The 2016 Mercedes GLE-Class is the German automaker’s new midsize SUV, so stop looking for the old ML. Why the switch? It’s part of a revised nomenclature that sees all Mercedes utility vehicles now starting with the letters “GL” (GLA, GLC, GLS, etc.).
There’s more to the GLE, mind you. If you like technology, you’ll be well served with the latest innovations from the 3-pointed star.
Sitting pretty between the entry-level, diesel-powered GLE 350 d 4MATIC and the more powerful, V8-motivated GLE 550 4MATIC is a model delivering an unexpected level of performance, even for purists. It’s called Mercedes GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC, and it mainly aims to lure in a greater number of prospective buyers by giving them a taste of the AMG high life.
BMW kind of does the same thing with the M235i, which is not as sporty as the real M2. Similarly, Audi’s S models are a step below the almighty RS variants. You know what I mean?
Let’s go back to the 2016 Mercedes GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC, which truly deserves the AMG badge ― not just because it comes standard with an AMG Styling Package (at least in Canada). Sure, it’s not as explosive as the extreme Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC, but in daily driving conditions this super-comfortable and luxurious SUV definitely has all the gusto you will ever need, making me question the very existence of the aforementioned powerhouse.
A more affordable and reasonable GLE
The cavernous-sounding, 577-horsepower V8 at the top of the lineup requires an extra of about $45,000 (no doubt a trivial sum for the wealthy customers the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC targets). Big displacements are on their way out, however, with fuel economy standards becoming more and more stringent. With this in mind, the more affordable albeit less exhilarating GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC should draw plenty of interest from drivers who like a capable vehicle that can occasionally do great big things.
The twin-turbo V6 under the hood awakens with a raspy growl full of rage that comes out of black-finished tailpipes. Naturally, this intoxicating sound quickly fades as the engine warms up, allowing you to fly almost under the radar ― even more so if you select black or silver body paint. As you can see on these pictures, Mercedes-Benz also offers more vivid colours like Cavansite Blue Metallic that proves classic and unique at the same time.
Another thing that makes the big German SUV very attractive for prestige-minded customers is the AMG Styling Package I noted earlier. Once again, it’s not the most badass-looking AMG model in the 2016 Mercedes GLE lineup, but it could easily fool the average Joe. With a body kit like that and 20” wheels adding more presence, the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC makes a pretty clear statement.
Behind the wheel
Does it have the skills and stamina AMG cars are renowned for? Despite the dual turbochargers helping the V6 generate 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of peak torque, you simply can’t recreate the brutality of the AMG V8. However, should the latter become extinct someday, it’s comforting to know that Mercedes can extract that much power out of a V6. And of course, with turbos you can always increase the pressure, if you catch my drift.
In town, the 2016 Mercedes GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC behaves like any other luxury SUV, meaning it’s comfortable, quiet, and easy to drive for regular folks. Thankfully, the sophisticated electronics at work can spice things up quite a bit.
Using the rotating dial between the two front seats, you can turn this plush family hauler into a meaner beast. Sport mode effectively alters transmission mapping by delaying gear shifts a little while firming up the suspension and steering. Sport+ sharpens the powertrain’s reflexes even more and elevates the exhaust note to a near-orgasmic level. The only thing left to do is to find an on-ramp and crush the throttle. Gear shifts in this hardcore mode are so much quicker ― maybe a little too abrupt for some ― as the resulting forward thrusts are nothing short of a magical explosion.
The GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC may not be a speed demon like the GLE 63 S 4MATIC, but sprinting from 0-100 km/h still takes less than six seconds, which is ridiculously fast for such a big SUV. Its agility depends on the drive mode you select, although there’s no escaping the laws of physics, especially in high-speed corners. Overall, the GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC proves quite driver-friendly, so clearly there’s more to its success than just a big silver star on the grille.
If you care about fuel economy…
Efficiency is not really the main concern of owners, here, but it’s good to know the 2016 Mercedes GLE 450 AMG 4MATIC is a lot less thirsty at the pump than the two V8-powered models.
Mileage on my watch was 12.4L/100km on average, far from Prius-like numbers, but with so many horses under the hood, space galore inside, and enjoyable driving dynamics, how can you not be impressed?