MERCEDES-AMG GLE 53

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

JOHN CAREY

BEAUTY IN WHAT LIES BENEATH

THE 1979 hit by a Brit pseudo-punk band would provoke a storm of outrage today, but ‘Nice Legs, Shame About Her Face’ concisely describes the new Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic+ Coupe.

With its boosted and electrified engine, adept transmission, effective all-wheel-drive system and extensive chassis-enhancement tech, perhaps this SUV coupe, due in Australia in the third quarter of 2020 at around $150,000, doesn’t need to be a visual stunner.

The motor-generator unit between the 3 t C .0-litre in-line six and nine-speed auto ransmission is at the core of the GLE 53 oupe’s prowess. This combo debuted in t E he CLS in 2018, then appeared in the -Class Coupe and Cabriolet. k ick to the bottom end of the engine’s

The electric unit adds a 16kW/250Nm power and torque curves, as well as functioning as its starter motor. When operating as a generator, it charges the vehicle’s 48-volt battery pack that helps make the GLE 53 Coupe a low-voltage hybrid and powers the engine’s currenthungry electric compressor, the chassis’ active anti-roll bars, and more.

Throttle response is practically lagless, the electric turbo delivering instant lowrev boost while exhaust gases spin the conventional second turbo up to speed.

And a bonus is that the straight-six is a more melodious motor than the twinturbo 3.0-litre V6 of the GLE 43 Coupe. 

Shifting is affected by which of the seven driving modes is deployed, but the transmission is adept at selecting the right ratio for the circumstances.

On icy roads at its international launch in the mountains of Austria, the Coupe found more grip than seemed possible, and on twisting alpine roads, it was improbably quick. Its standard air springs and adaptive dampers, with the active anti-roll bars, quell the inclination of something so high and over two tonnes in weight to pitch and roll. With a 60mm shorter wheelbase and more direct steering than the GLE SUV, it’s actually agile.

But it’s too hefty ever to be elegant. The tail-lights were designed to emphasise the breadth of the GLE Coupe’s big behind, according to a Benz designer. The swoopy exterior obstructs rearward vision. The curve of the bonnet makes it hard to place the kerb-side front wheel. And the deep instrument panel, shared with the new GLE, will be a problem for short drivers.

Despite the shorter wheelbase, rearseat legroom is good, though headroom only adequate. Interior dimensions are mostly very close to the outgoing model.

So even though the visual compromises inherent in the SUV coupe concept show in the new GLE 53 Coupe, the way it drives is pretty impressive.

JOHN CAREY

PLUS

Performance; handling; effective driver-assist tech

MINUS

Vision; bulk; impracticality; weight; premium price

Model Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic+ Coupe

Engine 2999cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo, mild hybrid

Max power 320kW @ 6100rpm

Max torque 520Nm @ 1800-5800rpm

Transmission 9-speed automatic

Weight 2225kg (estimated)

0-100km/h 5.3sec (claimed)

Economy 9.3L/100km (NEDC)

Price $150,000 (estimated)

On sale Q3 2020