I finally met one of my neighbors the other day. Miss Sandy is a bold and brassy mid-seventies, dresses with insouciance and has a late-model Mercedes Benz S-class tucked away in her garage. I thought she might be interested in my car for the week, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 Coupe.

Miss Sandy, in her infinite wisdom, exclaimed, “You’re driving that? Oh, Lord is that ugly!”

AMG is the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz, building high-horsepower variants of the standard coupes, sedans and convertibles offered by the German automaker. The two-row GLE43 is available as a standard square-backed crossover, but I got to spend time in the more, let’s say controversial-looking, coupe version. You might agree with Miss Sandy about the car’s looks, but Mercedes-AMG is chasing down BMW, which first brought the “coupeover” idea to the market with the X6.

It’s not a bad-looking car from the front, it’s that sloping roof in the rear that’s a problem.


Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes is one of the best out there when it comes to driver’s aids. Distronic adaptive cruise control can bring the car to a complete stop, which is super-helpful in stop-and-go traffic. It’s paired with Steering Pilot, keeping the car centered in the lane. Both really helped relieve my stress level as I crawled toward the Bay Bridge toll gates every morning in San Francisco. However, you are still ultimately in control of the car. Take those hands off the wheel and the GLE43 issues a stern warning.  

The AMG GLE43 demonstrates a cool advance in blind-spot monitoring technology. Active Blind Spot Assist can apply the brakes if a lateral collision is imminent. I’m not in the habit of deliberately cutting someone off, and I’m not about to start now so I didn’t get to see the technology in action. However, it’s an interesting upgrade to traditional blind-spot monitoring and just shows how Mercedes is really on the cutting edge of autonomous technology.

Confusion on command

If only the COMAND infotainment system could be so good. It’s operated by a touchpad that, for me anyway, mostly doubles as a nice place to rest your hand as you operate the multifunctional dial beneath it. You can swipe and tap on the touchpad or you can push up, down, left or right on the dial to select icons on the screen. Already I’m confused. Do I use the touchpad? Dial? Touch the screen itself? Oh, no, silly mortals. The 8-inch color display looks great, but it’s not a touchscreen, which makes navigating the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a bit awkward.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLE43

Nope, not a touchscreen.


Mercedes-Benz USA

And it’s all or nothing. The navigation system in the GLE43 is much better than Apple Maps, but I couldn’t use the native COMAND navigation system and Apple CarPlay to access my podcasts or music at the same time. I love listening to podcasts so I was stuck with the inferior Apple Maps during my time in the car. I could connect my phone through the Media function, bypassing Apple CarPlay entirely, but isn’t the point of having the technology to actually use it? It’s possible to use the native nav system while running Apple CarPlay in other sport crossovers, like the Audi Q5, and it should be possible in the Mercedes as well. 

The whole infotainment system just isn’t intuitive, and you have to click through menus and submenus to input any kind of command. Presetting a radio station involves seven steps of either pulling down the dial, scrolling or clicking. Even accessing that preset takes multiple swipes and pushes. It should be easier.

Twin-turbo fun

Fortunately, things get better behind the wheel. A whole lot better. The AMG GLE43 sports a 3-liter twin-turbo V6 under the hood, putting out 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque.

Power goes down to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The power plant returns an EPA fuel rating of 17 miles per gallon in the city, 23 miles per gallon on the highway and 20 miles per gallon combined. However, my lead foot was only able to eke out 15.8 miles per gallon combined.



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