Reviews and opinion
Jaco Van Der Merwe
In the ongoing model ping-pong between BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the latter took the inside lane on its fierce fellow German carmaker this week.
Over the last few months, BMW has been making headway with its potent SUV offerings. But this week, in a move akin to a master poker player, Mercedes responded by saying: “I’ll see you and I’ll raise you.”
The three-pointed star has not only counterpunched BMW’s array of X M Competitions models, but also went ahead on the scorecards by virtue of the AMG GLS 63.
As a full-blown M version of its rival in the BMW stable, the X7, hasn’t materialised yet, the seven-seat large SUV offers will be AMG’s trump card for the moment. That is not counting the very unique G-Wagon in G 63 guise, a car not typically styled in Merc SUV fashion, but which acts as the figure head of the G family nonetheless.
Mercedes’ current crop of AMG SUVs has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the late 1990s. The very first Merc SUV bearing the Affalterbach moniker was the ML 55, whose 255kW/510Nm 5.4-litre V8 engine helped it get from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.7 sec. Compared to the times clocked by even today’s lesser AMG SUVs, that number makes the ML 55 seem like an ox wagon.
Here is a short break down of the five models that Mercedes-AMG launched this week. Be sure to stay tuned for more detailed high performance road tests and driving impressions of the lot over the coming weeks.
Weighing in at a hefty 2 630 kg, the GLS is actually heavier than the 2 560 kg in G63 guise. But believe it or not, it’s faster.
Both are powered by the same 4.0-litre biturbo V8 engine, but where the G63 outputs 430kW/850Nm, the GLS 63’s powerplant generates 450kW/850Nm. In addition, the integrated EQ Boost starter-alternator fitted to the latter is able to generate an extra 16 kW, upping its total power output to 466 kW.
This is sent via AMG Speedshift TCT 9G transmission to all four wheels made possible by AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive with fully variable torque distribution. The end result is a stupendous claimed 0 to 100 km/h sprint time of 4.2 sec, which is 0.3 sec quicker than the G63’s claimed time.
And the AMG engineers have ensured this brute can brake as hard as it accelerates by means of an advanced high-performance braking system.
This impressive system uses 400 x 38 mm internally ventilated and perforated integral brake disks in front and 370 v 32 mm internally ventilated integral brake disks at the rear. And over and above all of this raw testosterone, what Mercedes refers to as the “S-Class” of SUVs is one luxurious and tech-laden seven-seater cruise ship featuring every creature comfort you can ever desire in a car.
And if parading around in a base spec R3-million monstrosity isn’t enough, you can further rub it in by ordering your GLS 63 with old-school Merc monoblock 23-inch rims. With a choice of two colours too, black for R70k and chrome for R82k. The tough choices rich people have to make…
R3 154 000
Equipped with similar hardware to the GLS 63, but weighing in at 210 kg lighter, the GLE 63 S poses a huge threat to BMW’s X5 Competition on paper.
The X5 Competition in February became the fastest SUV The Citizen has ever tested when it knocked the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S off its perch in a time of 3.83sec, only three hundreds of a second off BMW’s claimed time of 3.8 sec.
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S
Now Mercedes claims that the GLE 63 S can get to 100km/h from a standstill in a similar time of 3.8 sec and we can’t wait to take this beast to Gerotek for Road Test Editor Mark Jones to put pedal to the medal. It’s top speed in standard spec is limited to 250 km/h and goes up to 280 km/h with optional AMG Drivers Package.
If you prefer a more sporty looking alternative to the traditional SUV-styled GLE 63 S, then the GLE 63 S Coupe – a direct rival to BMW’s X6 M Competition – should be to your liking. The Coupe is visibly more athletic than its sibling being 63 mm lower and featuring a slanting roofline at the back and unique rear styling.
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé
The two do share identical hardware, with the differences mostly by means of dimension. The Coupe is 25 kg heavier and its boot space of 655-litres is 25 more litres than its sibling.
Similar to the BMW line-up that is only offered in X5 Competition, the GLE 63s are only available in S guise. According to Mercedes, its due to costumer demand that they’ll only offer the S derivates.
GLE 63 S – R2 885 000
GLE 63 S Coupe – R2 948 000
Mercedes-AMG GLE 53
If you didn’t get all the Lotto numbers right or is still awaiting final pay out of a juicy tender contract, then there are more affordable AMG models out there.
These “lesser” siblings are powered by a 3.0-litre, turbocharged, six-cylinder in-line engine featuring an electric auxiliary compressor. It produces 320 kW of power and 520 Nm of torque with an additional 16kW/250Nm available through the EQ Boost starter generator, feeds the 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The power is sent to all four wheels trough the 9G ‘box.
Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupé
Mercedes claims that both GLE 53 models will reach 100 km/h from a standstill in 5.3 sec. For the record, that is a full second slower than BMW claims its rivals, the X5 and X6 M50i, complete the sprint in.
Although these AMG models have less grunt under the bonnet than its more expensive siblings, their interiors match them every inch of the way. The plush cabin offers everything from black Nappa leather with red contrasting topstitching to display concept MBUX. Not bad at all for something that is not quite first prize.
GLE 53 – R1 837 000
GLE 53 Coupe – R1 925 000