by Roger Biermann
The AMG GLE 43 SUV is a high-performance version of Mercedes' popular SUV, sitting below the even more potent GLE 63. In 43 guise, the GLE delivers 385 horsepower from a 3.0-liter biturbo V6 and is capable of reaching 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Along with 20-inch AMG wheels, an AMG sport suspension, and 4Matic all-wheel-drive, this rapid SUV both looks the part and is a sharper driving tool than non-AMG GLEs - without the exorbitant price tag and uncompromising fury that is the V8-engined 63. You also get a premium and spacious cabin crammed with enough features to keep most happy. Competition is stiff, however, with the newer and much-improved BMW X5 now matching or surpassing the GLE in several aspects that matter to buyers in this segment, although the BMW doesn't have a direct power/price equivalent to the GLE 43. The same can also be said of the Audi Q7. As a performance SUV that is fun to drive and has a sky-high feel-good factor - but isn't as excessive as a 63 - the GLE 43 is a fine choice.
The AMG GLE 43 continues into 2019 with no equipment changes.
There's nothing too unexpected about the GLE 43's exterior, with no changes from last year and a shape that has become a familiar sight. Still, it's got presence thanks to AMG tweaks like the 20-inch five-spoke wheels with black accents and large front air intakes. LED daytime running lights, LED taillamps, a power sunroof, and a power liftgate are standard features.
The GLE 43 is 189.6 inches long (with a 114.8-inch wheelbase), 69.3 inches in height, and 84.3 inches wide including the side mirrors. Fold the mirrors, and width drops to 76.2 inches. While taller than the BMW X5, the Bimmer is both longer and wider. Curb weight for the GLE 43 is around 4,987 pounds, making it 216 lbs lighter than the GLE 63. Ground clearance with maximum load is 7.2 inches. Although far from puny, the GLE feels just about maneuverable enough for the daily commute.
An unchanged color palette of nine is available, with Black and Polar White being the standard shades. You can then pay $720 extra for one of five metallic shades: Brilliant Blue, Iridium Silver, Luna Blue, Obsidian Black, and Selenite Gray. Finally, two exclusive designo colors are also available: Cardinal Red Metallic at $1,080 and Diamond White Metallic at $1,515. While the extra-cost options are appealing, there's something stealthy and desirable about an AMG in plain black.
At 5.6 seconds to 60 mph, the GLE 43 provides as much performance as you can reasonably make use of in regular driving environments. The 3.0-liter V6's 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque are sent to all four wheels via Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. If this were the fastest GLE, its acceleration off the line may be considered only average, but of course, there's still the GLE 63 higher up. It's a bit off the pace of the X5, however, with even the cheaper X5 xDrive40i posting a faster 0-60 mph time, according to BMW. Otherwise, the GLE 43 will leave drivers with little to complain about - this is still an SUV with the ability to embarrass some really powerful sedans off the line.
The GLE 43's AMG-enhanced biturbo V6 displaces 3.0-liters and has outputs of 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. Take-offs are smooth and accompanied by a nice V6 beat, and highway passing is never really an issue when you've got almost 400 hp underfoot. Accompanying the strong V6 is a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission with shift paddles. It's a smooth operator most of the time but can hesitate when gentler throttle applications are executed. Nine ratios also seem like overkill at times, with the transmission sometimes changing gears excessively, such as when making your way up inclines. None of these aspects truly spoil the positive impression, but BMW's eight-speeder is still the superior self-shifter. Besides, if the transmission ever does get on your nerves, simply plant your right foot and the wave of power will ensure that all is forgiven.
The firmed-up GLE 43's sport suspension may make the AMG feel more involving than the GLE 400, but the price to pay for this is a harder ride. Sport+ mode is much too unyielding most of the time, and even in Comfort, the GLE 43 is happier at higher speeds and on smoother roads, with smaller bumps transmitting thumps through the otherwise well-insulated cabin. It's not intolerable, but it could prove tiresome. High-speed highway cruises are better, where the GLE 43 feels stable and solid, with comfy seats making covering longer distances quite a pleasure.
A reasonably responsive steering system and increased weighting in the sportier driving modes combine to make for a pretty entertaining SUV when you want it to be, but overall body control still falls some way short of a Porsche Cayenne. Some wind noise is noticeable, but tire roar is kept in check. All in all, it feels like Mercedes wasn't quite certain of how much sport to dial into this diluted AMG 43, with the SUV neither as sharp as the best of the competition nor as comfortable as its cheaper siblings. It's by no means a bad effort, though.
The GLE 43's EPA-rated estimates work out to 17/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined, equating to a mixed cruising range of around 467 miles on a tankful of premium unleaded gas. It's way better than the GLE 63's combined 15 mpg, but BMW's X5 range is more efficient: the xDrive40i returns a combined 22 mpg, and even the burly V8-engined xDrive50i returns identical consumption figures to the less powerful, smaller-displacement GLE 43.
Like most other Mercedes models, the GLE 43 has a luxuriously appointed cabin. There's plenty of space for five occupants and lots of attractive metallic touches and soft-touch materials. The MB-Tex upholstery is durable and high-quality, getting really close to the feel of genuine leather. The driver's seat offers ample power-adjustment, and once you find your desired seating position, it's easy to save it using the standard memory function. The majority of controls are sensibly placed, although the tacked-on infotainment display looks dated compared to Mercedes' more integrated screens in newer models. The same goes for the sometimes fussy COMAND interface's user-friendliness. Overall, though, this is a great place to spend time in and the GLE cabin has no serious flaws.
The GLE 43 seats five passengers and there's plenty of legroom and headroom in all five seats. The driving position is commanding and comfortable, and the view out is clear, with blind-spot assist helping to spot traffic when executing a lane change. The rear seats have enough room for people over six-feet tall, and even three adults will be quite comfortable back there - only a slightly firmer center seat detracts from the positive impression. Thanks to sizable door apertures, ingress and egress are simple both front and rear.
A tasteful selection of interior colors and materials are available. As standard, seats are upholstered in MB-Tex, while leather is a $1,620 option and Nappa leather seats cost $2,990. Color choices and combinations are Black, Black Pearl/Black, Espresso Brown, Saddle Brown/Black, Crystal Gray/Black, Ginger Beige/Black, Ginger Beige/Espresso Brown, Porcelain/Black, and Espresso Brown/Black.
Aluminum or Eucalyptus wood trim is standard, but you can upgrade to other wood trims or carbon-fiber trim at an extra cost. You can also get the upper dash and door trim in topstitched MB-Tex, which looks particularly smart. Brushed-aluminum pedals and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are further touches that leave no doubt that you're piloting a luxury SUV.
Behind the GLE's second row of seats is a useful 38.2 cubic feet of space. With the load cover retracted, two large suitcases and two smaller ones can easily be stowed. Folding down the 60/40-split back seats frees up 80.3 cubes of utility space and it's made even more practical thanks to a flat floor and a large trunk opening. A large TV box will fit easily, and there's still more than enough room for a few large and medium-sized boxes on top of it. Floor-mounted tie-downs, a 12-volt power outlet, and a parcel net are further practical touches that make this a really convenient SUV to live with.
Small-item storage in the cabin is a stingier affair, with not much more than a center console and door pockets, typical of what you'd find in a regular sedan.
Positioned below only the GLE 63 and GLE 63 S, the 43 ships with lots of toys as standard. Both front seats are heated, although only the driver gets ten-way power adjustment. There's also power operation of the tilt/sliding sunroof, the tilt/telescoping steering column, and the liftgate. Keeping you cool when the biturbo V6 gets your pulse racing is dual-zone automatic climate control with a dust and pollen filter. Other highlights include keyless-go, a rearview camera, power-folding side mirrors, a garage door opener, and remote start via the Mercedes Me mobile app. Of course, you can load up the GLE 43 to your heart's content with the vast list of options, among them soft-close doors, three-zone climate control, and ventilation for the front seats.
