops and crackles from the exhaust if you select the sport modes for engine or transmission.
The sheer performance also becomes abundantly clear when you overtake someone. That really is its core skill. Your high viewpoint helps anticipate the gap, and then the immense traction allows you to put a wheel on the dusty edge of the road as you squirt past.
Will it corner?
With epic force and unshakeable security. At the rear are optional 325/35 tyres on 22-inch rims. The suspension consists of air springs that lower when you're going fast, adaptive dampers, and adaptive anti-roll bars that resist the high body's natural inclination towards inclination. So those tyres' treads are always flat to the road. No surprise that there's mild understeer if you go into a tight corner too fast, and equally mild oversteer if you hammer it early on the exit. Unfortunately it doesn't give you the communication of the rivals - Cayenne, RR Sport SVR or X6M. And even those three are hardly super-chatty. These sorts of cars are always going to place brute force above anything else.
Can you live with it?
Easily. The ride isn't too harsh at all, though there is some background shudder. The cabin is beautifully made, and Mercedes keeps improving its infotainment and safety systems. On motorways it pretty well drives itself. Indeed, because Mercedes' Distronic Plus radar-cruise-and-steering-assist system is optional, it actually can drive itself. But it's not allowed to, so every 10 seconds or so it warns you to put your hands back on the wheel. That's just one of the things this car is can do, but generally isn't allowed to. Most of them having something to do with the 585bhp under the hood...