Another alphabet soup crossover from Merc

Mercedes’ mid-size luxury SUV, the GLE-Class, started life in 1997 as the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The five-door crossover received two generational updates since its initial debut, the first of which was issued in 2005. The third gen arrived in 2011, and four years later, Mercedes gave it a facelift, revealing the update in January at the North American International Auto Show. With the facelift came a name change, with the M-Class badge retired in favor of GLE-Class, per Mercedes’ revamped naming strategy. Now, for the 2017 model year, Mercedes is replacing the GLE400 and GLE450 AMG with the new AMG GLE43. Essentially the same five-passenger performance SUV as the outgoing GLE450 AMG, the AMG GLE43 is framed as a stylish, high-tech, relatively quick SUV, with a dollop of family-oriented practicality and autonomous safety features spread on top.

The AMG GLE43 joins its slightly slimmer sibling, the GLE43 coupe, in Mercedes’ ever-expanding AMG lineup. In case you were unaware, AMG is essentially Mercedes’ in-house tuning division, similar in purpose to BMW’s M division.

For 2017, AMG will be celebrating 50 years of making fast Mercedes vehicles even faster, with plans of offering no less than 34 different AMG-branded models for the new model year. Included in the list is a host or performance SUVs, including the GLE43 featured here.

Traditionally, AMG models are the bad boys of the Mercedes stable, offering barely contained race-inspired dynamics that make you question just how street legal they really are. However, these days, those three little letters are tossed around a little more generously, which begs the question – is this crossover worthy of an AMG badge?

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes-AMG GLE43.

Exterior

As you might expect, the new GLE43 looks quite similar to the outgoing GLE400. In front, we see a comparable fascia, with downturned headlights set with daytime running lights across the top of the housings. Between the headlights is a fine black mesh grille divided by two sets of twin wings that stretch across the horizontal plane.

To my eye, the front end still has that characteristic SUV “boldness,” but presents itself with a little more sportiness than before.

The lower bumper was tweaked a bit, with enlarged intakes and a sharper lower lip the appears to hug the ground a little more tightly. The brushed-metal look skid plate is retained, offsetting the lowest edge of the crossover. Up top, the hood gets the same drawn back character lines as before, suggesting a sinewy, muscle-bound pose.

To my eye, the front end still has that characteristic SUV “boldness,” but presents itself with a little more sportiness than before.

Moving to the flanks, the aesthetic is more or less a carryover. The shoulder line and lower character line lend it a bit of a visual rake, drawing the eye back towards the plumped-up rear fenders. Per SUV tradition, the roofline is flat and straight, unlike its coupe sibling, and the hatch forms hard angles that drop into the rear. The taillights once again wrap around into the fenders using horizontal graphics. Above are brushed metal-look roof rails.

The wheels shown in these press images depict an open five-spoke design, which is similar in appearance to the rollers used on the outgoing GLE models, albeit a bit larger. Sizing looks like it comes in at 20 or 21 inches in diameter.

Speaking of sizing, we expect the AMG GLE43 to have the identical curb weight and dimensions as the GLE400. For reference, we’ve provided that information in the table below.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 114.8 Inches
Overall Length 189.8 Inches
Overall Width 76.8 Inches
Overall Height 73.3 Inches
Curb Weight 4,740 Lbs

Interior

Just like the exterior, the AMG GLE43 is basically the same as the outgoing GLE400 on the inside. In fact, the cabin is even more of a copy/paste than the styling outside. Drivers grip a three-spoke steering wheel with a flat bottom and numerous buttons placed at thumb’s length on the sides. The wheel is wrapped in leather and trimmed in brushed metal. Behind the wheel is a gauge cluster with a left-mounted speedometer and right-mounted tachometer, which sandwich a center-mounted digital driver’s information display. More brushed metal trim is found around the gauges, not to mention the center console and vents, while in the foot well, there are drilled metal pedals with rubber inserts for greater grip.

