The newly introduced Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 looks the performance part. It also retails for R800 000 less than the madcap GLE 63. But is it just a branding exercise or does it have some real AMG DNA in its make-up?
In the 2003 blockbuster film The Italian Job, a remake of an old classic starring Michael Caine, Jason Statham plays the role of Handsome Rob, a professional driver who specialises in getting the rest of his misfit crew out of tight situations, be it from the law or outlaws. So Handsome Rob likes his fast cars. And he needs them, too. Which begs the question: if Handsome Rob had to choose between the 430kW Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, or the 270kW Mercedes-AMG GLE 43, which one would he go for?
If he had limitless funds, he’d obviously go for the 63 S. But if Handsome Rob and his crew were operating in the current South Africa, where budgets are, well, slightly tight, then maybe the 43 would not be such a bad idea. Let’s look at the big Benz’s performance credentials: the twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine delivers 270kW of power and 520Nm of torque (peaking at 2 000r/min). Mercedes claims it will sprint from 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds and the top speed is limited to 250km/h. The 63 S, for the record, is said to need just 4.2 seconds to complete the dash from standstill to 100km/h, while top speed is limited to 250km/h. That’s a difference of less than 1.5 seconds… not so much when you’re being chased by a South African Police Service Hardbody bakkie.
But numbers are numbers. What about the drive? Does it have that sharp, sporty AMG feel, or is it just another very fast SUV? On the 1 700km drive between Johannesburg and Cape Town, it certainly proved to be pretty fast. And in the corners it added some AMG spice to the deal, with good, solid handling. The air suspension system can be adjusted between various settings, with the ‘Sport Plus’ setting being the most dynamic. In this setting the Benz really does get more dynamic if you start pressing on in the corners.The power is permanently transferred to all four wheels via Merc’s 4MATIC drive system (with a 60/40 split between the rear and front axles), as well as nine-speed automatic gearbox. There are also paddles to swap gears behind the beautifully crafted AMG steering wheel but, with nine ratios, managing the gears is better left to the computer. The massive 265/40 R21 tyres, stretched thin over beautiful AMG rims, provided excellent grip in the corners. However, the thin layer of rubber between the rims and the road surface proved an issue with a cut tyre on a rocky dirt road the result. So this Benz, like most high performance vehicles, is maybe not so well suited to dirt roads.
The spacious cabin is absolutely sumptuous, and decked out in high-end leather and top finishes. Of course, there are plenty of obligatory AMG detailing, too. Is the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 a worthy sibling to the madcap 63 S? We reckon it is, yes. For around R800 000 less, the 43 still provides rapid AMG performance, with all the style and prestige of the AMG badge to boot. Ultimately, the 43 is not as dramatic or as engaging as its bigger brother… but we reckon Handsome Rob wouldn’t mind too much at all. Even drivers like Rob who need to race through congested cities and whatnot need to make sensible choices these days.
Open-road rating 8 out of 10.
The good Fast and a bit furious.
The gad Low-profile tyres don’t like gravel, lacks some AMG drama and occasion.
Specifications – Mercedes-Amg Gle 43
Engine 3.0-Litre Twin-Turbo V6
Power 270kw @ 5 500r/Min
Torque 520nm @ 2 000r/Min
Transmission Nine-Speed Automatic
4wd System Mercedes 4matic
Fuel Tank 95 Litres
Fuel Consumption 11.7 Litres Per 100km (Claimed)
Tyre Size 265/40 R21
Spare Yes (Emergency Space Saver)
Luggage Space Not Stated
Price R1 215 706