A 429-hp turbo hybrid inline-six, new off-road settings, and a wild suspension setup are the highlights of the new Mercedes-AMG GLE53.
Mercedes already builds the regular GLE with three suspension system; this AMG has the fourth.
The GLE53 will make its debut at the Geneva auto show this March but will not go on sale in the U.S. for another year and a half.
Mercedes developed no less than three separate suspension setups for the new mid-size GLE, and because SUV buyers love the illusion of a top-heavy vehicle handling with sports-car precision, Stuttgart has created a fourth just for the newest AMG GLE53.
Like the GLE450, the GLE53 is a hybrid with a 48-volt electrical system powerful enough to run an electric supercharger, all vehicle accessories (there is no engine belt drive), and instantly change the height, spring, and damping settings on each wheel through an insanely complicated setup known as E-Active Body Control. The GLE53 doesn't use that suspension, which can lean into curves and attempts to delete all evidence of body roll, dive, or squat. (You've probably seen clips of a GLE450 dancing at auto shows or hopping itself free from deep sand. That's the one.) AMG instead plucked the GLE's conventional Airmatic air suspension-which is still height adjustable and self-leveling-with firmer springs and stiffer adaptive dampers. The GLE53 lowers itself by 0.6 inch in the Sport and Sport+ driving modes and in Comfort mode above 75 mph.
Then, for the first time in a Mercedes, AMG fitted active anti-roll bars to each axle. Powered by the 48-volt system, these cut the regular anti-roll bars in half and splice them with an electric motor that varies the torsion at each side. That complexity, according to Mercedes, lets the GLE53 balance between serene ride quality and serious road carving. But despite this performance SUV wearing staggered summer tires, AMG added two off-road modes, Trail and Sand, that aren't available on regular GLE models. Getting stuck at the Barney's lot is an embarrassment no GLE53 owner should ever suffer.
The turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, along with an electric supercharger forcing more air without using the engine's power or exhaust gases, hits the same 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque as it does in the AMG E53 and CLS53. An electric motor-generator attached to the nine-speed automatic can send an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft at a moment's notice. It also acts as the starter motor, shuts the engine off during coasting at high speeds, and restarts it without a tremble. We've tested this system in the E53-plus the same powertrain in the GLE450 and CLS450, minus the electric supercharger-and it performs as smoothly and strongly as advertised.
Other modifications include wider 15.7-inch front brakes (0.9-inches over the standard GLE450), a 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system that biases torque to the rear, and multiple stability control thresholds labeled like a racing school. Ask yourself when you grip the flat-bottom steering wheel with the red hash mark: Are you a Pro, or just Basic? If you order the 22-inch wheels and Night package that blacks out all the trim, we can take an educated guess.
As with every AMG, subtlety wins the day. The Panamericana straight-bar grille reappears above more aggressive chin spoilers, the fenders thicken, and the quad-piped exhaust tips (with optional brrrapp-blat-blat sounds) flank a faux venturi splitter. More faux leather and suede line the inside with red stitching. Real leather and carbon fiber trim are optional. The driver can choose an AMG layout for the standard digital instrument panel that places a G-meter in the center (only Pros should take it to the meter's 1.5-g max) and record up to 80 data points while driving, which the MBUX infotainment system can then display as if you were Lewis Hamilton pulling into pit lane. That optional feature, called AMG Track Pace, is the product of Mercedes engineers with too much money left in the development budget. Activate the GLE53's official fragrance, known as AMG#63, if you want to smell like a pro without driving like one. An actual GLE63 with the venerable twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 will follow.
Expect the GLE53 to retail a couple grand higher than the 2019 GLE43 when it appears in late 2020-yes, that long from now-likely north of $72,000. That's not too much money for a traveling magic show.
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