Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class VS Mercedes-Benz G-Class
- In-line six engine
- Grand interior
- High-tech features
- Three-year warranty
- Good ride and handling finally
- Not as roomy as you'd think
- Smallish cargo capacity
Not so long ago, even the idea of 'coupe SUV' would have been considered just a little bit silly.
But not anymore. This almost contradictory bodystyle is well and truly here to stay, as evidenced by the expanding catalog of available models pouring out of premium automakers.
Benz tells us, for example, that coupe versions make up some 25 per cent of its GLE sales in Australia.
Which brings us to this car – the second-generation GLE coupe. We were sent to its international launch to find out what’s new, what’s changed, and what Benz has in store for the Australian market, come its arrival in Q3 of 2020. Read on to find out what we discovered.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Just like smoking, base jumping and shooting rounds off in a firing range the Mercedes-AMG G63 really shouldn’t be allowed… but dammit it’s fun. Super capable over tough terrain and a bullet on the road this top-ranking G-Wagon is the rock star of the AMG line-up.
Now, you may think this new-generation G63 looks just like the old one, but it’s completely new and fun and expensive and ridiculous.
We piloted the G63 for the first time on Australian roads at its launch. So, what’s this tall, imposing SUV like to drive? Is the cabin as spacious as it may appear from the outside? And yes, it’s fast in a straight line, but what happens when you get to a corner?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Whether you like Coupe SUVs or not is an entirely subjective matter, but there’s no denying the GLE 53 is a tech and spec showcase – some of the best Mercedes has to offer. If you can get past its relatively enormous dimensions and naturally compromised visibility – it’s even a hoot to drive.
The significant proportion of GLE consumers who are picking one of these over the regular version will be pleased with its many improvements. We’ll know more about how its price and specification lines up against primary rivals closer to its Australian launch date, so stay tuned.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The Mercedes-AMG G63 shouldn't exist, but I'm glad it does. The previous generation was loud and fast, but had its flaws with poor ride and handling. This new gen G63 now rides comfortably and handles like a hero, while staying fast, loud and fun.
Is the G63 the ultimate SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings, Benz had it planned from the beginning.
It looks mean, especially the 53 with its giant toothy grille. The stance is low and wide for an SUV, and I’m especially a fan of the much more resolved rear end.
It’s less bulbous and frumpy, more slick and menacing, rounded out nicely by the flick of a lip spoiler jutting out the rear.
You might think proportionally, the very idea of a coupe SUV is silly, and there’s no denying that, but then, you and I might not be the target audience.
That audience is someone looking for an avant-garde take on what a sports car actually looks like. They will be pleased – I’d say its even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8. The incoming Coupe version of the Porsche Cayenne will be a real challenger.
The presence the GLE Coupe exudes extends to the inside, where there’s plenty of Mercedes wow factor. Level what you might at the brand’s use of silver fittings and flat dual-screen set-up, there’s no denying Benz offers an interior entirely unlike its competition.
The GLE has one of the best of the recent Benz interiors, too. I love the way the big dual-screen set-up is framed in a 'leather'-clad bay of vents.
I also like the real wood trim on our test car which runs across the dash and flows into the doors, and of course the wholly unnecessary vent-overload (becoming a Benz signature) pride of place in the centre of the dash.
It’s complemented by the tape-deck style silver switches for the climate controls which protrudes underneath.
The materials are great, with Artico trim running down the centre console, and across each doorcard. Almost every surface you’ll reasonably come into contact with is soft, and the commitment to real metals and wood is admirable.
Other highlights include the comfortable seats (with heating which extends into the armrests!) and AMG wheel which is flashy and aggressive, well suited to such a gratuitous vehicle.
You know something looks interesting when people can't agree on whether it’s attractive or not. The CarsGuide office is divided on the new G63’s appearance with most saying it’s hot, but with a couple violently opposed to its looks.
Not that the new G63 looks different from the previous model, but that’s intentional. Mercedes-AMG knew the boxy personnel carrier-like shape was a massive part of this SUV’s appeal. The look has barely changed in 40 years. You could go back to the year 1979, push somebody into a time machine and when they fell out in the present day the first thing they’d say is: “Oh look, a G-Class”.
Despite the appearance that nothing has changed, almost everything has. The new G63 is longer, wider and taller than before at 4873mm end-to-end, 1984mm across, and 1966mm in height.
