Just 650 metres above sea level, the headlights struggle to pierce through the mist and clouds we are driving through. Less than a hundred kilometres away is the Arabian sea on the road that leads to Goa, and less than a kilometre away is a fork in the road at Chorla village, with a stretch of tarmac leading you straight to the Karnataka-Maharashtra border and a diversion I’m not interested in. As soon as you pass the fork, the road tightens, and you could kiss a lightning bolt if the clouds you were driving through decided to mate. Disturbing this cloud intercourse in the middle of near zero visibility are two firing guns, loaded at 5000rpm, waiting for the needle to hit 6K on the tacho, two pops disturb the silence of the mystical road I am driving into and that signals the commencement of our next AMG hill climb.
I wasn’t expecting this. For someone who has lived in Maharashtra almost all his life and enjoys driving on winding roads, has visited Goa more than a few times every year and would pack bags on the suggestion of a roadtrip, Chorla has eluded me. It’s the enthusiast’s road to Goa that snakes its way through a rainforest and spits you out on to the beaches of western India. You will hear mixed opinions about this place. Some say it has the most interesting set of twisties in the western region, some say it’s too damn dangerous. Chorla is both. You need to concentrate very hard, be willing to brake harder, and if you find a rare shoulder in the road wide enough to stop, well, stop and soak in the view. It’s mesmerising.
The fog is so thick that I’ve got to cage the AMG bits and let the GLE bits do the talking. That means easing the drive modes to Comfort, cruising to the Wildernest resort that’s somewhere down these curves and hanging my boots for the day. In Comfort, you have a brilliant tourer in the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe – it’s fast, comfortable and soaks in bad roads. There are no bad roads here though. The monsoons were at their peak yet the tarmac is as smooth as a baby’s bum. The ride height can be increased too so I am the least bit worried about scraping the underbelly anywhere. What I am worried about is its bum.
The GLE is wide at the rear and accentuated by 315-section 21-inch rear tyres, so while it may feel light and agile behind the wheel, there’s a whole lot of car coming through, and it looks like something huger is barrelling down the road. Chorla inspires an enthusiastic right foot in not just us but every motorist using this road. I’ve been warned about this before but experiencing a fully loaded bus take a corner slow in, fast out, apexing some mud along the way is a bit unnerving. The fog is relentless so we park in and enjoy the infinity pool at Wildernest with a plan to attack the curves of Chorla at daybreak.
Day breaks with lightly overcast skies and visibility is great. There is no time for Comfort now. The hill road is on the resort’s reception and within seconds, the exhaust begins to sing. All the nannies are off on a mildly damp road yet the GLE 43 won’t break traction. It’s all-wheel driven with more rear bias and contains the pulsing 362bhp and 520Nm. I stop and launch again, the rear squats, grips and catapults 2.3 tonnes of Affalterbach to 100kmph in 5.7 seconds – no drama again. It’s getting too simple now.
It’s the fifth AMG in this series and I’m looking to entertain myself, find a character in this car that’s still hidden and different to the other AMGs we’ve driven in the past. I find that off throttle. I had been running through the gears, feeding horses to the bitumen and getting speed and grip in return, braking hard and finding grip again, turning harder and being rewarded with track lines. The most fun to have with the GLE 43 is off throttle though, playing the exhaust to your tunes, making them sing with your foot and hassling the calm of the eerily silent place.
At 5000rpm in Sport Plus, rev the GLE just hard enough to get to about 5500rpm, lift off, hear it pop, watch the revs drop as you climb up the hill but not long enough to let the gearbox think that you are easing off and select a higher cruising gear. Gas it again. Let the revolutions build, pop and crackle again, lift off, and you realise that while you do this, the GLE begins to dance. It’s controlled by its throttle and that’s when its feet feel lighter, the direction changes are quicker and the exhaust note brings you into rhythm. There’s lesser dependence on the brakes so weight transfer is from back to front, the pleasant way. The tight roads of Chorla embrace the mighty AMG coupe and the hill climb is finally getting its due.
On such narrow roads, you need rhythm. Size and weight need to be managed, whether at the wheel of a sportscar or an SUV, and the drive becomes rewarding. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe is a big car, there is no doubt of it, but the minute you get to terms with its size and weight and learn to control it on throttle, you learn to mask its size. What you get in return is a blast of a drive on this winding road, and a gem of a tourer to get to said winding road. Touring prowess is essential in fast cars if you intend to enjoy them on a slithering mountain road.
As for Chorla, like others who have warned me, I have warned you too. It’s not for the fainthearted. You need the concentration of a monk behind the wheel when you are driving here. In return, once you are done with driving, the calming rainforest here will give you a monk’s state of mind.