A blatant me-too that proves it’s not copycatting if you improve the breed
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also a safe money grab. If you’re a car company and one of your competitors strikes gold with a niche product, you fill that niche in your own lineup. This author recently called the Ram Rebel “a blatant me-too” on account of it basically being a Ford F-150 Raptor rip-off without the substance. You might also look at the Mercedes-Benz GLE coupe as a blatant me-too. You should. It’s an obvious copy of the BMW X6.
But how far back should you look? The BMW X5 on which the X6 is based came to market two years after the Mercedes-Benz M-class (which recently was renamed the GLE), on which this “coupe” version is based. Was the X5 a rip-off? And if you trace automotive history all the way back to its roots, all cars and trucks are variations on the theme pioneered by Karl Benz and his Patent Motorwagen. So who’s really the copycat here?
And who cares if the chicken or the egg came first, so long as both are delicious? With 577 horsepower, the GLE63 S AMG coupe here certainly is a delectable scone, one that also happens to look like a scone. We still pine for AMG’s old 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V-8, but just like that engine, the twin-turbo 5.5-liter that replaced it makes us swoon no matter what it’s propelling. Even breathing through turbos, it idles with a grumpy whuppitywhuppitywhup that turns into a gnarly Woodward roar under full throttle.
Of Monsters and Miatas
The V-8 makes up to 664 lb-ft of torque in other applications but in the GLE is limited to, um, “just” 561. Perhaps Mercedes thought that zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds was quick enough for a four-wheel-drive SUV. We would agree, if we didn’t know the X6 M was quicker by two-tenths. But that’s still really damn quick, and the GLE’s 12.5-second quarter-mile means you can dispatch wimpy Ford Mustang GTs with impunity, the all-wheel-drive system ensuring unwavering repeatability. And the GLE AMG handles and stops with equally shocking aplomb. Its enormous Continental ContiSportContact tires measuring 285/40-22 are as wide as the rear rubber on a Corvette. But those are what the Mercedes wears up front. Out back, it has 325/35-22s so big we laughed out loud the first time we saw them. That might be the most combined surface area for the tires of anything we’ve ever tested, and on the skidpad, it means 0.95 g and a startling willingness to rotate. Stopping from 70 mph takes 159 feet, just one foot longer than the last Miata we tested.
And that’s the last comparison we’ll make between this 5397-pounder and the Miata, because the GLE corners too flat to make any more. And in spite of the ginormous rubber and heroic handling, the ride is appropriately Mercedes plush. Despite its cropped roofline, the GLE has sufficient headroom front and rear for 95th-percentile adults, which is more than we can say for its only obvious competitor, the X6. But carbon-fiber trim and white stitching constantly remind occupants that this AMG is more than “just” a Benz.
It’s also more than just a GLE coupe—a lot more. Currently available only in AMG and AMG lite trims, the GLE coupe starts at R1.1Million for a GLE450 AMG with the 362-hp twin-turbo V-6. The full-bore AMG model tested here starts at $R1.7Million. But with the R30 000 Driver Assistance package for roughly 15-second stints of blissful freeway autonomy, R20 000 for massaging front seats, another R20000 for heated rears (plus three-zone climate control), R10 000 for the fabulous sport exhaust, R8000 for heated and cooled cup holders, and a few additional nickels and dimes, this example came to R1.8Million.
That might seem like a borderline absurd amount of money, but keep in mind it’s for a beyond-the-borderline absurd vehicle. That Mercedes is merely following in BMW’s footsteps doesn’t really make the GLE coupe any less ridiculous. Nor does it make it any less good. If you’re going to blatantly rip-off someone else’s idea, then at least do it better. Then you’re not merely copying them; you’re advancing the breed.
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 100 Km/h : 3.9 sec
Zero to 160 Km/h : 9.8 sec
Zero to 208 Km/h : 18.3
ENGINE TYPE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection