Opinionated at any speed

Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63 S Coupe 

Fri, 10/01/2021 - 9:15pm

“Whoa—it’s like a fighter plane in here!” said one of my neighbors. Well, it’s like that behind the wheel, too. AMG is Mercedes-Benz’s tuner division, the skunkworks where mad scientists take ordinary high-performance Mercs and turn them into extraordinary higher-performance Mercs. This one, for example, is armed with a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged and electrically boosted V-8 that can churn out 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque.

There was a time, especially in the early days of emissions regulations, when this much power was undreamed of, and anyway would have been almost uncontrollable by most of us. But technology made the beast and technology tamed the beast. Your grandmother could roll down to the bingo hall in this wonder wagon and then, with the push of a few buttons to alter its personality, Lewis Hamilton could fling it around a Formula One track at a hair-raising pace—while singing along to “Nessun dorma” on the Burmester Surround Sound stereo. 

The job of transmitting all that energy to the wheels falls to a razor-sharp yet creamy-smooth 9-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive—plus active engine mounts (to counter all that torque), active ride-control suspension with roll stabilization, a limited-slip center differential and multiple driver-selectable operating modes. All this tech is electronic, and it has all been breathed upon by AMG’s performance-focused engineers. The actual “interface” between power and pavement is a set of steamroller tires on 22-inch forged alloy wheels backed up by racecar brakes the size of pizza pans. 

Even Germany’s autobahnen are now so choked with traffic that most stretches are speed-limited, so I’m not sure where this car’s 174-MPH top speed could ever be realized for more than a few possibly terrifying seconds. But it is so civilized that we can deeply appreciate it even at 65 miles per hour. For instance, it has the best, most clued-in adaptive cruise control I’ve experienced, backed up by a lane-centering system so accurate and unobtrusive that I rarely switched it off.  

In any case, after scrolling through the long lists of this vehicle’s systems and features, and experiencing its comforts, conveniences, performance levels and evident quality, it might be easier to list what it doesn’t have. For me personally, it doesn’t have an environmental conscience. Eighteen miles per gallon is not bad for a machine with this much motor—a decade ago, it might have gotten half that—but it’s hardly a bellwether for carbon-emissions reduction, either. 

Two comments on this: First, at just under $140,000, we won’t see many of these in circulation anyway; their impact on global warming will be numerically irrelevant (and meanwhile it proclaims M-B’s engineering prowess). And second, like all carmakers, Mercedes-Benz is now rolling out the first of what will be a fleet of clean-running battery-electric vehicles. And look, a story just landed in my In box about the first plug-in hybrid AMG! 

But wait. It’s called the GT 63 S E Performance sedan . . . and it puts out 831 horsepower! AMG is using electricity to provide more oomph, not more range. There’s no mention of fuel efficiency, either, and it will cost about 200 grand! So the paragraph above still applies. 

Silvio Calabi has been reviewing cars since Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels from the White House. He lives in Camden.