Recently I spent a week in Los Angeles driving a massively posh V12 SUV, an open-top supercar with screeching 602 horsepower engine, and a Jeep that could climb over a four-foot boulder.
They were all excellent, joyous cars. But the one that still haunts me, the one whose steering wheel I itch to grasp when I?ve sat still for too long at the office, is the 2016 Mercedes AMG GLE63 S Coupe.
The $116,380 crossover has engine aggression. It has excellent design and interior quality that separates it from other vehicles in this market segment. It drives tightly and intuitively, as though it somehow fast-forwarded into the not-too-distant future where our cars will be connected to our brains. And I didn?t want to let it go.
First things first, let?s talk about that name. Mercedes calls the AMG GLE63 a ?coupe,? which is a misnomer, since it has four doors rather than two. Plus, it doesn?t really look like any coupe you are thinking of. Mercedes seems secretly to understand this odd labeling and has grouped it on the MBUSA.com website under the ?SUVs and Wagons? heading.
This is the most rounded of the six crossovers and SUVs that Mercedes makes, though it's neither the smallest nor the least expensive by any means?that distinction goes to the $32,500 GLA. The AMG GLE63 is also noticeably smaller-feeling on the inside than the $124,00 AMG GLS63, but it feels plenty roomy.
Mercedes made it to compete against the $102,200 BMW X6M and the $114,700 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and fans of the former will definitely dispute the headline on this post. Look, they are all really great automobiles. You could even throw a $111,350 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR into that mix, if you were feeling liberal. Luxury crossovers are the most exciting segment in the car market today?and the SUV segment in general continues to be the most lucrative for automakers.
The AMG GLE63 fits right in. It has a 5.5-liter V8 engine that gets 577 horsepower and sprints to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. That?s faster on paper than the Range Rover (equal to the Cayenne Turbo) and quicker to jolt my insides; the surge of adrenalin it produces outshines pretty much any other little crossover on the market today.
How It Drives
It?s so good, in fact, that I think it affected my review of the twice-as-expensive Bentley Bentayga. I drove the AMG GLE63 the day before and after that Bentayga, and despite the Bentley?s superior craftsmanship inside, rear space, and its general prestige, the AMG put it to shame when handling corners, gathering speed, and barreling down on anything in its path. It simply feels sharper, tighter, more intuitive to drive.
Summer performance tires come standard, the optional performance exhaust system ($625) sounds divine, and $215 chrome hood fins enhance the general imposing presence of this vehicle. You?ll be proud to have them.
Unfortunately the EPA numbers on this AMG aren?t great, as you may have expected. Fourteen miles per gallon in the city is nothing to be proud of; it was bad enough to earn a 2 out of 10 rating for EPA fuel economy and green house gas emissions. (The BMW X6M, Cayenne Turbo, and Range Rover SVR each received 3s.)
But as I drove north out past desert canyons and scrub brush, I paddle-shifted the 7-speed automatic transmission as lightly as if they were butterfly wings. And there?s no doubt the air suspension and active curve system on the AWD beat anything in this class. The AMG punches as deftly as a light-heavyweight fighter at peak condition.
The Look of a Prizefighter
To my eye, the AMG GLE63 does not photograph well. It looks a little too rounded and plain on the sides to convey how sharp it is behind the wheel. But seeing it in person, from the front, is a different story.
The black matrix grille gapes behind a silver band and round Mercedes badge. The muscle-like arches over the wheel wells, the imposing 22-inch spoke wheels ($500), and tall ride height make it look athletic and expensive.
I drove the AMG GLE63 S to my friend?s horse stables in the hills an hour north of L.A. When I pulled up she was sitting on a show stallion worth more than a million dollars?and when she saw what I was driving, she wanted to trade the horse for the car.
The interior is perfect: The one I drove came with hand-fit brown Napa leather seats in espresso brown and open-pore wood trim throughout. I loved the soft glow of the interior LED lights that illuminated the center console, foot-wells, and door handles at night. The brushed aluminum pedals and dual dials behind the steering wheel look hot. Bluetooth, Keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof, power automatic rear lift gate, heated front seats, and an anti-theft system come standard. The surround-view camera system and the flat-folding rear seat do too.
I don?t know if you need to splurge on the heated/cooled cup holders and soft-close doors ($550), but if you do, you probably won?t regret it. The same goes for the $1,100 massaging seats (front only) and the $1,950 Driver Assistance package that includes active blind spot, lane-keeping, and steering assists. It?ll even recognize pedestrians on the street before you do.
Most of those passersby, on the other hand, probably won?t recognize YOU behind that AMG GLE63 wheel. It?s just not that outr? a car.
That?s OK, though?it?s glamorously visceral and totally arresting on all the places where it matters: on the inside, under the hood, and behind the wheel.