by Adam Lynton
Leading Mercedes' coupe-SUV range is the fire-breathing, intimidating AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. It's the CEO that takes no prisoners. But if you'd rather not have your head bitten off, there's this: the decidedly less ruthless AMG GLE 43 Coupe. Like the pioneering BMW X6, the GLE coupe is a more expensive, less practical version of the more traditional SUV with which it shares its mechanicals. So, why consider the GLE 43 Coupe over its bossy big brother? Well, it costs over $40,000 less than the GLE 63 S Coupe, while putting out a stout 385 horsepower from an AMG-enhanced 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbo. At 5.6 seconds to 60 mph, do you really need more performance than this? For those who don't, the GLE 43 Coupe still accelerates with venom and handles better than you'd believe it should. The coupe-like shape will also garner more stares than the GLE SUV. As mentioned, the BMW X6 is a strong competitor, although the xDrive50i is a little too powerful to rival the GLE 43 and not quite powerful enough to rival the GLE 63. However, the X6 is on the verge of being replaced by an all-new model. Like any good senior manager, the capable GLE 43 Coupe commands respect and knows how to get the job done without resorting to excessive theatrics. If that sounds like your kind of person, this could be your kind of car.
Mercedes-AMG believes it is on to a winning formula with the GLE Coupe, and as such, the range - including the 43 Coupe - continues into 2019 with no equipment or mechanical changes.
It's here where the GLE 43 Coupe aims to distance itself from its boxier GLE sibling. There's definitely no mistaking the two, with the dramatically sloping roofline ensuring that the 43 Coupe stands out wherever it goes. AMG touches are everywhere, with 21-inch wheels, active LED headlamps, gloss black trim, and a twin power-dome hood all being standard. There's also enough mesh on the 43's aggressive face to build a fence around a small school.
A tad shorter than its BMW X6 arch-rival, the GLE 43 Coupe is still a chunky thing to behold. Length is 192.6 inches (with a 114.8-inch wheelbase), width is 83.8 inches including the mirrors, and height is 67.7 inches. Weighing in at a considerable 4,960 pounds, the 43 is still 120 lbs lighter than the admittedly more powerful X6 xDrive50i. Not that most owners will be tackling any serious off-road obstacles in a shiny GLE, but the coupe's ground clearance is 7.8 inches - a bit less than you get with an X6.
At some point, AMGs had become so intertwined with angry V8 power plants that the lower tier of this performance brand - identifiable by the '43' moniker - initially seemed a bit disappointing with their V6 engines. This outlook would be doing the GLE 43 Coupe's engine an injustice because the 3.0-liter bi-turbo still puts out thoroughly decent numbers: 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque is far from weedy. It's paired with an AMG-enhanced 9G-Tronic automatic transmission with various modes delivering either buttery smooth or quickfire gearshifts. The transmission's only flaw is a tendency to hesitate when pulling away from a stop - it gets better once you're up to speed.
Acceleration is rapid, with 0-60 mph coming up in 5.6 seconds, positioning the GLE 43 right between the X6 xDrive35i and the V8-powered xDrive50i. All-wheel-drive is standard and makes for loads of grip and smooth getaways from a standing start. Unless you've driven the GLE 63 Coupe first, the 43 feels like just the right amount of power and control. Passing power is excellent, with a gentle prod of the throttle all that's needed to pass slower traffic.
The GLE 43 Coupe rides on AMG's AIRMATIC sport suspension. All-wheel-drive is standard, as is an adaptive damping system allowing you to choose between different driving modes, from Comfort to Sport+. Where the GLE 63 Coupe is harder-edged and tuned more for ultimate cornering capability, it doesn't ride as well as the GLE 43 Coupe. The baby AMG manages to provide a really comfortable drive for a machine with such obvious sporting intentions, and only really sharp bumps manage to upset its composure.
It holds its own in the corners, too. There's good body control and the steering system offers pleasant weighting that's neither too light nor unnecessarily heavy. Changes in direction are dealt with confidently, even if there is more body lean than in a BMW X6 or Porsche Cayenne. Wind and road noise are also kept at bay, and the GLE 43 is an accomplished long-distance cruiser. If the GLE 63 is just a bit too boisterous for daily driving, the softer 43 could fit the bill.
