Mercedes-Benz introduced the first-generation GLE 43 AMG Coupe in India in 2016, but little did it know then that the coupe SUV will turn out to be the brand's bestselling AMG in the country. Globally too, the GLE Coupe has been super successful for the automaker. Mercedes sold triple-digit units of the first-generation GLE 43 Coupe over the last four years in India. So, expectations were sky high with the second-generation version. That's why the all-new Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ Coupe (Yes, that's the full name) is a complete overhaul; with a new powertrain, design, connected tech and the brand new '53' badge announcing that step-up. But more importantly, it now bridges the gap between the erstwhile entry-level GLE 43 and the flagship V8-powered GLE 63 Coupe, promising a more wholesome package. Does it deliver though? Let's find out.
The second-generation Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe is unmistakably a GLE in all form and size. The evolution in design is evident, borrowing heavily from the W167 GLE, but with the Affalterbach flair thrown in. The roofline now blends more seamlessly into the tailgate, while the multibeam headlights get the distinctive new sweptback shape with the twin LED daytime running lights. There are the new wraparound LED taillights with that angular pattern. The rear three-quarter particularly looks more naturally beefed up rather than a jacked-up suspension on the predecessor. In true AMG fashion, the SUV comes with quad exhaust tips that are linked to a performance exhaust system with a large diffuser separating the twin units. More notably, the new GLE 53 Coupe has grown in proportions measuring 39 mm longer and 7 mm wider, while the wheelbase has been stretched by 20 mm over its predecessor.
However, it is the Panamericana grille that stands out in the most literal sense, complemented by the equally massive three-pointed star. The power bulges on the bonnet add to the muscular theme and also make for a nice view from behind the wheel. I do like that over-the-top AMG grille somehow over what the Bavarians have been doing with their signature grille design. The India-spec GLE 53 AMG Coupe also gets the night package as standard, which means there are fewer chrome inserts on the bumpers, window surrounds and the tailgate, all of which are now finished in gloss black and yes, it looks mean!
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The remarkable quality and craftsmanship that Mercedes is known for will get you swooning and needless to say; every material is offered in the best trim possible. Mercedes' massive 12.3-inch dual screens take most of your attention with one as the instrument console and the other as the infotainment display. The sports seats offer excellent bolstering at the front and will hold you in place around a sharp turn.
Mercedes offers two upholstery options that include the black and truffle brown colour scheme, as seen on our test car, and a two-tone black Nappa leather theme. Despite the dark colours, the cabin offers a roomy vibe and there is ample headroom and legroom for both rows despite the sloping roofline. You also get the panoramic sunroof that adds to the overall sense of space. The SUV can be lowered for easy ingress and egress and the front sports seats offer good lumbar support with ventilation. The rear passengers get individual temperature settings, courtesy of the four-zone climate control system. The rear seat particularly is a comfortable space to be in and can accommodate two with ease, whereas three will be reasonably comfortable over long journeys. The second row could have also done with slightly better under-thigh support for tall passengers, but nothing that's distressing.
The boot capacity is a practical 655 litres, which is only slightly less than the full-size GLE (690 litres) but a whole 70 litres more than its predecessor. It can be further expanded to nearly 1800 litres by tumbling the rear seats. The car will also lower itself by 60 mm to help load the luggage. That said, whether it's a set of golf clubs or a weekend's worth of luggage for a family getaway, the storage space is aplenty.
The new GLE 53 Coupe is the first AMG model in India to get the new MBUX system. The automaker's new user interface is easy to use and brings a suite of customisation options to the screen. You can select from multiple themes and configuration options, while functions like navigation and smartphone integration are more seamless. The navigation also works very well in calculating routes in real-time. MBUX also brings the voice command feature that can be activated by saying "Hey Mercedes" and is quick to respond. The car comes with 64-colour ambient lighting, a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, electrically-powered tailgate and wireless charging. The USB slots have also been upgraded to Type-C, so for older charger users, you will need to get an adapter.
There's the 'Mercedes Me' connect app as well that brings a suite of new features like remote engine start-stop, remote lock-unlock, pre-cool cabin, apart from geofencing, vehicle telematics, vehicle monitoring and even emergency call. The car also comes with the Kinetic seats feature that helps optimise the most comfortable seating and steering position. The head-up display is information-rich and unobtrusive.
The AMG steering wheel does make it to one of my favourite things about the AMG GLE 53 Coupe. The F1-inspired unit brings a bunch of controls, which are customisable with the quick access buttons. In fact, there are a number of ways you can access the controls on the car using either the touchscreen display, the traditional touchpad, the dedicated controls on the centre console or using the ones on the steering wheel. Convenient much!
