2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE63 S
Class: Premium Midsize SUV
Miles driven: 195
Fuel used: 12.5 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 15.6 mpg
Driving mix: 55% city, 45% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 15/19/16 (mpg city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas required
Base price: $113,950 (not including $1050 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||A|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||603-hp 4.0L|
|Engine Type||Turbocharged V8|
|Drive Wheels||All-wheel drive|
Options on test vehicle: AMG carbon-fiber trim ($1750), AMG carbon-fiber engine cover ($1500), AMG performance steering wheel in carbon fiber/Dinamica suede ($400), AMG cross-spoke forged wheels ($2750), rear side airbags ($700), panoramic sunroof ($1000), 4-zone automatic climate control ($860), MBUX Interior Assistant ($200), pre-wiring for rear-seat entertainment ($170), Magic Vision Control ($350), MBUX Technology Package ($1450), Driver Assistance Package Plus ($1950), Warmth and Comfort Package ($1050), Energizing Comfort Package Plus ($1650), Acoustic Comfort Package ($1100)
Price as tested: $131,880
The great: Blistering acceleration; outstanding handling for an SUV; high-tech features; excellent space for big and tall occupants
The good: Luxuriously appointed cabin; refined muscle-car V8 soundtrack
The not so good: Six figures to start, and adding options (several of which you might expect to be standard at these prices) drives up the bottom line even more; complicated infotainment controls; some testers complained of balky transmission behavior at low speeds
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The long history of the automobile is well populated by “iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove” vehicles, potent but mannered machines that barely hid their true nature under a civilized veneer. We’ll nominate the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S midsize crossover SUV for membership in the club.
The GLE, which was redesigned for 2020, is a repository of luxury and comfort wrapped up in layers of technology for vehicle dynamics, driver assistance, and infotainment. That’s the velvet-glove part. The ferrous fingers inserted for ’21 come from a 603-horsepower V8 engine plus driveline and suspension systems that have been massaged by AMG, Mercedes-Benz’s performance-tuning arm.
Two AMG-ified GLEs have been added to the fold, the 53 with a 429-horsepower inline 6-cylinder engine and the 63 S. Consumer Guide tested the latter, which has a starting price—delivery included—of $115,000. However, the sample vehicle shot up to $131,880 with a laundry list of options that ran from just the wiring for a rear-seat entertainment system ($170) to a set of 22-inch AMG forged wheels ($2750).
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Power output is prodigious from the built-by-hand 4.0-liter twin-turbocharger engine. The maximum 603 ponies are felt from 5750 to 6500 rpm, and the full 627 lb-ft of torque bubbles up at 2500 rpm and sticks around to 4500 revs. However, the two AMG jobs (and the 6-cylinder and V8 models in the “standard” GLE line) are augmented by “EQ Boost,” a mild-hybrid system that pitches in up to 21 additional horsepower and 184 more lb-ft for brief periods. The 48-volt integrated electric motor system also assists acceleration even before the gas engine switches on and cycles juice to the battery. The transmission is a 9-speed automatic.
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Selectivity is the name of the game in the crazy-for-electronics AMG GLEs. Dynamic Select, for example, has seven drive modes—“Comfort,” “Sport,” “Sport+,” “Individual,” “Race,” “Trail,” and “Sand”—that influence engine and transmission behavior, steering resistance, suspension damping, and exhaust sound. Six hundred and three steeds make for a quick and strong SUV even in the Comfort setting, but the two Sport modes clearly have sharper throttle response and hang in the gear ranges a little longer before upshifting. The manufacturer cites a 0-60-mph time of 3.7 seconds. In Sport+, the exhaust note goes from mellow to something more menacing—but never showy loud. Highway cruising is effortless. At the time of CG’s test, M-B was showing preliminary EPA fuel-economy estimates of 15 mpg in city driving, 19 mpg in highway operation, and 16 combined. This driver’s 68-mile run with 45 percent city-type use resulted in 15.5 mpg.
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Ride, handling, and traction are all subject to their own high-tech watchdogs and enablers with an AMG accent, and they show through in varying degrees in the drive modes. Active Ride Control works on the standard air suspension and adaptive dampers. Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive distributes torque from the rear axle (the GLE is primarily a rear-drive vehicle) to the front axle as needed up to a 50/50 front/rear share. An electronic limited-slip differential is standard. Ride is commendably comfortable in Comfort mode without going soft, and while it tellingly firms up in the Sport modes, that basic goodness doesn’t completely go away. Fairly responsive steering imparts a solid sense of control.
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This being a 6-figures Mercedes, luxury and gadgetry are not sacrificed on the altar of performance. The cabin in the test truck had room to comfortably host five passengers on specifically designed black Nappa-leather seats with gray accents, the front buckets being heated and ventilated. (A third-row seat for two more passengers is available on some GLEs but not the 63 S.) Dinamica microfiber is applied to the steering wheel, whether it’s the standard leather-wrapped unit or the extra-cost carbon-fiber rim that was in CG’s tester. Nicely fitted soft surfaces dominate the dash and door panels—and front armrests and door panels are heated when the Warmth and Comfort Package is selected. A deluxe Burmester audio system, 64-color ambient lighting, power-folding side mirrors, LED headlights and taillights, blind-spot monitor, Active Parking Assist, and a surround-view camera are included as well.
The infotainment system is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience—MBUX—that can be operated by voice, touchscreen inputs, touchpad, or steering wheel buttons. Clearly, there are lots of ways to access MBUX, but any way you do it is going to be complicated. Desired information can be layered. This reviewer quickly figured out the steps to input radio-station presets, but the process of finding and saving them is a little more involved than tune-and-touch. The system includes navigation. Built-in connectivity features are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphones and wireless charging.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the similarly sized touchscreen display form one big, vibrant display of information. Climate controls are separated on a long bank of flipper buttons, including repetitive-push temperature selectors for the standard dual-zone or optional four-zone systems.
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Door pockets, a big but low-set glove box, split-top console box, and pouches on the backs of the front seats provide in-cabin storage. Twin covered cup holders are located at the front of the console, and there are two more in the pull-down center armrest in the second row. There’s good, useful cargo space that goes from 33.3 cubic feet to 74.9 cubic feet when the second-row seats are lowered. When down, they rest at a slight upward angle. There’s a net pouch for incidentals on the left side of the cargo bay, and a little bonus space under the floor panel.
With its great powertrain and electronically tended chassis, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is aggressive but not primal. Its metallic paws come gently wrapped.
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