2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 Coupe 4MATIC

The mad men at Mercedes-AMG have cobbled together the GLE43 coupe as if it were an automotive Frankenstein, with seemingly mismatched parts, styling elements, and performance goodies creating an unexpectedly clever amalgamation. Its fastback roofline, giant air intakes, quad exhaust pipes, and snorting twin-turbocharged engine mask the large, high-riding SUV underneath. Indeed, it’s a mixed breed of muscle car and monster truck—a muscle monster, if you will—with both the performance and the compromised practicality one might expect from such a mash-up.

The 3.0-liter V-6 is force-fed by two turbochargers to the tune of 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. That’s 215 horsepower and 177 lb-ft less than the GLE43’s more powerful stablemate, the GLE63 S coupe, makes from its 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, but this junior AMG’s 5.3-second blast to 60 mph is enough to put a smile on any driver’s face. It’s quicker to 60 mph than the last BMW X6 xDrive35i we tested, which managed the run in 5.7 seconds. The GLE43 was slightly slower, however, than the nearly identical Mercedes-Benz GLE450 coupe that we tested last year; that model changed its name to Mercedes-AMG GLE43 (no Benz) after a single selling season.

On its optional 22-inch aluminum wheels ($1250) and wide Pirelli P Zero summer tires, the GLE43 coupe is an imposingly awkward thing, especially with its air springs in the tallest, off-road setting that makes it look like a Conestoga wagon with disco fever. Each of the rear tires—broad enough to challenge any car wash’s conveyor guide rails—provides a foot-wide footprint and enough stick to rocket this beast around our skidpad at 0.93 g. That’s more grip than our long-term Mazda MX-5 Miata has with half the curb weight of the GLE43 coupe (but riding on narrower rubber, of course).

Drivers are offered four driving modes—Snow, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+—each of which adjusts the throttle response, transmission mapping for the nine-speed automatic, suspension damping, and steering effort. A fifth option, called Individual, allows the driver to create a custom setup by cherry-picking settings for each of those elements. In Comfort mode, the GLE43 coupe is an easy-riding SUV, but turn it to Sport+ and the ride gets noticeably firmer, sometimes overly so, transforming the creature into an athlete. Our test car came equipped with the Active Curve system, a $2910 option that uses variable front and rear anti-roll bars that adjust as needed to keep roll in check—the vehicle tends to lean slightly into a turn, like a motorcycle. The system does an admirable job assisting the suspension to provide controlled and predictable handling. Read more...

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30 Dec 2016