The GLE 43 Coupe makes another solid case for itself over the 63 in the fuel economy stakes. The 43's EPA-rated estimates work out to 17/22/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. On a 24-gallon tankful of premium unleaded gasoline, the 43 should manage a combined cruising range of 456 miles - or nearly 100 miles more per tank than the V8-engined 63. The BMW X6 range is more efficient, however, with the 302-hp xDrive35i returning a combined 20 mpg and the 445-hp xDrive50i,19 mpg.
The GLE 43 Coupe seats five passengers, and all will appreciate the MB-Tex upholstery - it may not be genuine leather, but the material is supple and feels suitably premium. The first sign of the coupe's reduced practicality is when you are getting into the back, with the door apertures not being the biggest. There's also quite a big step up when getting inside. Legroom is good all-round, but the headroom at the back is restricted due to the sloping roofline, and people over six-feet tall will likely feel claustrophobic. The driver will have less to complain about as the seat is comfortable and, along with the steering column, there is more than enough adjustability. Rearward visibility is impeded by a narrow glasshouse and thick rear pillars, so the rearview camera becomes essential. Overall, considering its generous proportions, the GLE 43 Coupe pays the price for its style-conscious design and is noticeably less accommodating than the GLE SUV.
The GLE Coupe also suffers from reduced cargo capacity alongside the regular GLE. Where the more traditional SUV has a full 38.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, the GLE Coupe's capacity drops to just 23 cubes. There are many compact SUVs that provide more cargo room than this. Still, a couple of suitcases will fit, although you'll need to hoist them over quite a large load lip. While the cargo area has plenty of depth, it's not particularly tall, so some items will need to lie flat. By folding down the rear seats, a more substantial 60.7 cubes of space is freed up, although this is still well short of the 80.3 cubic feet you get in the regular GLE.
Storage space for small items is also lacking for a large SUV. While there are door pockets and a center console, overall it falls short of what you would expect in a mid-size SUV.
Sitting just below the fully specified 63 Coupe, the 43 Coupe ships with lots of standard amenities. There are, however, one or two items that are options but really shouldn't be. For instance, while the driver gets a ten-way powered seat, power-adjustment for the front passenger is only optional. Both seats get heating. Other equipment highlights are dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, keyless go, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a garage door opener, heated and power-folding side mirrors, a power glass sunroof, a rearview camera and keyless start. On the options list are soft-close doors, the aforementioned power passenger seat with memory, three-zone climate control, massaging seats, and a heated steering wheel.
For now, the GLE Coupe still uses Mercedes' older COMAND infotainment system. Once cutting edge, the system now feels a tad outdated, especially compared to the brand's own new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) interface. The system comprises an eight-inch high-resolution color screen, a controller knob, and a touchpad. The system works fairly well, but we do miss a touchscreen for controlling features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Also standard is an HD radio receiver, dual USB ports, SiriusXM radio with a six-month all-access trial, Bluetooth audio streaming, and COMAND navigation. Navigation map updates are also free for three years. Fitted as standard is a 13-speaker Harman Kardon LOGIC7 sound system with 830 watts of punch. It sounds great and you can enjoy your favorite music and films thanks to an in-dash CD/DVD player and an SD card reader. In-car Wi-Fi, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a 1,400-watt Bang and Olufsen sound system are optional extras.
The GLE 43 Coupe holds an excellent J.D. Power rating of 88 out of 100, but such are the standards in this segment that the Lexus RX and Porsche Cayenne rank even more highly. Still, the GLE's score indicates that this is a well-built and dependable luxury SUV. It's also been a clean two years for the GLE Coupe, with no recalls issued by the NHTSA for 2018 and 2019 model years. However, 2017 was a less rosy affair, with seven recalls affecting the GLE Coupe, although not all of these pertained to the GLE 43. In one case, a rear door that appeared locked could, in fact, be unlocked, increasing the risk of it being unintentionally opened. Another issue involved an ECU software malfunction which could result in the engine shutting down. Increasing the risk of injury during a crash, some vehicles' center consoles were found to fly open in a crash which could eject objects stored inside them. Incorrect deactivation of the front passenger airbag was another recall. Thankfully, it appears matters have improved since 2017.
The GLE 43 Coupe is covered by the brand's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.
The GLE Coupe hasn't been tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, but promisingly, the 2019 GLE SUV was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, the agency's top rating for safety. The rating does, however, only apply to models fitted with the optional front crash prevention and specific headlights, but these results bode well for the GLE 43 Coupe's performance in a crash.