I’m 191cm tall and there aren’t many cars that I can’t stand beside and see over. Fortunately, if I even needed to wash the roof, I could hand off the side steps, which come standard and are as functional as they are good looking.
Also coming standard are the LED running lights which ring the outside of the headlight like a futuristic lining on an old-school design, so too are the LED tail-lights. The 'Panamericana' grille with its hat-tip to racing Benzes from the 1950s is also new part of standard kit. So is the tough looking side exhaust with two pipes poking out under the pronounced running boards on either side.
Our test car was fitted with the 'Night Package' which darkens the brake lights and adds the black treatment to the spare wheel cover, the bumper and mirrors. The pack also swaps the standard 21-inch wheels for 22 AMG cross-spoke matt black rims.
The G63’s interior has also been completely overhauled and updated with a dash featuring two 12.3-inch screens, which almost look like one giant widescreen display for nav and instrument cluster. The 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package box had been ticked on our test car and that brings diamond quilted nappa leather upholstery (ours was red) everywhere.
While it’s a sumptuous, luxurious, decadent cabin it’s impossible to ignore how vertical and upright the structure of the interior is – the windscreen, the dashboard, the doors - and then you spot the giant grab hold handle mounted on the glove box and you’re reminded that you’re actually in a hardcore off-roader.
The G63 is built on a ladder-frame chassis. Again, intentional. Yes, it’s the same as the Flintstones used in their car, but it adds immense rigidity, making it a mountain-eating monster on tough terrain.
Naturally, the entire idea of shaving a solid bit of roof off of an SUV is going to compromise the amount of ‘practicality’ you get from such a large footprint.
Those compromises are not only there, but they are quite obvious. The sheer height of the GLE makes peering over the edge of the bonnet difficult for parking, and the sloped roofline causes the A-pillar to eat quite a bit of your field of vision.
As you might imagine, it’s genuinely difficult to see much out of the back of the GLE Coupe. I caught myself continually adjusting the rear vision mirror – as though somehow it would grant me more vision out of the letterbox rear window.
While front passengers get away with plenty of room, rear passengers are a little harder done by. This is again, largely due to the roof pillar, which eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel.
Thankfully, legroom is fantastic (largely due to that massive GLE platform), the trim is all just as good as it is in the front seats, and the back of the centre console gets its own set of climate controls, adjustable air vents and USB-C power outlets.
I’d hardly say there’s an abundance of bottle holders for occupants, but there are a few. They aren’t big or packaged in ideal locations, but you’ll be able to get away with four 300ml containers in the front and four in the rear.
The boot has been re-worked from the GLE Coupe’s predecessor, there’s five extra litres on tap, for a total of 655 litres (VDA) – so it’s far from useless, but still down significantly from the full size GLE which has a massive 825L of space.
Benz has made the boot more useful, too, lowering the sill by 60mm for easier access.
The G63 may not be as spacious as you think it is. While the ceiling is high, legroom can feel a bit restricted in the front and the back.
Riding shotgun I needed to have my front seat brought back almost to its limit so my legs didn’t feel cramped in the footwell. And while, at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my driving position with room to spare – it’s really thanks to the carved-out driver’s seat back.
There’s a 12-volt power outlet in the front, second row and cargo area, while there are two USB ports in the centre console bin and a charging USB port in the second row.
That centre console bin is enormous and the rest of the storage places are great through the cabin with large door pockets and cupholders in the front and second rows.
Price and features
There’s no dancing around the fact that the GLE Coupe is a niche, gratuitous product, targeted at a well-off consumer.
We don’t know what the pricing will be for the Australian range yet – and we won’t for a few months. But what we do know is Mercedes-Benz will only bring two highly specified variants to our market for the launch.
Those two will be the AMG-tuned GLE 53 which we were able to test at the launch, and a slightly lesser specified GLE 450.
Expect tall pricing, north of the wagon bodied GLE 450 ($111,341) for the 450 Coupe and outgoing GLE 43 Coupe ($145,829) for the GLE 53 Coupe.
Standard features, as with the rest of the second-generation GLE range will be pretty good. We don’t know exactly what Australian-specified vehicles will get, but the GLE 53 as tested in Europe came with an extensive list of items.
