So, here’s a challenge to many manufacturers – with SUV’s being so popular, how do you keep things fresh? One trend we’ve seen are the “coupe-like” SUV’s, which trade off some of the utility (and headroom) for a racy profile. It’s especially popular with the Europeans, with everything from VW’s Atlas Cross Sport to BMW’s X4 and X6.
Mercedes won’t be left out either, so we’re now enjoying GLE Coupe. But with a coupe, you’re driven by passion, so we were especially excited to get our grabby little hands on an AMG GLE 53 Coupe. Big vehicle, larger-than-life performance. This is going to be fun!
If you are looking to make a statement, you’ve come to the right place. The front end looks powerful and threatening with an AMG-specific metal grille with 15 chrome strips perfect for shredding slow moving traffic and a humongous three-pointed star in the middle. Accent LED lights flow in, and the silver chrome-plated lower front fascia gives a “hey, you lookin’ at me?” vibe. We especially love that the AMG badge is small and tasteful. If you know, you know.
The profile is where we see that coupe-like C-pillar that rolls into a kicked up spoiler on the hatchback. Beauty does have its price – that silhouette will cost you precious amounts of cargo room. Those gorgeous rims are 22-inchers, and the fact that they don’t look like wagon wheels gives you an idea of how big this vehicle is. Imposing.
The rear is quite simple and tasteful, with angled LED taillights, a small logo, AMG badging, with 4 monstrous exhaust pipes poking out below the lower fascia. It looks capable and assured. There is no boasting here – just presence. Speaking of which, the cherry on the proverbial sundae is the Selenite Grey paint. Classy, elegant and expensive-looking, much like the GLE 53 itself.
Beyond First Class
To say the GLE 53 gives you first cabin treatment would be to sell it short. This is a superb place to be – but like the exterior, the big Mercedes does it with a deft, restrained touch. The first thing that catches your eye is the full digital display – reminding us of the AMG A35 we recently tested. Of course, it is a matter of scale, and in full GLE-sized terms, it is a jaw dropper.
t starts with a 12.3-inch Widescreen Digital Instrument Cluster that you configure in a bunch of ways to suit your taste, including Classic, Sport, Supersport and Discreet. And when you’re in Trail and Sand modes, info including slope and incline levels can be displayed on the gauges as well.
Paired with the instrument display is a 12.3-inch Touchscreen in the center. Well, actually more than a touchscreen, you can also access everything with the simple-to-understand touchpad – much less fidgety than Lexus – or by steering wheel, gesture control, or just say “Hey Mercedes” and ask for what you want. Mercedes calls it Mercedes-Benz User Experience. All cool – but we mostly just used the touchscreen. Simplest is best.
Use that full display and your maps come to life in full, amazing color and size, while all the other info-tainment is flawless and easy to use. Like most other vehicles, the sheer amount of available information means multiple pages and scrolling, but the Mercedes system is intuitive and painless to use.
Speaking of painless, a little scrolling brought us up a screen for massaging front seats – Hot Relaxing Back or Shoulder, Activating or Classic Massage? Decisions, decisions…Also, the Energizing Comfort gives you choices such as Refresh, Warmth, Vitality and Enjoyment. Choose your mood, and it will adjust the LED lighting, seat massage, and play special music and give a full-screen artistic display. It may sound a little goofy, but it’s actually quite lovely!
You sit in deeply supportive AMG front sport seats – ours covered in rich Nappa hides – and with the info-tainment system you can custom dial in lumbar shape, width, etc. Throw it in a turn – or take a long cruise – and you’ll appreciate the well-shaped and comfortable thrones. Our tester had the optional Energizing Comfort Package Plus with ventilated front seats with active multi-contour and massage feature. You may never want to leave!
The rear seats are comfortable too, although that Coupe-like profile does nibble away at some headroom. If you’re over 6-feet, you might feel pinched. You’ll also lose about 5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats compared to the GLE SUV.
So, you’ll have to bring less stuff, but you won’t feel deprived – the quality of materials on our tester was simply stunning, from the simplest stitching to the Burmeister Audio speaker panels, you feel surrounded in complete luxury. A lovely place to spend time.
AMG = OMG!
The drive is what really wows you, though. Under that sculpted hood is a 3.0-liter, turbo 6 pumping out an impressive 429 hp, and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. The EQ Boost starter generator is a powerful electric motor mounted between engine and transmission, and briefly adds 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft of torque. It also feeds the 48-volt on-board electrical system, which helps the turbo spool up more quickly, supplies additional battery charge, smooths out shifting, and helps gliding functions for more efficiency.
You may not notice all the tech, but the power is immense, and for such a big vehicle 0-60 in under 5-seconds is phenomenal. In Comfort mode, it’s smooth and responsive, and twirling the small knob on the steering wheel to Sport brings the power on like gangbusters, with a wallop to the back when you hit the accelerator. And this engine sings under pressure – it will put goosebumps on your goosebumps as it screams its way to the redline. We should mention there is also a V8, GLE 63 S Coupe with 603 horsepower available. Check with your Physician before driving that!
The AMG Speedshift 9-speed automatic is a willing partner, and gives incredibly quick shifts when you want, but is remarkably composed in the daily commute. Add in 4MATIC all-wheel drive, AMG Active Ride Control, and you have a vehicle that’s as composed off-road as it would be on the race track. Again for such a large vehicle, it is impressively wieldy. Steering feel is precise, grip is massive, thanks to 4MATIC and 22-inch tires, and the GLE could be the only vehicle you need, SUV and sports car all rolled into one – which is pretty fantastic when you think about it.
Perfection Has Its Price
Thrills like this will cost you, though – still like most Europeans, it’s the option list that will hurt you most. While GLE SUV starts at $54,750, the GLE Coupe is only available in AMG trim. That’s exclusivity, folks. So, our GLE 53 Coupe started at $76,500. Which considering the performance is a bargain.
Our tester was a showcase of optional goodness, though, so we had Selenite Grey Paint ($720), Black Nappa Leather ($4,550), AMG performance steering wheel ($600), 22-inch AMG forged wheels ($2,750), High Performance Brakes with Silver Calipers ($2,500), AMG Performance Exhaust ($1,250), MBUX Technology Package ($1,450), Driver Assistance Package Plus ($1,950), Parking Assistance Package ($500), Warmth and Comfort Package ($1,650), ENERGIZING Comfort Package Plus ($2,100), Acoustic Comfort Package ($1,100) some additional odds and ends, including heated and cooled cupholders(!), plus Destination for $1,050.
All totaled the bell rang at $103,260. Gulp! We should warn you – do not try these options. Once you do, you’ll be completely seduced, and you’ll have to have them.
Competitors would include the BMW X6 M50i at $95,480, and at that price you get a twin-turbo V8. Also, a fantastic vehicle, but since the X6 bodystyle is offered in lower trim levels, it doesn’t have the same feeling of exclusivity of the AMG.
A loaded Audi SQ8 comes in at $111,590 and also has a 500 horsepower V8, but like the BMW with lower trim levels, it also will be less exclusive than the AMG. And in this land of high stakes performance vehicles, we think that exclusivity means a lot. So, we’re buying Lotto tickets. Lots of em!
Stunning looks, amazing technology, all-conquering performance, combined with day-to-day livability, the 2021 Mercedes AMG GLE 53 Coupe is an incredible vehicle in every way.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.