On its own, the AMG GLE43’s interior doesn’t look too bad. However, once you prop it up against the competition, it starts to look a little… less good.

Mounted high on the dash is an 8-inch color screen. Below the screen is an array of hard buttons and switches that look pretty dated on something for the 2017 model year. On the central tunnel, you’ll find the standard touchpad controller and other infotainment system navigation tools. Other anticipated features include Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, and app support.

Tunes are provided by a standard Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system, but audiophiles can opt into the high-end Bang & Olufsen BeoSound system if desired. The AMG GLE43 also gets the latest lineup of safety and driver-assist tech. See the Safety And Convenience section for more information.

Further features include the standard AMG paddle shifters on the steering column, random AMG trim pieces scattered here and there, and if you’re feeling frisky, optional sports seats. Premium materials pervade throughout, including wood trim and leather upholstery.

On its own, the AMG GLE43’s interior doesn’t look too bad. However, once you prop it up against the competition, it starts to look a little… less good.

Note: From left to right: Mercedes-AMG GLE43, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne

I mean, look at the Porsche. Sure there are copious hard buttons and the layout could use some simplification (okay, a lot of simplification), but the way the central tunnel sits above the seat line gives it a sort of fighter jet cockpit feel. And that’s cool.

Now look at the Bimmer. The dash swoops through the cabin in a futuristic curve, and the various controls are set at an angle to provide maximum benefit to the driver.

Now look at the Mercedes. It looks like something from 2010, but with a slightly bigger screen.

Gripes over the layout aside, you do get some pretty decent kit for your money. A power sunroof and heated front seats come as standard, while extra outlay will land you ventilated front seats with three levels of heating or cooling. There’s also an available heated steering wheel.

As for practicality, the seating arrangement provides for up to five passengers, with two up front (including the driver) and three in back on the rear bench.

As far as space is concerned, the AMG GLE43 offers 80.3 cubic feet of storage with the rear bench fully reclined. Keep the seats up, and that space is cut to 38.2 cubic feet. Both figures best the Merc’s nearest competitors. Loading and unloading is eased thanks to a standard power liftgate.

Mercedes-AMG GLE43 BMW X5 Porsche Cayenne
Cargo Space - Seats up 38.2 cubic feet 35.8 cubic feet 23.6 cubic feet
Cargo Space - Seats down 80.3 cubic feet 76.7 cubic feet 62.9 cubic feet

Drivetrain

Under the hood, you’ll find a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, boasting all-aluminum construction and double overhead cams. The power nerds over at AMG managed to massage this powerplant to produce upwards of 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque – substantially more than the 329 horsepower outfitted to the GLE400, but exactly the same output figures as the AMG GLE450.

Under the hood, you’ll find a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, boasting all-aluminum construction and double overhead cams.

Mercedes has yet to divulge exact performance figures, but the 0-to-60 mph sprint is expected to fall somewhere in the low-five-second range, while top speed should be electronically limited at 155 mph.

Like all AMG 43 models, the GLE43 gets the AMG-tuned 9G Tronic automatic transmission, a nine-speed slush box offered as the SUV’s only gearbox option. Sending the power to the ground is a standard 4Matic AWD system.

Finally, the AMG GLE43 is expected to offer more towing capacity than the GLE400 it replaces, with the outgoing model rated at 7,200 pounds.

Mercedes-AMG GLE43 BMW X5 Porsche Cayenne
Engine 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V-8 3.6 V-6
Horsepower 362 HP 445 HP 420 HP
Torque 384 LB-FT 480 LB-FT 406 LB-FT
Transmission 9G Tronic automatic transmission 8-speed STEPTRONIC Automatic transmission 8-speed Tiptronic S with Auto Start Stop function

Chassis And Handling

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Exterior
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It ain’t easy to make this much mass handle decently, but AMG has a ton of experience doing exactly that. As such, the performance division added its own sport suspension system, larger brakes, and carefully tuned steering, all in the name of defeating physics.