You can expect all variants to get 20- to 22-inch alloys, electric tailgates, LED headlights, and Benz’ signature ‘Artico’ faux leather interior trim. The 53 also had a swish fully RGB adjustable interior ambient lighting suite and real wood in the dash. Very nice.
All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX (I’m told it’s said “em bee you ex”, not “em bucks”) digital dash and multimedia suite, consisting of two 12.3-inch screens, one a digital dash, the other a multimedia screen.
The flashy setup also supports Apple CarPlay and Android auto as well as the usual connectivity via Bluetooth and packs several USB C outlets alongside Aux and USB 2.0. Our test 53 had a head-up display, too.
Mercedes’ built-in assistant (summoned by uttering 'Hey Mercedes') has perhaps the best native voice recognition on the market in terms of its accuracy and what it can do.
You can do things like adjust air conditioning, open the sunroof shade (oh yes, the GLE comes with a panoramic sunroof, too), and even find your specific music tracks via internet radio.
Then there’s the built in nav suite which is also one of the better ones on the market, featuring some very cool innovations.
The system will switch to the forward-facing camera when approaching an intersection and show you where to exit using augmented reality. Neat.
The 53’s system is also uniquely adjustable with AMG-specific themes and modes for the dash cluster, setting it apart from the lesser GLE 450 when it arrives.
It’s safe to assume there will be an extensive options list, including the 'E-Active Body Control' system (a $13,000 option on the wagon version) which uses cameras to detect road quality and optimize the air suspension system to suit. It also leans into corners. We’re keen to test it when it becomes available on the GLE 450.
The new G63 lists for $247,700, before on road costs, which is about $12K more than the previous model, but you’re gaining a completely new SUV with improvements in the form of two 12.3-inch screens for your instrument cluster and media, there’s the Burmester 590w 15-speaker stereo, automatic parking, AMG sports exhaust, proximity key, nappa leather interior, sat nav, TV tuner, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, heated front seats and 21-inch alloy wheels.
The Edition 1 G63 will costs you another $19,500 on top of the list price but includes the 'Night Package' which brings the black elements along with the 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package and an interior which adds carbon-fibre trim.
Engine & trans
Australia will only get one engine in the GLE Coupe – a 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol.
There will be two states of tune. The 450 will be able to make use of 270kW/500Nm, while the AMG-spec GLE 53 we were able to drive at the launch has more power still (thanks to extra hybrid augmentation on the turbo) for a total of 320kW/520Nm.
For a quick comparison, the single-variant Q8 produces 250kW/500Nm from a twin-turbo V6, while the equivalent X6 – the M40i packs a 3.0-litre twin-turbo in-line six to make 250kW/450Nm.
The GLE 53 has a nine-speed auto transmission which is specially tuned by AMG to go with the expanded list of available drive modes. All Australian GLE Coupes will be all-wheel drive via a permanently active '4Matic+' system.
New engine, more grunt. Gone is the old 5.5-litre V8 turbo and in is the new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (the same engine used in the Mercedes-AMG GT) with stacks more torque and the same power, at a whopping 430kW and colossal 850Nm.
How fast is the new G63? First, can I point out it weighs 2.5 tonnes, so take that into consideration. Second, it can nail 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. That is incredible.
Shifting gears seamlessly is a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The G63 is four-wheel drive and has three 100 per cent differential locks and low-range gearing.
The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the GLE 53 Coupe is 9.3L/100km, and while that’s not bad for something this heavy – keep in mind it’s an NEDC figure and not the widely-used WLTP figure so it could be a bit different by the time the GLE Coupe launches here.
Regardless, the fuel consumption is helped along by the abundance of ratios in the transmission and 48-volt mild-hybrid additions which help to remove inefficiencies from the drivetrain.
Our sweet but brief drive route in the Austrian Alps was not a fair reflection of fuel consumption, so we don’t have a real-world figure for you yet.
Expect the GLE 53 to require premium 98 RON unleaded petrol to fill its 65-litre fuel tank.
Oh, come on, you don’t want to know this… skip to the next section.
You’re still here. Okay then, it’s 13.1L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads. That’s under ideal conditions, too. Our car was going through premium unleaded at about 16.0L/100km. Good thing is you have a 100-litre fuel tank.
The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun, if chunky, unit to drive.
