2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE S Coupe AWD Fast Facts
4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with electric generator starter boost (gas engine 603 horsepower @ 5,750-6,500 rpm; generator up to 21 hp/184 lb-ft of torque; gas engine 627 lb-ft @ 2,500-4,500 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
15 city / 19 highway / 17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
16.3 city / 12.8 highway / 14.7 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $116,000 (U.S) / $135,300 (Canada)
As Tested: $134,000 (U.S.) / $160,400 (Canada)
Prices include $1,050 destination charge in the United States and N/A for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
I’ve long struggled to understand the existence of four-door hatchbacks that are called “coupes” (to me, a coupe has two, not four, doors), have sloping rooflines, and are typically sold by import luxury brands.
I struggle a lot less when one is hopped up on the vehicular version of steroids.
Earlier this year, the local press fleet sent me a 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63 S Coupe – what a mouthful of a name – and I was a bit confounded by its reason to exist. There isn’t one, just like with the Durango Hellcat, I suppose. Yet, like with the Hellcat, its on-road behavior makes a convincing case.
It also proved surprisingly adept at helping a relative move, though its utility is limited by that same sloping roofline. But I digress.
The eye-popping numbers on offer from the 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 are, well, ridiculous. Yup, that’s 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque lurking. As you might imagine, passing and merging aren’t exactly chores.
We also have on hand a nine-speed automatic transmission that actually seems to work as advertised, and (mostly) without rough shifts.
One might worry that a relatively tall four-door “coupe” would suffer when it comes to handling, but while the GLE 63 exhibits some body roll, it’s mostly muted, and the AMG air suspension with adaptive damping bends the laws of physics a fair bit. If you want true sports-car handling, shop elsewhere, but if you want a luxury SUV that can keep you entertained whilst traversing the suburbs, the GLE 63 will work for you.
Unfortunately, even the AMG treatment doesn’t keep the steering from feeling more than a little artificial. I find myself writing that a lot these days, concerning vehicles across the price spectrum, because it is apparently difficult for automakers to make electronic steering systems feel natural. Even with a performance subbrand like AMG working on it. The good news is that the GLE 63 isn’t the worst offender, by far, and the steering being on the light side makes commuting a bit easier.
It’s fast in a straight line, it sounds cool, it can haul a bunch of moving boxes – what else is life with the GLE like? Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the interior, which is a mixed bag. I like Mercedes’ digital cockpit in general – the gauges look cool and are easy to read. I’m less impressed by the steering-wheel controls – the learning curve is just a bit too steep. Yes, this is somewhat of a car-reviewer problem, since owners would eventually learn the controls, but it’s annoying nonetheless.
It’s not the small mouse-pad-like controllers on the wheel that gave me agita, they’re easy to use. It’s the constant menu diving and the fact that some basic controls don’t seem obvious at first glance. On the more positive side of the ledger, I liked the switch for the drive modes, which is mounted on the wheel and easy to see and manipulate quickly while reducing the amount of time your eyes are taken off the road.
I also appreciated the feel of the soft Dinamica material on my hands while driving.
What I didn’t appreciate, or rather had a tough time wrapping my noggin around, was the price. The base price – the MSRP needed just to get in the door, so to speak – is $116,000. Even accounting for all the AMG goodies – the twin-turbo V8, the AMG suspension, the electronic limited-slip differential, and the drive-mode system – the number pops the eyes.
You do get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, keyless entry, the dual 12.3-inch screens for infotainment and gauges, navigation, Burmeister audio, satellite radio, ambient lighting, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, panoramic roof, attention assist, active-brake assist, blind-spot assist, LED lighting, and adaptive high-beam assist. Carbon-fiber trim cost $1,750 and the Nappa leather seats another $250, with those charges being wrapped into the base sticker.
Options included a $1,500 carbon-fiber engine cover, $400 for the performance steering wheel, $2,000 (!) for the 22-inch carbon-fiber wheels, and $1,950 for a driver-assistance package containing most of today’s common electronic safety-assistance features. For $1,050, the heated front seats got heated more rapidly and the armrests and door panels also heated up (that’s, uh, unnecessary?). Another $1,650 added massaging seats and $750 added a front splitter and other exterior appearance bits. $1,100 added more sound deadening and $4,550 (you read that right) added an even higher-end version of the Burmeister audio system.
With the $1,050 destination fee, the charge was $134,000. Yikes.
You also will pay at the pump, often, thanks to EPA-estimated numbers of 15 mpg city/19 mpg highway/17 mpg combined.
On the one hand, the high sticker price sort of makes sense – AMG’s signature doesn’t come cheap, and the AMG touch makes the GLE 63 a fun-to-drive ute that can be docile when driven gently. Not to mention there’s plenty of Mercedes’ luxury, and if one is judicious with the option box, one can keep the price close to base.
On the other hand, as well put together as the package is, the price seems hard to justify, even given the luxury features. On yet the other hand, neither luxury nor performance cars are usually a rational purchase. They’re toys and/or status symbols and/or rolling houses of pampering, and are priced as such.
That said, this Mercedes is a bit odd, thanks to its styling and “coupe” designation, and it’s also delightful.
Just make sure your checking account has more than a few zeroes behind it.
[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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