REVIEW | Mercedes-AMG GLE 53: The SUV Julius Malema could buy King Dalindyebo

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  • Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG has an engine that will steal your heart.
  • Light on fuel, considering it's a performance powerhouse.
  • Loaded with more luxury and technology than you'll ever need.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

Earlier this week News24 reported AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo had thanked EFF leader Julius Malema for saying he would buy him a brand new car. This car is apparently a "brand-new" Mercedes ML. However, Mercedes-Benz had discontinued the ML model from its local range a few years ago, and replaced it with the GLE SUV.

Wheels24's Pritesh Ruthun recently drove the GLE 53 AMG, and shares this thoughts. 

One look at the Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG is all it takes to know there's more to this vehicle than its well-tailored suit. There's just something about its stance and presence that exudes athleticism, and that's before you even had a chance to check out its (optional) 22-inch alloy wheels.

We spent the weekend with the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG in Gauteng recently. It's the kind of vehicle that fits in well here in Jozi amongst the sea of luxury SUVs we see on the road every day. However, the nice thing about the GLE 53 is that you won't blend in with the crowd; you'll stand out thanks to the boisterous noise this thing makes. But first, let's get the essentials out of the way.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG

Large and purposeful

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG measures 4 937m in length, 2 157mm in width, and stands 1 782mm tall. Ground clearance depended on the mode selected, as the vehicle we tested came with adjustable air ride suspension. There's more than enough height on offer to take a game drive, but we felt terrible putting the car's 22-inch wheels and tyres in the rough stuff. The vehicle is competent, and the wheels are rugged, and the tyres top notch, but they are expensive, and we didn't want to scuff them.

READ | The Mercedes ML that Malema is said to be buying for King Dalindyebo has been discontinued

The ride comfort in our five-seater (you can choose seven seats if you pay more) press car was respectable in Comfort mode if a tad on the firm side for the choppy Johannesburg roads. Dial it into Sport mode, and it becomes a little too taut for our liking. It's not spine-shattering or anything like that, but the ride becomes a bit too hard for everyday use.

If a slightly stiff ride isn't a deal-breaker for you, you'll be pleased to know that the 2021 GLE 53 AMG shines in the handling department. Body control is in line with what the suspension is doing to keep you on the tarmac, and the steering input is light (but not too light) and accurate. The car's grip is plentiful, as we experienced in some rainy weather, and braking performance is outstanding. From the driver's seat, you can see the road ahead clearly, and you have great control over the car thanks to variable 4Matic+ all-wheel drive, and you have this sense of confidence that the vehicle is solid like it's made of one piece of granite.

Do you drive a large V8 performance SUV? Would you consider a six-cylinder in future? Let us know in the comments section or send us an email here.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG

Punch and then some

Powering the 2021 GLE 53 AMG is what many believe to be the future of AMG's halo products where gasoline is concerned. Under the hood beats a straight-six, 3.0-litre petrol engine that's aided by a meaty turbocharger and an electric motor. It also has a boosted starter motor that's able to provide additional power and torque when you activate the kick-down switch with the accelerator pedal. All tallied, you get 336kW of power and 520Nm of torque sent to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission.

On paper, it all sounds too fancy and too high-tech, but on the road, you get so much shunt that it's sometimes challenging to fathom that the GLE 53 AMG weighs 2 305kg. It's a massive tank that's dripping luxury, and yet it's able to gallop from a standstill to 100km/h in just 5.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h. We didn't explore the maximum speed at all, but we can tell you that it's very perky off the line in the city. You're able to pull away and take spaces in traffic confidently, and you know there's oodles of power in reserve.

RoadTrip | Old vs new: Two telling Mercedes-Benz cars celebrate 50 years of Stellenbosch Wine Route

In Sport mode, the car makes some of the most excellent noises you'll hear in any AMG. It's a genuine concert. This rush from the turbo and bark from the exhaust and some pops and crackles on the gear changes add natural charm to the driving experience. I was surprised to see that despite enjoying the accelerator pedal now and then, the vehicle sipped an even 10-litres/100km at the end of our test cycle. Mercedes-Benz claims that it will consume 9.4-litres/100km, and we are happy to have come close to that figure in a real-world test for a change.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG

Built for the tech-savvy user

The GLE is genuinely one of those motor journalism clichés: a technological tour de force. Seriously, from its massive dual-screen instrument cluster to its AI-enabled voice control MBUX system to the deep, deep levels of menus you're able to access through the car's onboard computer, it's just out of this world.

In our brief time with the press unit, we made good use of Apple CarPlay on the massive entertainment screen. It was nice to be able to bring up Waze and Google Maps on the high-res central screen and quickly access the car's built-in system at the quick press of a home button. You can set up multi-colour ambient lighting zones for different moods in the cabin, which Mercedes-Benz fitted to this car, and adjust the electric seats and climate control through the screen.

There are lots of functions to learn with these MBUX systems, and you will have to take some time to learn it properly, but it's an easy to use in-car system that's nice to navigate and fast to load with very little latency.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG

In summary

If you're a powerful business executive on the road all the time and you like to sit up high and have loads of power and torque at your disposal, you are spoiled for choice right now. In this large SUV segment, there are many options from Germany, Japan and even the USA. The GLE shines for us in this segment because it stands resolute as the founding father of this segment, that it kicked off in the late 90s with that original ML we fell in love with in the Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World.

It's a big, bold bruiser of a car that demands you look at it and to drive it's as rewarding as most sports cars. It's nice that it doesn't chow petrol as much as the old school V8 models do, and that's something that's going to become more of a challenge as fuel prices rise.

If you're in the market for a large luxury SUV, we suggest taking the GLE 53 AMG for a twirl to see how it handles, brakes and accommodates. Check out the large trunk and the spacious interior that your family will love.

The attention to detail in how they've stitched the leathers together and built a vehicle that's perhaps one of the most solid and luxurious cars the brand has ever created will make you feel good even though you will have to part with around R1.9 million for the honour of owning one before you throw some optional equipment at it. We look at it this way, in a world where some of these SUVs cost twice as much, the GLE 53 AMG represents a value that's hard to beat for the punch and panache on offer.

All new Mercedes-Benz AMG models sold in South Africa come standard with a five-year or 100 000km Maintenance Plan.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 53 AMG
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