Acceleration is urgent thanks to the pre-spooled first-stage turbo, and the transmission flicks through the gears like there’s nothing to it.
It’s perhaps not as 'smart' on the downshifts as competitor transmissions from Audi or Porsche, although Mercedes was keen to point out this will get better over time as the car’s computer 'learns' your driving characteristics.
Thankfully though, unless you’re in 'Eco' mode, the GLE 53 does a great job of letting you ride each gear out, giving you that signature in-line six sensation of an entire revolution range of relatively even torque distribution – a characteristic which Mercedes has gone to pains to perfect on a turbocharged engine.
This has the result of letting you bask in the sound for precious extra seconds.
While not as furious as preceding V8s – it is distinct. It’s refined and rich, although more subdued than you might have come to expect from vehicles wearing the Affalterbach badge.
I’m a fan. It’s an engine befitting a more refined sports machine than a garish statement.
The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners, while soaking up bumps (which we’ll admit, there were few of on Austria’s immaculate roads).
It was interesting to read colleague Matt Campbell found the standard suspension less than impressive on the regular SUV-shaped variants, so we’ll see what the more basic set-up on the 450 is like at the Coupe’s launch.
I have no complaints about the steering, which proved to be responsive, smooth and accurate, while not erring too far on the heavy side, even in 'Sport' or 'Sport+' mode.
My main complaints lie with outward visibility and the sheer size of the GLE’s body. There were some nerve-wracking moments piloting it at speed around narrow streets with tall snow embankments encroaching.
And no matter how much I adjusted my seat and mirrors, the view out the back was particularly compromised.
Have you ever driven a G-Class before? Nope, well then have you ever ridden an elephant, then? Passed time hanging out on the roof of your house just drinking beer? Sat on somebody shoulder’s in a game of swimming pool volleyball?
Okay, well you feel very high up and the bonnet stretches out before you like the hood of Mack truck, and that’s when you realise those weird-looking indicators on the guards double as signposts letting you know where the edges are.
But even then, it doesn’t feel big to drive, even the cabin feels a bit tight up front.
What it does feel is fast. Very fast. Dab the accelerator and the nose rises up and you better be pointing in the direction you want to go, because hold the pedal down and the G63 will yank you down the road at warp speed.
Acceleration isn’t supercar brutal by any means, but how it gets there is roaring through that side exhaust like a Viking running into battle, after waking up on the wrong side of the bed. With the windows down its deafening, but in good way.
Complaints about the old G63 centred around steering, ride and handling or more specifically the absence of those three things. In this new generation G63 those pain points have been addressed by replacing articulating ball steering with electric power steer, swapping the live front axle for independent front suspension and revising the chassis rails.
Now, the G63 can go around corners – incredibly well. Our test track was Victoria's Great Ocean Road, and if we were in any other large SUV, they would have been fishing us out of Bass Strait.
Steering is now accurate and progressive; the front end feels pointable and light.
Comfort drive mode is too comfortable for me, giving the ride a wafty bounce. Sport mode firms the dampers for good handling but keeps the ride comfortable, which adding weight to the steering. Sport Plus firms the adaptive dampers further and combines great cornering without an unbearable ride.
The G63 isn’t a vicious animal unlike some big grunt sports cars, but you have to keep reminding yourself you can’t drive it like one. Not because it will bite you, but because it’s 2.0-metre tall, 2.5-tonne metal box. A hilariously fun one.
We don’t know exactly how Australian cars will be specified yet, but expect the two GLE Coupes to come with flagship active features like high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear and front cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree parking sensors and cameras, fully auto LED headlights, semi-autonomous parking, and driver attention alert.
The GLE has nine airbags and dual ISOFIX child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats.
Regular wagon bodied GLE class vehicles have maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings as of 2019, and we’ll update you when we hear more about the Coupe variants.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Obviously, there’s a full-sized spare wheel. Don’t make me point it out.
Mercedes continues with its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which is frustratingly standard across European premium car manufacturers in Australia– particularly its primary competitors, Audi and BMW. We doubt this will change any time soon.
Like VW Group competitors, though, Mercedes is now bundling in service costs in packages which can be tacked on to finance. The GLE requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km – we’ll update you on the cost of the packages closer to the Coupe’s local launch.