Until the 63 S arrives, the AMG 53 tops the GLE range, a task it’s well equipped to fill.
Replacing the old 43, the 53 is powered by the firm’s 48v electrified inline six. It’s mighty impressive this, not so much in terms of the outputs (320kW and 520NM), but rather its delivery. The combined efforts of a 16kW/250Nm starter generator and an electrically-driven compressor all but eliminate turbo lag. With the idle-stop in action, hit the gas from zero rpm, and this jets off the mark. It’s not quite like the fully electric EQC, but it’s not far behind.
This is probably the most responsive engine from a dead halt that there currently is. The electric motor fires the engine seamlessly and fills the initial torque void while the electric compressor gets the boost streaming, helping until the real turbo starts blowing. While it’s right stroppy from 3000rpm onward, there’s also genuinely strong pull from 1500 for effortless in-gear lugging. Constrain your urge, and that accessible torque, along with the extended idle-stop and engine-off periods that a 48v hybrid offers, means this is okay on gas, registering in the low 12L/100km region for urban running, and into the 10s if you accumulate a few motorway miles.
And yet it doesn’t feel neutered for the sake of economy. Of the many drive modes present, none is dedicated to efficiency. Give the throttle a tickle in Comfort, and the trans will drop a gear or two to ensure things get moving, AMG-style. Speaking of which, the ride in Comfort mode isn’t quite that but you’ve opted for the AMG, so you and it are made of sterner stuff. The progress isn’t horrid, and neither are things like the turning circle while the trans is a smooth operator.
Being an AMG, you’re able to tune various aspects of your drive. The steering wheel mode controller eases transition between the modes while you can also set the trans to manual, the ESP to sport, raise the ride height, firm the suspension, add exhaust din and fiddle with the engine response.
This is fully specified in terms of safety spec, connectivity and infotainment features; it wants for nothing. The GLE is a generously-sized five seater but if you have extra kids, the 53 can be optioned with seven seats too.
It doesn’t look unique as such, for most GLEs you see are optioned with the AMG look-alike kits, but the grille is unique and so too the wheels and rear bumper.
It starts at $180,100, making it a $35k jump from the 400d, though by the time you add the requisite AMG Sport Pack and Night Package, the difference is closer to $20k. And you’re not going on any overseas trips this year, so why not?
The 53 comes with AMG Ride Control, the adaptive air springs honed for AMG-type action, while this features the optional Active Ride Control ($5700). The system uses the 48v architecture to add active roll stabilisation via electro-mechanical actuators on the front and rear roll bars. There’s also fully variable AWD.
Throw the 53 at a few curves, and all the dynamic finessers combine to send the 2400kg GLE around the bend as if on rails. The roll bars do their thing to keep it all level. You can see them working via an infographic on the AMG infotainment screen, twisting up virtually as they impose a force on the suspension. The steering is sharper than your usual GLE, the turn-in quicker, the action more accurate. Then there are the adaptive dampers doing their part too, absorbing the bumps to keep the body in motion stable. Another helper is the AMG Dynamics with the precise brake applications at each corner to keep things online. And don’t forget the variable AWD. You can see which wheels the drive is being directed towards on another little display, and it’s predominantly to the rear, which gives those up front better scope to steer with less inclination to push wide.
The 53 is plenty fast enough. The straight six revs heartily, things picking up at the 3000rpm mark and it steams toward 7000 quickly, ably assisted by the auto which selects the gears appropriately. Being an AMG it sounds good, but not raucous, save for a few bangs and pops on the overrun. There’s enough give in the air springs to run them in full Sport plus mode, yet it’s not too noisy in terms of road rumble and suspension thump. Given this is so capable, the incoming GLE 63 S will likely be all too much, but we’ll be happy to be proven wrong on that front.
|Model||Mercedes-AMG GLE 53||Price||$180,100|
|Engine||2999cc, IL6, T/DI, 320kW/520Nm||Drivetrain||9-speed auto, all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||9.3L/100km||C02 Output||212g/km|