2021 Mercedes AMG GLE63 S
The Mercedes AMG GLE63 S lives in a market segment we don’t fully understand. What we do know, is that we love the absurdity of it.
From the outside the GLE63 is a little deceiving. From some angles it appears much smaller than it actually is, but not from the front. The grill is large, but the gigantic outboard bumper openings are what really draw attention.
With the massive Mercedes tri star emblem in the center of the grill, there is no question who makes the GLE. There are very bright LED headlights with double lines of LED running lights, creating a distinct look. From the front it appears to be very low, wide, and aggressive.
Moving down the side we see stylish 21-inch wheels wrapped in 275/45R21 front and 315/40R21 rear Pirelli Scorpion winter tires. Yes our test model was originally equipped with 22-inch wheels and summer tires, but Mercedes made some winter accommodations for us. We can also see the high profile, which belies the performance machine inside. The rear doors are very large, adding to the subdued and passenger-oriented appearance. Large cross-drilled and slotted rotors with enormous calipers are clearly visible behind the wheels, which are the only performance oriented aspects seen from the side.
On to the rear, we see quad tip exhaust with vents in the rear bumper. From this angle the extra wide rear tires can be seen as well. Much like the front of the vehicle, the rear exudes high performance.
The interior is modern and refined. The massaging, heated, ventilated, 12-way, black leather seats have a light gray border surrounding them. Seating is comfortable, but not in a sofa sort of way. They are very supportive, and adjustable where you need them to be. Also, they can hold the driver in place when doing a track day or be comfortable for a multi-day road trip.
The GLE63 S is setup to be driven by a chauffeur. The driver and rear passenger can control the passenger seat settings to make room for an executive in the rear seat. Don’t let that fool you though, this is clearly a driver’s vehicle.
There is an abundance of buttons, switches, and dials within reach of the driver, which can be confusing. However, once the layout and function of the controls are learned, operation is a breeze. The steering wheel has separate touch screen controls for the gauge cluster and infotainment system, and a variety of other controls for hands free calling, drive modes, audio, etc.
For additional comfort there are 4 vents in the center stack. This means there can be two directed at the rear seats, while still providing one for the driver and one for the front passenger.
In the winter the heats get hot very fast and the heated door panels and arm rests mean that most surfaces the driver touches will be at a comfortable temperature.
At the front of the center console is a wireless charging pad and two USB ports. Just behind those are heated and cooled cup holders. Moving further back in the center console we find the infotainment screen touch pad and a variety of buttons. One of which controls the seven drive modes, which are: Comfort, Individual, Sport, Sport+, Race, Trail, and Sand.
There is a 4-zone climate control system, which means there are two zones for the rear seats. The outboard seats are also heated and cooled with powered sun shades.
Being designed to accommodate three rows in the lower trims, cargo space in the two-row GLE63 is adequate. Having the third row would make for almost no cargo storage and be very tight for 3rd row passengers. Without the extra row of seats however, the GLE has plenty of storage for a weekend getaway for four.
Driving the GLE63
Driving the AMG GLE63 s is a pleasure everyone needs to experience. It is an easy vehicle to drive slow and smooth when needed. Cruising around the city and getting into and out of tight parking spaces is a breeze. The steering is very precise and perfectly weighted, and the ride is always firm with no body roll. The only downside to city driving is the dual clutch transmission. It’s an excellent performance transmission, but the shifts can be a little harsh with the bouncy feeling you get when releasing the clutch too quickly in a manual transmission.
On the highway, the GLE63 cruises very nicely. The addition of the Acoustic Comfort Package makes the interior very quiet. Accelerating to pass a slower moving vehicle is effortless. Having 627 lb-ft of torque on hand means there is little need to downshift for small hills. Even in comfort mode the ride is firm. However, translates into harsher bumps and more noise inside the cabin. This noise is likely more noticeable due to the extra damping removing most other wind and road noise.
Switching to the Sport+ or Race modes stiffens up the suspension, opens the exhaust baffles, lowers the suspension, and increases steering effort. There are a lot of other crazy tricks like active engine mounts and an active stabilizer bar which work together to stiffen the chassis for better handling.
Mercedes estimates the GLE63’s 0-60mph time to be 3.8 seconds. We managed a run to 60 mph in 3.77 seconds as recorded by the crossover’s on-board system. Keep in mind that this was done on winter tires at 4,600 feet of elevation. One passenger who wasn’t ready for the absurd acceleration nearly passed out in a 0-60 run.
There is an electric motor that adds power at low rpms until the engine gets high enough in the rev range for the turbos take over. While you can still feel the GLE accelerate harder when the turbos reach their sweet spot, the launch from a stop is incredible.
Taking the GLE63 Off-Road
It’s always an exercise in bravery when off-roading in someone else’s $130,000 vehicle. Despite the high price, the GLE63 S is equipped with two off-road modes: Trail and Sand.
Trail mode raises the GLE for more clearance, changes the throttle sensitivity and how the transmission releases the clutches. This made it much easier to crawl up steep inclines. It’s able to transfer power side to side very well and it surprised us by climbing the hard line on our normal test hill with little drama.
Switching to Sand mode keeps the suspension at a higher ride height, but increases throttle response and allows for more wheel spin when compared to Trail mode. Sand mode is great for driving on loose terrain like sand or mud.
Surround view cameras are helpful for seeing how close the vehicle is to objects, but not necessarily good at giving depth perception on how big the object is. It’s hard to tell if the bumper will clear an obstacle or how deep a hole is.
Pricing the GLE63
Performance comes at a cost, and in the case of the 2021 GLE63 S the base price is $113,950. However, our tester was equipped with a plethora of options, as is common in media vehicles. They are:
|AMG Carbon Fiber Trim||$1750|
|AMG Carbon Fiber Engine Cover||$1500|
|AMG Performance Steering Wheel in Carbon Fiber||$400|
|22” AMG Cross-Spoke Forged Wheels||$2750|
|Rear Side Airbags||$700|
|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||$1650|
|Acoustic Comfort Package||$1100|
Driving the AMG GLE63 is an otherworldly experience. It’s faster than it should be, it handles better than it should, and yet it is comfortable and composed. While we can do without the expensive carbon fiber, many of the options like the Acoustic Comfort and Warmth and Comfort packages are well worth their cost. There aren’t many competitors in this market, but what a wonderful market it is for those that need space, but still want to have some track day fun.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.