For now, the GLE still uses an older version of the brand's COMAND interface. It's still competitive, although some functions and menus are unnecessarily fussy. A central controller, a touchpad, and several one-touch keys control information displayed on the eight-inch high-resolution screen. Apple CarPlay, although standard, is difficult to use without a touchscreen. Nevertheless, most of the connectivity and entertainment features you'd expect are there, including Android Auto, SiriusXM radio (with a six-month all-access trial), Bluetooth audio streaming, an in-dash CD/DVD player, an SD card reader, HD radio, and COMAND navigation. The premium surround sound system is a 13-speaker Harman Kardon unit with 830 watts of power and it should please most music fans.
The GLE 43 SUV has a J.D. Power rating of 82 out of 100, just behind the Lexus RX and the Porsche Cayenne. There's more good news from the NHTSA, with no recalls of the GLE-class for both 2019 and 2018. The same can't be said for the 2017 model year, when there were seven recalls for the range, although only some of these pertained to the GLE 43. Issues ranged from an unlocked door that appeared locked, to ECU software that could cause the engine to shut down. The 2017 model year also has the most complaints on file, especially for the electrical system.
The GLE 43 is covered by Mercedes' new-vehicle limited warranty for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. The same mileage/duration applies to the corrosion perforation warranty, powertrain warranty, and roadside assistance.
The 2019 GLE-Class was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the agency's top award recognizing exemplary safety standards in new vehicles. There's just one caveat, however, as the award only applies to GLE models fitted with the optional front crash prevention system and specific headlights. The NHTSA has not tested the GLE.
The GLE's impressive crash-safety record has a lot to do with the many standard active and passive safety features. The GLE 43 gets nine airbags, a rearview camera, LED daytime running lamps, an electronic stability program, tire pressure monitoring, and the brand's innovative Pre-Safe accident detection system as standard. Driver aids encompass attention assist to alert of drowsiness, trailer stability assist, crosswind assist, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist. There is a myriad of options to transform your GLE 43 into one of the most advanced semi-autonomous vehicles on the market - take your pick from active steering assist, active distance assist, active parking assist, and a lot more.
For Mercedes-Benz SUV fans, the AMG GLE 43 will be like being let loose in a candy store with all your favorite things within easy reach. Powerful engine and commanding driving position? Check. A litany of shiny AMG badges, blinged-up wheels, and enough space for the family? They're all there. A rather brittle ride aside, this thing rarely puts a foot wrong. But what if that candy store isn't quite enough and you actually wanted a candy-manufacturing island? What if you really wanted to sink your teeth into the ultimate: the AMG GLE 63? Well, our advice would be to absolutely avoid test-driving the 63 if its $100k+ price tag is out of reach because you're likely to hunger after that hypnotic V8 long after experiencing it for the first time. Plus, most of us are riddled with guilt following a giant sugar overload, anyway. The thing is, in all measurable aspects, the $34,900 cheaper GLE 43 simply makes more sense. You don't need more SUV than this as Mercedes has dialed just enough excitement into the 43 to let you have fun, but it's also docile enough for day to day activities. The Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 are tasty adversaries, but they don't take away from the GLE 43 being one super sweet performance SUV.
There's only one GLE 43 to choose from and it carries an MSRP of $68,150 - this is well over $30k below the asking price of the GLE 63 and you're still getting a fast, sporty, and capable AMG SUV. The price excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination fee of $995. If the AMG GLE 43 is a little too pricey for you, the 362-hp GLE 450 goes for $7,000 less.
Unlike the GLE 63 (which also offers a more manic 'S' variant), there's just one GLE 43 SUV. An AMG-enhanced 3.0-liter biturbo V6 engine puts out 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission, an adaptive damping system and 4Matic all-wheel-drive are standard.