Drivers get to play their part with the AMG Dynamic Select System, which allows for selectable driving modes such as Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Slippery. According to Mercedes, switching between the various modes alters settings for the suspension stiffness, transmission shift points in the engine rev range, throttle mapping, and idle speed.

Safety And Convenience

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Interior
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One of the biggest focuses of the 2017 AMG GLE43 was on the various safety systems.

Mercedes lists a variety of both active and passive features. Standard kit includes Attention Assist (keeps the driver focused while driving), Automatic Braking (applies brakes to avoid collision) and the Pre-Safe system (when an imminent impact is detected, the system will prep by tightening the seat belts, raising the windows, and closing the sunroof, which makes me wonder what happens if you happen to have your arm out the window).

More safety gear can be had with the optional Premium 3 Package, which also throws in the Driver Assistance Package. Features include Distronic Plus with Steering Assist (radar adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous steering input, capable of operating between 0 and 124 mph depending on road conditions), Pre-Safe Brake (autonomously brakes up to 31 mph and lessens the impact of a collision), Pre-Safe Plus (uses rear-facing radar to detect possible rear-end collisions, then preps for a possible secondary collision), BAS Plus with Cross Traffic Assist (uses stereoscopic cameras and rear-facing radar to detect cross-traffic conditions, then uses brake assistance to avoid collisions), Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Protection (keeps you in your lane and warns you if there’s a car adjacent to you when you are about to switch lanes), and Speed Limit Assist (uses a camera to detect speed limit signs, then relays the info into the gauge cluster).

There’s also the mbrace Connect package, which includes a five-year subscription to Mercedes’ Roadside Assistance Connection, plus a remote lock/unlock feature for the doors, remote start, diagnostics data, and remote software updates. Buyers can choose between three levels of mbrace subscription – Secure, Concierge, and Entertain.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet to release safety rating for the 2017 AMG GLE43, but considering last year’s GLE-Class received top marks across the board, it’s safe to assume the 2017 model will post similar results. Check it out for yourself here.

Prices

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Exterior
- image 693922

Mercedes has yet to release any official info on pricing for the AMG GLE43, but we expect a figure somewhere in the $70,000 ballpark. Of course, get a little heavy-handed with the options list, and expect to pay much, much more.

Look for the SUV to make its big public debut sometime early in 2017.

Competition

BMW X5

2019 BMW X5 Exterior Spyshots
- image 662536

Bimmer’s mid-size competitor in this segment is the X5. Go for the top-trim xDrive50i, the last stop before you enter M territory, and you’ll get more power than the Merc thanks to a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, which pumps out 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque through a standard AWD system.

Read the full review BMW X5 here.

Porsche Cayenne S

2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid Exterior
- image 570261

Porsche was the first on the scene to pivot from sports cars to SUVs, and it shows with the well-polished Cayenne. Many trim levels are offered, but the AMG GLE43 looks like it should go head-to-head with the S model. Mounted in the nose of the Porsche crossover is a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, which produces 420 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque through a standard AWD system.

Read the full review here.

Conclusion

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Exterior
- image 693930

I’m quite sure this new model from Merc will do well for iteself. It’s a nice middle-of-the-road offering that pairs all the usual performance SUV trappings (sport mode, quick 0-to-60 mph time, sport suspension, etc.) with all the usual family-oriented stuff (safety, practicality, etc.). It might not be as sporty as the competition, but its still got the goods to not be a complete bore when the traffic clears away.

That said, this thing is a little irksome to me as an enthusiast. To me, slapping an AMG badge on the tail and saying the performance division had a hand in all the hard bits doesn’t necessarily make the GLE43 a bona fide AMG product. Looking at the specs, I’m left with a resounding feeling of “meh.”

But like I said, that doesn’t really matter all that much. The AMG GLE43 still gives off that aura of performance, and for most buyers, that’s enough.