Standard safety gear for the GLE 43 encompasses nine airbags, a rearview camera, an electronic stability program, and LED daytime running lamps and tail lamps. An array of driver-assist safety features are included as standard: active brake assist, attention assist, trailer stability assist, crosswind assist, blind-spot assist, Mercedes' pre-safe system, and lane-keeping assist are all standard. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive braking technology, and a tire pressure monitoring system round out a comprehensive list. Optionally, buyers can also add on active steering assist and an active parking assistant.
One feels that Mercedes-AMG's 43-tier of performance cars came about because even AMG engineers must have looked at the titanic power figures and performance statistics of the top-line 63 models and said: "hang on a minute - we may have gone overboard here. We might need to tone things down a bit". That's exactly what the GLE 43 Coupe is - a toned-down version of the GLE 63 Coupe. You still get a sportier, faster and more flamboyant SUV than lesser GLE Coupes, but without the almost overwhelming power and no-compromise dynamics of the 63. The 43 is more delicate and more comfortable, but still delivers strong performance when you floor it. We could point out the reduced rear headroom and the smaller cargo capacity relative to the GLE, but most buyers of the GLE Coupe will hardly care. This coupe-SUV is about turning heads and then looking down upon those turned heads from a loftier driving position. Together with a typically Mercedes high-quality cabin, assured handling, and many of the most advanced safety features available, it's a compelling package. If you want your coupe-SUV to offer an even sportier feel, you may want to take a look at the BMW X6 or hold out a bit longer for the all-new X6. But as things stand now, the GLE 43 Coupe somehow makes sense within a niche that never really did.
The GLE 43 Coupe carries an MSRP of $71,350, over $40,000 less than the fire-breathing GLE 63 S Coupe. There's just one trim available, but plenty of options can quickly see the price balloon. For instance, the AMG Performance Studio Package with enhanced styling costs $3,300, a Bang and Olufsen premium sound system costs $4,550, and a rear-seat entertainment system will set you back $1,950.
The base MSRP excludes options, tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $995.
|AMG GLE 43 4MATIC Coupe||
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
You don't get to choose trims with the GLE 43 Coupe, as only one is available. However, with the price differential between this and the GLE 63 S Coupe, you can add $10,000 worth of options and still drive away at a significant overall saving. We'd start off by adding the AMG Performance Studio Package to ours, with eye-catching 21-inch wheels part of the upgrades. AMG carbon-fiber interior trim adds another $1,750 but gives the cabin a welcome sporty lift. Finally, we'd add the Premium 3 Package at $2,250 which packs in an array of seriously impressive driver aids, among them active parking assist which automatically steers the giant GLE Coupe into a parking bay for you. All in, you're looking at a price of $78,650.
At over $40,000 more expensive than the GLE 43 Coupe, the GLE 63 Coupe adds 2.5-liters, two cylinders, and an extra 192 horsepower to the GLE Coupe recipe - enough to sprint to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. It's not only about pure numbers, however, because the 63's V8 dominates proceedings and never lets you forget about the power available under your right foot. It's an altogether more violent, sweaty-palmed experience and for many, that will be worth the extra outlay. The 63 also gets a bump up in standard specification, with a power-adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, Nappa leather upholstery, and bigger 22-inch AMG cross-spoke wheels all included. The 63's Active Curve System features variable front and rear stabilizer bars, another tweak that makes the 63 the more intense and focused driving tool. If it isn't too much of a stretch, the 63 is the more exciting machine, but it isn't quite as balanced and approachable as the 43.
The BMW X6 started all of this, of course. BMW's so-called SAC (Sports Activity Coupe) spawned the coupe-SUV segment, and the X6 today remains as in-your-face and weirdly appealing as the first generation. Due to be replaced soon, the current X6 remains the GLE Coupe's closest foe. Most closely competing with the GLE 43 Coupe is the X6 xDrive50i - the BMW's 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 has 445 horsepower and out-muscles the GLE 43 by racing to 60 mph in only 4.7 seconds. It's nearly $7,000 more expensive, though, so you may want to take a look at the cheaper xDrive35i which manages the same sprint in 5.8 seconds. The BMW provides the more involving driving experience and does a better job of masking its considerable heft, while its eight-speed automatic transmission is one of the best in the business. The iDrive infotainment system is also more intuitive than the GLE's COMAND interface. Otherwise, splitting these two is a tough job and considering the emphasis on styling in this niche segment, your preference for one or the other will likely sway your decision.