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ Coupe comes with seven driving modes - Sand, Slippery, Trail, Individual, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. It is in Comfort and Sport+ where you will spend most of your time at. In the Sport+ setting, the car optimises its suspension and exhaust to make the most out of the new 3.0-litre in-line, six-cylinder twin-turbocharged petrol engine. The motor is a big step up from the older 3.0-litre V6 that powered the AMG GLE 43. The older model offered a modest (by AMG standards) 367 bhp but the new engine sees significant improvement with 429 bhp that kicks in from 5500 rpm. Peak torque remains the same at 520 Nm from as low as 1800 rpm. However, the motor is supported by the new EQ Boost making the coupe SUV the first AMG to get the technology in India, which brings the new 48-volt mild-hybrid system that develops 21.6 bhp and 250 Nm of peak torque on offer.
The additional power is available in the lower end of the rev band and compensates for the turbo lag from the new motor. Floor the pedal and the car offers smooth acceleration right and builds speeds quickly all the way up to the top of the rev band. The engine is free-revving and pulls cleanly up to 6800 rpm without any drama. EQ Boost particularly helps when crawling through city traffic and during half throttle inputs, It also doubles up as a compressor powering several of the car's electrical systems including engine start-stop.
Mercedes claims a top speed of 250 kmph while the SUV will sprint from 0-100 kmph in just 5.3 seconds. Just to give you perspective, the standard GLE 450 4MATIC+ will do the same run in 5.7 seconds. Much of that performance credit also goes to the 9-speed AMG SpeedShift gearbox that works effortlessly to propel the car. Gear changes are seamless and there's barely any noticeable delay, more so, once you shift to the Sport+ mode when the responses are faster. The paddle shifters add to the experience but you don't reach out too often thanks to the extremely responsive gearbox. Adding to the excitement is the AMG performance exhaust that gets selectable flaps, which allow you to choose between a balanced exhaust note or the gruffer AMG roar at the touch of a button. It is artificially enhanced, a minor shortcoming on the new 53 as compared to the V8-powered 63.
Straight-line stability is excellent with the massive 21-inch wheels offering a superior grip. The rear tyre is wider at 315 mm over the front tyre's 275 mm, which also prompts the pronounced wheel arches at the rear. The car will automatically lower itself by 10 mm for added stability at speeds above 120 kmph. Compared to the standard GLE SUV, the new GLE 53 Coupe gets a shorter wheelbase by 60 mm and that's a trade-off in favour of better driving dynamics. The GLE 53 Coupe rides on Active Ride Control with Active Roll Stabilisation, which is shared with the larger GLE 63 Coupe.
Lateral weight shifts are minimal and there's very little that actually translates to the cabin with the ride control constantly making adjustments. The new 4MATIC+ four-wheel-drive system also aids in better handling and electronically adjusts the torque input to the wheels individually. This makes for plenty of grip to the tyres around a corner. It's also rear-biased that makes the drive even more engaging. It's just brilliant how composed the GLE 53 Coupe is around a bend. Mind you, this is a 2.3 tonne SUV that behaves unlike one. The steering wheel is feedback rich and weighs up nicely at high speeds, but isn't the most connected one on offer.
The ride quality is pliant for most of the drive and the thick side walls on the tyres help minimize the impact of bad roads. Of course, it's still a performance offering and the bump absorption is lower than usual; but the ride is supple for most parts. Braking performance remains sure-footed, aided by the Active Brake Assist with the AMG-developed ventilated discs that help the GLE 53 Coupe come to a halt in no time. You also get a slew of safety aids like nine airbags that includes side airbags for rear passengers. There's also blind spot assist with two sensors on the rear bumper, 3-stage ESP, apart from ABS. The car also gets Magic Vision Control that is a likeable feature on the new Mercedes cars and keeps your windscreen squeaky clean.
Price and Verdict
Much like its predecessor, the new AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ Coupe will attract a host of first-generation AMG buyers, the ones who want the Affalterbach-tuned performance coupled with everyday usability. The new AMG GLE 53 Coupe is a good ₹ 40 lakh more expensive than its predecessor and is offered in a single, fully-specced variant priced at ₹ 1.20 crore (ex-showroom, India). It's also the reason why the 53 presented a case for itself strongly for the Indian market over the flagship AMG GLE 63 Coupe, which would be substantially more expensive in comparison and head into the G63 territory in terms of pricing.
For those looking at a German luxury SUV with lots of character and performance, the AMG GLE 53 Coupe makes a strong case for itself, more so since the competition is tough with the likes of the BMW X6, Audi Q8 and the Porsche Cayenne Coupe also on sale. Stretch your budget a little and there's the Italian Maserati Levante. However, the AMG GLE 53 Coupe is just brilliantly packaged and should sit high in your consideration list. And with Mercedes-Benz now planning to locally-assemble AMGs in India, the GLE 53 could be more affordable in the future, helping it retain its bestselling AMG tag.
Photography: Pawan Dagia