It was fifteen years ago when BMW decided to do the unthinkable. It took what looked like a perfectly functional SUV, lowered its roof to make it appear sporting, sprinkled some upmarket styling on it, and made an incremental change to its name. The SUV in question was the BMW X5, and the resulting Sports Activity Coupe, as BMW liked to call it, was the brand-new BMW X6. It spawned a new category of products, and while this wasn’t the first time an SUV had undergone such treatment, in terms of market success, the X6 led the way. Like all radical new designs, it was mocked to some extent, but the buyer was unfazed by all this. Needless to say, there would’ve been some apprehension, because other carmakers (especially compatriots) took a while before they took the plunge. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, waited for nearly seven years to bring out their X6 rival, and Porsche nearly a decade.

There was no looking back for Mercedes after that, because the GLE Coupe turned out to be more than just a stop-gap solution to this ‘fad’. This year, one of the recent launches by Mercedes-Benz India is a GLE Coupe, but with three revered letters: A, M, and G. We get behind the wheel to find out how far the ‘SUV-Coupe’ body style has come, and more importantly, if the AMG bits help this SUV prioritise a spirited drive over the ability to go anywhere.

Like the first-generation X6, the GLE Coupe looked a bit awkward when it was new. Its large dimensions with a sloping roofline weren’t too easy to digest at first. In its latest iteration, on the other hand, the SUV-Coupe look more appealing, and it has grown to be a bit more purposeful. The handful of AMG elements add to its already athletic if a touch too muscular build. It has 21-inch wheels, which don’t look out of place. The new lights are a welcome addition and add to the freshness of the design. Most importantly, since it’s an AMG, the Panamericana grille is naturally going to be the centre of attention, not because it’s large or awkward, but because it suits the car’s sporting nature perfectly — more so than it does on smaller AMGs. Proving the design’s worth further is the fact that despite there being other SUV-Coupes on the market, the GLE is instantly recognisable — and that’s going to continue, with the slightly updated model that we have on test here.

The cabin is luxurious, as you’d expect from a top-tier Mercedes-Benz, but not one that you’d associate with a sporting AMG

The cabin is luxurious, as you’d expect from a top-tier Mercedes-Benz, but not one that you’d associate with a sporting AMG


The GLE 53’s duality becomes evident as you step inside. The cabin is luxurious, as you’d expect from a top-tier Mercedes-Benz, but not one that you’d associate with a sporting AMG. Two 12.3-inch screens serve as a conjoined infotainment unit and instrument panel. The MBUX infotainment suite is well designed and looks good, but if you aren’t a fan or don’t want to operate the system manually it also comes with the ability to recognise voice commands. Not earth-shattering by any means, but it works well, and that’s what counts. The other highlight of the well-equipped cabin is the pair of sports seats at the front. These prove to be useful by offering the right kind of support, especially during spirited driving. Made with Nappa leather, the seats have AMG embossing and contrast stitching, in line with the rest of the cabin’s aesthetics. Further enhancing the fusion of performance and luxury is the car’s Burmester audio system. With 13 speakers, a powerful amplifier, woofers placed in the shell, and even the availability of Dolby Atmos, it doesn’t just sound good but gets you in the right mood for an engaging drive.

Positioned as a step-up from the standard GLE, but without ruffling the extremely focussed V8-engined model’s feathers, the GLE 53 is the sweet spot. Having said that, this in no way means it lacks in power or handling prowess. It gets a 3-litre, straight-six, turbocharged petrol engine with an integrated starter generator (ISG), the combination of which produces 435 bhp and 57.10 kg-m. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard, and power is sent to all four wheels via a 4MATIC+ system. The abundance of power is felt even with the slightest of taps on the accelerator, and the way it changes character as you switch between drive modes is worth noting. For everyday use, ‘Comfort’ will suffice. While not powerless, it’s relaxed and will cover everything from daily commutes to long highway runs, without jolting the cabin with neck-snapping gearshifts. A grand tourer in its own right, the GLE 53 shines as one, without waking the neighbours up. Switch to ‘Sport’ and it would seem as if someone’s magically added a dollop of drama to this broth. The exhaust note deepens, the throttle response becomes even sharper, the gearbox swifter, and the steering heavier; the sporting side of the GLE 53 comes to the fore. But you wanted more, didn’t you? That’s why ‘Sport+’ exists; use the metallic selector knob on the steering wheel to navigate to it, and get ready to be mesmerised.


To appreciate the extent to which Mercedes-Benz engineers have gone in a bid to defy physics, you need to drive the GLE 53 in Sport+. The stiffened suspension makes the GLE feel less like an SUV, its engine operates at a heightened setting, and the all-wheel drive ensures that there’s optimal grip at all times. The added surge from the mild-hybrid system furthers how vociferously the GLE wants to keep you pinned to the seat. Its cornering abilities can’t be questioned either, with the suspension and chassis easily coping with fairly aggressive driving. Owing to its weight, the GLE 53 might not be the first choice for a track outing, but who knows, it might just surprise there, too.

Who’s going to be driving at ten-tenths, you’d argue, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Even a sporty car like the GLE 53 will have to deal with some everyday stuff, because let’s not forget it’s first and foremost a practical SUV. We are happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to slow-speed motoring. The lack of body roll in the Sport and Sport+ modes gives way to a supple and more composed ride in Comfort. This is also when you begin to appreciate how well it rides, how neatly laid out the dashboard is, with top-drawer materials and high levels of fit and finish, and more importantly, how suitable it is as an everyday car. Exactly what you’d expect to see in a Mercedes-Benz of this calibre.

Priced at ₹1.85 crore, ex-showroom, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 is a complete package in itself; its dual character proves that driving fun doesn’t always need to take the back seat in everyday cars. Of course, it’s not the usual alternative to the S-Class or 7 Series, but for those who want their Sunday morning leisurely cruise as much as their comfortable commute to work all in one car the GLE 53 can be the definitive choice.