Everything about the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 is big.
It’s a physically large car with a lot of presence, enormous power reserves, surprising dynamic ability and an eye-watering price tag.
Originally introduced as the M-Class crossover in the late 1990s, the GLE-class is now Benz’ best-selling large car. The standard GLE has a sensible four-cylinder engine. Yours for $107,100 plus on-road costs — about $117,000 drive-away — it’s a popular family wagon for families loyal to the three-pointed star.
This high-performance version more than doubles its ask to $220,600 plus on-roads, or about $237,000 drive-away.
That’s steep until you consider its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 more than doubles the standard car’s power. The monstrous motor serves up 450kW/850Nm peaks to deliver a 3.8-second dash to 100km/h.
That makes it quicker than many purebred performance cars — at least in a straight line. It hauls out of corners in a way no car this size should, barrelling down the road with a hearty V8 soundtrack trailing in its wake.
The new model benefits from 16kW/250Nm of hybrid assistance to deliver smooth and rapid responses before the twin-scroll turbos spool up, and its clever nine-speed automatic transmission always seems to find the right gear — particularly if you choose a driving mode to match your mood.
Cylinder deactivation tech allows the big wagon to save fuel by operating as a 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor under light loads, contributing to 12.4L/100km claimed economy.
The range-topping AMG machine also benefits from adaptive air suspension with a self-levelling function matched to its 3.5-tonne tow capacity. Electric engine mounts keep that huge engine from sending shocks through the car’s body, active roll bars resist body roll when cornering and four-wheel-drive with a clever rear diff gets the power to the ground in impressive fashion.
Towering 21-inch wheels house oversized brakes and fat tyres.
Well-bolstered sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with shift paddles and nifty digital buttons with tiny LCD screens encourage you to live out Lewis Hamilton fantasies when there’s no one else on board, while four-zone climate control paired with heated and cooled seats (matched by heated and cooled cup holders, naturally) deliver the sort of luxury people expect from a big-dollar Benz.
Drivers are spoiled by a glorious colour head-up display, customisable 12.3-inch digital dash and huge central 12.3-inch infotainment system. You get smartphone mirroring, wireless charging and satnav.
Naturally, Mercedes’ full suite of driver aids is standard. It also has a lap timer, G-force meter, 13-speaker Burmester stereo and soft-close doors.
Surprisingly quiet and refined around town, the GLE 63 has superior ride comfort to cheaper models that miss out on sophisticated air suspension.
Unfortunately, packing an enormous car with this much tech results in a 2.6-tonne weight that represents a fair whack more than rivals such as the BMW X5M or Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Corners arrive quickly in the GLE 63, which gets the job done by way of brute force — huge brakes and tyres — rather than real finesse. A coupe-bodied version trades practicality for athleticism for an extra $5000.
Either way, hustling the big AMG along quiet roads elicits giggles from the driver’s seat.
It’s genuinely rapid between bends and controls its weight admirably when you aim for an apex.
The GLE delivers the sort of guilty pleasure you might find in an enormous pub parmigiana overlapping both sides of a dinner plate — you know this isn’t a sensible choice for your lifespan or the environment.
But sometimes it’s good to go big.
Big on character, equipment and performance, the GLE 63 ticks lots of boxes for fast SUV fans.
MERCEDES-AMG GLE 63 S VITALS
Price: From $220,600 plus on-road costs
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo, 450kW/850Nm
Warranty/servicing: 5-year/unlimited km, $4550 over 5 years
Safety: 9 airbags, auto braking, active cruise, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert
Spare: Inflator kit
Cargo: 630 litres