The GLE 43's greater performance capability is on full display with more aggressive exterior detailing. 20-inch AMG wheels, a deep front bumper with large air intakes, a twin-power-dome hood, and four chrome tailpipes set the scene. A luxuriously-appointed cabin seats five passengers in plenty of comfort, with a power driver's seat, MB-Tex upholstery, dual-zone climate control, a 13-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and special AMG instrumentation all part of the package. You also get a power tilt-and-slide sunroof and power-folding side mirrors. Mercedes fits driver aids like blind-spot assist and attention assist as standard, and by delving into the options list, the big AMG will take over even more driving duties for you in an impressive display of semi-autonomous technology.
|AMG GLE 43 4MATIC SUV||
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
With so much room between the GLE 43 and GLE 63 price-wise, you can have a good go at Mercedes' options list and still drive out of the showroom with a big overall saving. For more luxury and tech, the Premium 2 Package costs $2,290 - its additions include active LED headlamps, multi-color interior ambient lighting, heated and cooled front cup holders, and adaptive high-beam assist. The pricier Premium 3 Package goes for $5,180 and includes all of the Premium 2's features plus several high-tech driver aids like an active parking assistant and Distronic active distance assist. If you're more comfortable on the open road but less so in confined city spaces, the $1,290 Parking Assistance Package will make life easier with active parking assist and a surround-view system. An AMG Night Package adds jet black accents to the grille and front/rear apron trim.
Standalone options are vast, ranging from a rather tacky illuminated front grille Mercedes star at $500 to the $4,550 Bang and Olufsen premium sound system with 14 speakers. Other appealing extras are ventilated front seats ($570) and multi-contour front seats with massage function ($1,100). If you'll often have passengers at the back, heated rear seats ($580) and tri-zone climate control ($760) are worthy add-ons.
As you're already scaling the heights of the Mercedes-Benz SUV range with the GLE 43, you may as well add on a few extras to turn a special ride into something even more desirable. We'd spec ours with the $5,180 Premium 3 Package as this adds some genuinely useful driver aids and added conveniences that simply make the SUV more enjoyable. No SUV at this level should be without power front seats, so we'd add a power front passenger seat with memory for $365. Metallic paint is an extra $720, and all in, you're looking at $74,415 - far from pocket change, but well below the GLE 63.
The differences between the GLE 43 and its bigger brother are clear: the 63 is not only significantly more powerful, but carries a much higher price tag, too. Where the 43 starts at $68,150, the 63 is a whopping $103,050 before options. Of course, the full-fat AMG has a mighty 5.5-liter biturbo V8 with 550 horsepower (a full 165 hp more than the 43) and gets to 60 mph in only 4.2 seconds. It also does so by making a sound that will thrill any gear head. The 63 also gets an active parking assistant, a surround-view system, active LED headlamps, and exclusive Nappa leather upholstery as standard. Smartly, Mercedes has positioned these two AMGs far enough from one another so that the 43 doesn't feel like it's stepping on the 63's toes. The downside, of course, is that the 43 always feels like something you had to settle for. It really shouldn't, though, because it is a hugely accomplished SUV in its own right.
Different body styles they may be, but both the X6 and the GLE are high-performance SUVs for the well-heeled. Both are also due to be replaced by all-new models for the 2020 model year, but they've aged well enough to merit further consideration. Price-wise, the X6 xDrive35i is the GLE 43's closest match, coming in at under $3,000 less than the Mercedes. Both have turbocharged six-pots, but the X6's unit is down on horsepower at 300 - it's still enough for a 5.8-second run to 60 mph, just two-tenths of a second off the GLE's pace. The X6 is also the more emotive machine, with its sloping roofline contrasting with the more traditional GLE's SUV form. The price to pay for this extra style is a compromised cabin - the GLE has much more space for rear passengers and 11.6 cubic feet of extra trunk space. Despite the X6 feeling like the sportier of the two, it's the more compromised SUV overall so we'd go for the Mercedes in this match-up.