“We have done a lot of development work to give it a unique AMG feel,” says Steffen Nowack, before leaning up against the front fender of the new Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4Matic Coupe.
The head of SUV development at Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance car division is clearly proud of what he and his team of engineers have achieved with what initially will be the most sporting of the new range of second-generation GLE Coupe models. “We’ve drawn on a lot of experience going right back to our first real performance SUV, the ML55 AMG,” he adds.
Nowack isn’t so much referring to the new GLE 53 Coupe’s drivetrain – a mild hybrid unit originally launched in the CLS 53 that combines a turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol and 48V start motor developing a combined 429bhp and 384lb ft. Instead, he’s talking about its chassis, which he reveals has been heavily reworked as part of efforts to ensure all new AMG models are more differentiated from their standard siblings than in the past.
We’re at the top of a Romanian mountain, and the heat sink from the prototype we’ve just experienced on one of the most epic roads you’ll find anywhere pings loudly as we discuss the finer points of the new AMG model’s handling.
Following its unveiling at the recent Frankfurt motor show, the technical specification of the GLE53 Coupe is now well known. As is its performance potential, with Mercedes-AMG claiming a 0-62mph time of 5.3sec and limited top speed of 155mph. They’re impressive figures, no doubt. But what Nowack is keen to show us is just how much work has been concentrated in making it what he describes as AMG’s best handling SUV yet.
With clenched fists he’s making circular gestations about the directness of the steering. “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s the best steering I’ve been involved with,” he says.
Our very first run in the GLE53 Coupe was brief, but if our experience in the passenger seat of the early pre-production prototype on unfamiliar Romanian roads is any indication it should make its mark in what is developing into quite a market for sporting SUVs. Still, it will need to be at the top of its game to match the competition, which includes the new BMW X6 M50i, Jaguar F-pace SVR and Porsche Cayenne S Coupe. On that note, it will be intriguing to see which one come out on top.