Gas is cheap, and the auto industry is booming again. We’re back to 2006 numbers for the first time since Wall Street pulled off the biggest pyramid scheme in history. One of the biggest beneficiaries of this return to bubble-inducing growth spurts? The SUV. But what if you want to sell SUVs to people who might want SUVs but don’t really want SUVs that look like SUVs? You build SUV-like objects in as many flavors as possible.
I recently spent a day wheeling the GLE450 AMG Sport version on and around the famed 11-mile, 300-plus-turn Tail of the Dragon. While I can’t in good conscience say I loved it, I can see why people would.
It’s not especially efficient at 17/23 mpg city/highway, but it’s quick. Top speed is 155 mph, 0-60 mph comes in 5.6 seconds, and its torque plateau of 384 lb-ft is available from 1,800 to 4,000 rpm. But there is one other number that leaps off the stat sheet: the GLE’s 4,894-pound curb weight. Despite the best efforts of AMG engineers to mitigate its heft with a 40/60 front/rear 4Matic torque bias, Airmatic adaptive damping, and active roll stabilization, it can’t escape being big, heavy, and sluggish in spots. It’s a crossover in the end.
Like the other German ur-Coupe-UV, the BMW X6, it’s an answer to a question no one asked. Instead, it’s a marketing decision designed to fractalize the booming sales of “trucks” — crossovers and SUVs in luxury speak. The more models you can build the more incremental sales you add. The decision fits perfectly with both the new Mercedes-Benz philosophy for itself and for its image of what AMG Sport should be.
Mercedes-Benz USA chief Steve Cannon put it in even plainer terms, telling dealers to “treat [AMG] like a Porsche franchise” inside their Mercedes-Benz dealerships. And that, in a nutshell, explains the GLE.
No, Porsche hasn’t built a rather large coupe-crossover (yet), but it has been expanding its army of sports cars off its SUV profits for a decade already. With the Cayenne and now the Macan, Porsche has found a mix that lets it build a business case around the whole brand, including the iconic models that would likely wither and die if left on their own.
Would I recommend the GLE Coupe in AMG Sport guise to a friend? No, not really. But if AMG can finance more cars like the GT S with a few more humpbacked behemoths like the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, hand me the binoculars, and let’s go whale watching.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG 4Matic Coupe Specifications
|Engine:||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/362 hp @ 5,500-6,000 rpm, 384 lb-ft @ 1,800-4,000 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||17/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||192.6 x 67.7 x 78.9 in|
|0-60 MPH:||5.6 sec|
|Top Speed:||155 mph|