2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe review: Astonishingly nimble
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe is surprisingly fun, but I need to get the styling out of the way first. No matter what your feelings are on crossover-coupes -- here at Roadshow we like to call them "coupeovers" -- we can all agree that the new GLE53 Coupe is much better looking than the previous-generation GLE43 Coupe. This is partially thanks to the fact that the old GLE was never designed with the coupe variant in mind at first, but this new generation was. The new Coupe's roofline is sleeker, the proportions are nicer and the rear end as a whole just looks a lot better.
Mercedes only offers the new GLE Coupe in AMG forms, with the GLE53 getting the requisite Panamericana grille with an aggressive front bumper, body-color wheel arches, quad exhaust tips and a little lip spoiler. My GLE53 test car is finished in the $1,515 Designo Diamond White color, which looks nice but isn't quite special enough to warrant the price tag.
The Coupe's powertrain is the same as the normal GLE53 SUV and thus the same as AMG's other 53-badged models. It's got a 3.0-liter inline-six with a turbocharger, an electric supercharger and an EQ-Boost 48-volt mild-hybrid system that provides an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft. Total output is 429 hp and 384 lb-ft, and the engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. As with every other application of this engine, the I6 in the GLE53 is smooth and responsive. (Mercedes quotes a 5.2-second 0-to-60-mph time, and that feels conservative.) This GLE53 has the $1,250 Performance Exhaust system, which is the right amount of loud and makes some great pops and bangs.
Big wheels make and break it
While the GLE53 comes with 21-inch wheels as standard, this one has a $2,750 set of staggered-width 22s, sized 285/40ZR22 up front and a whopping 325/35ZR22 at the rear. Wrapped in Yokohama Advan Sport summer tires, these giant wheels give the GLE53 an aggressive stance and are both the best and worst part of the car. Let me explain.
As you might surmise from the wheel size the GLE53's ride can be pretty choppy, especially on bad Michigan roads, but in Comfort mode the air suspension does a pretty good job soaking up even the worst bumps and potholes. Worse than the ride, though, is the tramlining that occurs on the highway, especially if it's a rough surface. I have to do more steering correction than usual when I'm just driving in a straight line, though it isn't as annoying with the adaptive cruise control and steering assist activated.
But on the flip side, it's frankly crazy how good this SUV is on a twisty road. There's so much grip from the wide wheels and sticky rubber, and the GLE53 always feels surefooted with the variable all-wheel-drive system able to split torque between the axles. There's near-immediate power available when you're coming out of corners, and the nine-speed transmission fires off quick shifts. You can carry so much speed through turns -- a lot more than you'd expect.
To help stop its 5,300-plus-pound heft, this GLE53 is equipped with the $2,500 AMG High Performance Braking System. The GLE53 has 15.8-inch front rotors with two-piston calipers and 13.6-inch rear rotors with single-piston calipers as standard equipment, but this optional setup adds six-piston front calipers and increases the rear disc size by an inch. The brakes are pretty jerky at low speeds around town and the wheels accumulate a ton of dust, but the increased stopping power while driving fast is greatly appreciated.
Everything you could ask for, and more
I'm usually vehemently against interiors with simple, all-black color schemes, especially on a style-forward car like the GLE Coupe, but this test car at least has the $4,800 Exclusive Nappa leather option with contrasting stitching and $160 Grey Oak wood trim with a nice matte finish. It looks good, and everything inside the GLE is of high quality. The seats are comfy, especially with the massaging function that's part of the $2,100 Energizing Comfort Plus Package. The Coupe's sloping roof means you get less cargo space than the standard GLE SUV, but not by that much, and rear headroom and legroom is still great. MBUX remains one of my favorite infotainment systems, and the GLE53 gets some great AMG-specific displays and settings.
This GLE53 is equipped with a ton of optional features and packages -- there are literally 22 extra-cost items on the window sticker -- some of which are necessary, some of which are frivolous and silly, but all of which I enjoy. The $1,950 Driver Assistance Package Plus brings useful active-safety features like the aforementioned adaptive cruise, while the absolutely necessary $500 Parking Assistance Package adds the 360-degree camera system, which includes a nice over-the-wheel view.
The most ridiculous items on the options list are probably the $350 Magic Vision Control (fancy windshield wipers) and the $200 MBUX Interior Assistant (motion-activated interior lights). But my favorite option is the $180 heated and cooled cupholder package. That might sound pointless, but like heated armrests -- which coincidentally are part of a separate $1,050 package on this GLE53 -- once you've used them, you'll never want to drive a car without them.
A Toyota Camry's worth of options
It gets harder to rave about how good this GLE53 is once you get to the as-tested price. While the GLE53 Coupe starts at $77,550 including destination -- already $4,150 more than a regular GLE53 -- this one tops out at $104,564. Admittedly it has almost every possible option, but that's still a lot of scratch for a midsize SUV with a six-cylinder engine. Then again, if you want a V8, the 603-hp GLE63 Coupe starts at an even-more-expensive $117,050 before options, so...
The GLE53 Coupe's closest competitors are the BMW X6 M50i and the Porsche Cayenne S Coupe. While the X6 M50i has a twin-turbo V8 engine with almost 100 more horsepower than the GLE53, it costs 10 grand more than the Mercedes to start and doesn't drive as well or look nearly as good. The Cayenne S, on the other hand, is a little sharper to drive and a little better-looking than the GLE53, but the Porsche's base price is over $90,000 and it doesn't come close to being as well equipped as the AMG.
The GLE53 is my pick of the current coupeover litter. It's the most well-rounded vehicle in its class, and when optioned correctly, the price isn't too astronomical. Sure, people might not understand your fashion-forward crossover-coupe choice, but at least you'll have the last laugh from behind the wheel.