Bears don't look like they can move fast, but then you see one run ...
The Mercedes-Benz GLE AMG midsized vehicle is kind of like that. It's a big galoot -- 5,000 pounds at the curb. And not only does it run; it runs faster than anything less than a new Corvette, a car that's 2,000 pounds lighter and has the disadvantage of looking like it can run. (Ask any traffic cop what that means.) Meanwhile, this Mercedes looks almost innocuous. And that means being able to run under the radar.
What It Is
To get the GLE AMG, start with a two-row, five-passenger Mercedes GLE. Keep its 9.1 inches of ground clearance. Chuck the otherwise-standard 3.5-liter V-6. Replace it with your pick of high-performance engines built by Mercedes' in-house hot-rod shop: a twin-turbo V-6 with 385 horsepower or -- the main course -- a hand-built 5.5-liter V-8 with 550 horsepower.
Of course, this kind of fun has its price.
The AMG GLE 43, the model with the bi-turbo V-6, costs $68,745.
The AMG GLE 63, with the twin-turbo V-8, has a base price of $110,650.
The twin-turbo V-6 gets a 25-horsepower bump up from last year. A variety of new interior trim panels are available for both the AMG GLE 43 and the AMG GLE 63.
You can outrun almost anything and run over almost anything.
It hauls another way, too: The max tow rating is 7,200 pounds, equivalent to that of two Corvettes.
What's Not So Good
It's not so much that it uses a lot gas -- that's expected in a vehicle of this type. It's that it uses a lot of gas fast. The GLE needs a larger gas tank so you don't need to stop and refill it quite as often.
Under the Hood
Everything is relative.
Our sun, for example, is relatively big compared with the Earth. But compared with a red supergiant like VY Canis Majoris, our yellow sun is a speck of sand.
The AMG 43's V-6 is pretty impressive until you have a look at the AMG 63's V-8. But either will do.
If you go with the AMG 43, you'll get a nine-speed automatic transmission paired with 4Matic all-wheel drive. This combo goes from zero to 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds and manages 17 mpg city and 23 highway.
The AMG 63's V-8 gets zero to 60 down to 3.8 seconds, not too far off the bumper of a new Corvette.
On the Road
Push the ignition button and a gnarly pre-catalytic converter snarl erupts out of the quad-tip exhaust. It contrasts curiously with the delicate, almost Prius-like control toggle you use to put the transmission in gear.
But there is nothing delicate about what happens next:
The wormhole dilates, and the world around you refracts. Each gear change is accompanied by a sonic boom as the exhaust opens and then slams shut again to let the backpressure build for the next boom.
Most high-performance cars sit low to the ground, and it's not just for looks; Handling and high-speed stability tend to be better when there's less daylight between the asphalt and the floorplans.
But the AMG-tweaked GLE has more clearance than a Subaru Outback. And yet, somehow the AMG people have made this huge, heavy, high-riding thing capable of doing things laterally that would probably result in the Outback or any other similarly jacked-up crossover getting daylight underneath its tires just before it tips over.
At the Curb
Other than the suspiciously large tires (and very large, high-performance brake calipers you can see poking through the wheels), the GLE looks like an SUV and is just as practical.
Cargo capacity is 60.7 cubic feet with the second row folded and 23 cubic feet with the second row up, which is about the same as an E-Class wagon and more than a Lexus RX 350.
The rear liftgate opens wide, almost like one of those Russian heavy-lift cargo planes. You could probably haul a refrigerator home.
Don't try that with a Corvette.
The cup holders are different sizes (one's big; the other's small) and mounted in the center console. They're too shallow, so it's very easy to spill beverages. But they are heated and cooled.
The two USB plug-ins located inside the center console are hard to see, much less reach.
These are the two least practical things about the GLE.
The Bottom Line
Even if you don't buy one, you've gotta admire the idea of it.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate, Inc.