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First Drive

2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe review

Merc's brutish new coupe-like SUV gets a 577bhp V8 to take on the BMW X6 M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport SVR.

Words ByVicky Parrott

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The GLE Coupe is a no-brainer for Mercedes. After all, these big, opulent, coupe-like SUVs might have an unflattering reputation in some quarters, but they sell very well, as BMW has proved with the X6 – the GLE’s nemesis.

This range-topping 63 S AMG model (there is no non-S AMG version in the UK) gets a 5.5-litre twin-turbo petrol engine that sends 577bhp through a seven-speed automatic to all four wheels (in a permanent 60/40, rear-biased split).

Simply put, it’s a full-bore sports SUV designed to take on the BMW X6 M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport SVR, all of which are priced in the same vicinity.

What’s the 2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe like to drive?

Fast. Bullish. Just generally very unsubtle all over.

The engine completely dominates the GLE 63 S. Even in comfort mode and tooling along at a normal pace, there’s a distant suggestive burble from the exhaust.

More to the point, the GLE 63 is very fast indeed. Stick the gearbox in Sport mode and it holds a lower gear, keeping you in the mid-range for thrilling pace and booming, backfiring accompaniments from the exhaust. For all the extreme power, the engine pulls without sudden surges in acceleration, making it easy to use its potential.

The seven-speed gearbox generally picks the right ratio and blurs changes well, although it can be a bit hesitant to respond in faster driving, with a noticeable pause even if you use the wheel-mounted paddles.

However, the handling, while fun, is not flawless, nor as adjustable or as involving as that in a Porsche Cayenne Turbo or Range Rover Sport SVR. The Merc’s steering has good bite around the straight-ahead, but it can feel a bit light mid-corner, and, despite the four-wheel drive system, its natural inclination is to wash wide if you go too fast into a corner, especially in the wet conditions of our test.

Ultimately, the handling isn't a disappointment, and there’s plenty of grip and reasonable body control, but it doesn’t have the surprising playfulness that you get in the Porsche and Range Rover.

Otherwise, the GLE 63 is perfectly easy to drive smoothly in normal everyday situations, and while there’s lots of road noise, it’s quiet enough that refinement isn’t going to bother you.

What might bother is the ride comfort. The AMG comes on adaptive air suspension as standard, and while softest Comfort mode cushions big bumps quite effectively, it’ll still thunk quite harshly over mid-corner intrusions and scruffier surfaces. Still, even the occasionally jarring, even firmer Sport mode is unlikely to put off anybody keen on a full-on sports SUV like this, and the GLE is settled enough that, while you’ll be fully aware of potholes, it’s not harsh enough to irritate.

What’s the 2015 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe like inside?

This halo version of the GLE Coupe feels suitably lavish inside, from the Nappa leather seats through to the lovely Alcantara-clad steering wheel, large colour screen and Harmon Kardon sound system. It reeks of expensive materials and finish - as well it should, given the price.

It’s comfortable, too, thanks to the supportive seats, which get full electric adjustment and memory function for both driver and passenger. We'd prefer a simpler interface for the infotainment system, which can be controlled via rotary dial or touch pad, and has some illogical menu layouts that make it fiddly to use. Familiarity will certainly improve matters, but the Merc's system just isn't as intuitive to use as the BMW's.

Inevitably, the coupe-like styling of this GLE has resulted in compromised rear visibility. The narrow, high rear window gives a letterbox-like view out to the back, and leaves a big blind spot to the rear three-quarters, so you’ll be making regular use of the standard reversing camera and parking sensors.

Those in the back might find that the rear seats feel a bit dark, but the seats are set quite low so leave enough leg and headroom even for tall adults, and they’re even heated as standard. The middle passenger will find the firm, raised seat cushion a bit uncomfortable, but you can get three adults in the back easily if you need to.

The boot is big, and while you'll have to heft big items over a high load lip, the 60/40 split rear seats drop to leave a smooth load bay that’ll do most of the heavy carrying duties you’d expect of a 5.0-metre long SUV.

Should I buy one?

It’s a tricky one. The engine in this car is full of shock and awe, but it’s a shame that the handling feels a little flat-footed compared to some of its rivals.

Also, while the price is not unreasonable, most buyers are going to want to add a few key missing items, such as keyless entry (keyless start is standard), for which you have to pay an extra Β£3295, as it’s part of a pack that includes ventilated seats and a 360-degree camera. Similarly, the AMG sports exhausts that every GLE 63 S buyer should get, costs a further Β£1195.

Our money would go on the more thrilling, if slightly slower Range Rover Sport SVR, but the GLE does promise to be a little easier to live with, while still delivering plenty of muscle-car like entertainment. If that sounds up your street, you should certainly consider it.

What Car? says...

Rivals:

BMW X6 M

Range Rover Sport SVR

Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe 4MATIC

Engine size 5.5-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol

Price from Β£96,555

Power 577bhp

Torque 561lb ft

0-62mph 4.2 seconds

Top speed 155mph (limited)

Fuel economy 23.7mpg

CO2 278g/km