  • Leave it
    • * Outdated interior layout
    • * Not as fast as the competition
    • * Does it really deserve to be an AMG?

Press Release

Mercedes-Benz USA today announced the 2017 AMG GLE43 SUV, the ninth model in its new line of AMG 43 performance vehicles. Replacing the GLE400 by early 2017 as a more performance-oriented variant, the 2017 GLE43 SUV is a companion model to the GLE43 Coupe. The GLE43 SUV features a 362 hp AMG-enhanced 3.0L V6 biturbo powertrain in a roomy five- passenger SUV package.

Beginning as an independent tuner and racer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and now an integral part of Daimler AG, AMG marks its 50th year in 2017 with the widest selection of vehicles in its history. Mercedes-Benz now offers up to 34* AMG models for the 2017 model year, with the nine new AMG43 models positioned between the standard Mercedes-Benz vehicles and the exclusive high-performance "One man, one engine" AMG 45, AMG 63 and AMG 65 versions.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Exterior
- image 693919

"The expansion of the AMG lineup underscores the ongoing demand for performance-oriented vehicles, especially for SUVs," said Branden Coté, AMG Manager. "AMG is well-positioned in the US marketplace due to our nine new AMG 43 vehicles, four of which are performance-oriented SUV models. We will continue to build the AMG brand and portfolio in 2017 with more variants such as the model year 2018 AMG GT R and the GT/GT C Roadsters."

Powered by an AMG-enhanced 3.0L V6 biturbo engine producing 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of peak torque, all AMG 43 models are equipped with the AMG-enhanced 9G- TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission. All models (except the SLC43 Roadster) also feature standard AMG Performance 4MATIC® all-wheel drive as well as AMG- tuned steering, AMG braking system, AMG Sport Suspension and throttle mapping. Distinctive and sporty exterior and unique interior features include paddle shifters and other AMG elements such as optional sport seats and unique trims.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Exterior
- image 693928

The AMG 43 model lineup includes:

AMG SLC43 Roadster (Summer 2016 launch)
AMG GLE43 Coupe (late Summer 2016 launch – replaced GLE450 Coupe)
AMG C43 Sedan (replaced the C450 sedan)
AMG C43 Coupe (launches by early November)
AMG C43 Cabriolet (launches by early November)
AMG GLC43 SUV (late 2016 launch)
AMG E43 Sedan (by early 2017 with 396 hp)
AMG GLE43 SUV (by early 2017)
AMG GLC43 Coupe (by the end of Q1/2017)

Practicality, Luxury and Connectivity

In addition to its athletic abilities, the 2017 AMG GLE43 SUV is a luxurious and practical family vehicle offering the latest in cutting-edge Mercedes-Benz safety and driver-assist technologies. Along with comfortable seating for five, the AMG GLE43 provides 38.2 cu-ft of cargo space behind the rear seats and 80.3 cu-ft with the rear seatbacks lowered, accessed via standard power liftgate.

The GLE43 SUV features an AMG Dynamic Select System that offers driver- selectable Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Slippery modes, which alter suspension stiffness, transmission shift points, throttle mapping and idle speed to fit any condition.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Interior
- image 693942

A power sunroof and heated front seats come standard. Available ventilated front seats offer three levels of heating and cooling, and a heated steering wheel is available. Mercedes-Benz multimedia and connectivity features include COMAND® with intuitive touchpad controller and 8-inch high-resolution color screen. The customer can choose between the standard harman/kardon LOGIC7® sound system and an optional Bang & Olufsen BeoSound™ premium sound system.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 693939

The mbrace® Connect package includes five years of complimentary access to Roadside Assistance Connection, remote door lock/unlock, remote start, diagnostics data and remote update and more. Additionally, customers can choose from three mbrace® subscription upgrade packages: Secure, Concierge and Entertain.

Other features-of-note on the AMG GLE43 include the AMG-tuned suspension and unique wheels.

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