The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe's big wheels, tapering roofline and shapely backside are sure to grab your attention. This is an undeniably trendy, high-style vehicle. But what lurks behind this swoopy SUV's retro-inspired Panamericana grille is the real star of the show.
Nestled between the GLE63's front fenders is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8. Hand assembled by the craftspeople in Affalterbach, Germany, this jewel of an engine is smoother than creamy peanut butter, delivering a stomping 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque, more than enough to put the hurt on rivals like the Audi RS Q8 and BMW X6 M. That's also enough sauce to rocket this coupe-ish crossover to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and onward to a terminal velocity of 174 mph, though curiously, the GLE63 S doesn't feel as quick as the numbers suggest. This Mercedes is so refined and quiet you're almost always going at least 10 mph faster than you think, even when the active exhaust system is uncorked.
Helping deliver that performance is the automaker's EQ-Boost 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which provides up to 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. EQ-Boost also smooths out gearchanges and aids with regenerative braking. The system's integrated starter-generator is sandwiched between the engine and nine-speed transmission, where it takes up little space. The whole shebang is pretty much invisible; the only time you're really aware of EQ-Boost is during engine stop-start events, which are some of the smoothest in the business.
That transmission changes gears with sports-car immediacy and is very responsive to requests from the paddle shifters. Still, its performance can be somewhat irregular, particularly at low speeds where there's often a slight disconnect between the accelerator pedal and what the gearbox is doing. The vehicle's overeager brakes are also a bit bothersome. With the front rotors measuring nearly 16 inches in diameter, their stopping power is undeniable, they're just a bit too touchy in everyday driving.
Active Roll Stabilization along with adaptive damping, an air suspension and even active engine mounts are new additions for 2021, and together they keep the GLE63 S Coupe's body flatter than Florida while tackling corners. The suspension does a commendable job delivering a good ride, though I'd like to feel a little more delineation between the various settings. Comfort is firm yet nicely isolated, but cranking it up to Sport or Sport Plus doesn't make the ride all that much stiffer. You'll feel road imperfections to be sure, but they're never pounding.
The GLE63 S Coupe is well balanced and feels luxury-car refined even in its starchiest settings. Unfortunately, the steering is forgettably ordinary. It's light and a bit imprecise, which is no help in a vehicle that doesn't track very well. This Mercedes tends to wander, even on smooth, straight pavement, which means you have to make course corrections to avoid kissing the lines and irritating the lane-keeping system. Roadshow social media editor Daniel Golson made the same comment in his review of the similar but less potent 2021 GLE53 Coupe, which also rolled on staggered-width AMG wheels, though the ones on this example are 1 inch smaller in diameter, clocking in at just 21 inches.
Given its emphasis on sportiness, you can't expect great fuel economy from this Mercedes. Accordingly, it stickers at 15 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway, however, in pretty heavy-footed driving, I've managed to average around 18.4, a good bit better than the combined rating of 17 mpg.
As a top-shelf luxury vehicle, this Mercedes comes with a broad complement of driver-assistance tech. Adaptive LED headlamps with automatic high beams, active parking assist and blind-spot monitoring are all standard equipment. The $1,950 Driver Assistance Package Plus throws features like active lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic-sign recognition and adaptive cruise control with lane centering into the mix, and that last item works phenomenally well. The GLE63 S Coupe's adaptive cruise control is super smooth and more situationally aware than an undercover police officer. It seemingly always knows what's going on and how to respond, plus the lane-centering feature is one of the best I've ever experienced, making the vehicle track practically like a monorail.
This Mercedes-AMG's interior is a lovely place, rife with premium leathers, laser-straight stitching and no shortage of amenities including standard heated and ventilated front seats, which are as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy recliner. A Burmester sound system is included, too, as is wireless phone charging and embedded navigation. Unfortunately, some of the GLE63 S Coupe's interior elements aren't quite as nice as they should be for a vehicle that starts at $117,000. Nothing is insultingly low-rent, but the climate controls, gear-selector and turn-signal stalks as well as some of the secondary switches just don't feel six-figure sturdy.
When it comes to interior tech, you get a pair of 12.3-inch displays mounted in a single housing that runs across most of the dashboard. One of these screens serves as a reconfigurable digital instrument cluster, the other handles infotainment duties. For better or worse, the familiar MBUX multimedia array is how you interact with many of the vehicle's features. This system is both pretty and performant, though it's not my favorite. It offers way too much functionality and feels like it requires a keyboard and mouse to properly use, which is not what you want while driving. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and Mercedes has not switched to hyper-annoying touch-sensitive control pads on the steering wheel like it has on some of its other vehicles, including the E450 All Terrain -- at least, not yet.
The Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe is a lot like a batch of dough that didn't rise. Next to the conventional GLE SUV, its roof is noticeably deflated. That tapering top adds visual pizzazz, though, it eats into cargo space and rear-seat headroom, but these deficits don't ruin the vehicle, not by any stretch. Second-row noggin space is reduced by 1.8 inches, but there's still plenty, even for taller adults. Cargo space behind the aft bench clocks in at 27.5 cubic feet, which swells to 63.2 cubes when you fold the rear backrest down. In comparison, the GLE63 S serves up 39.3 and 74.9 cubic feet, respectively. Judging between these two utility vehicles is like comparing pitas to baguettes, breads that are clearly different form factors but both are delicious.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe's base price is just about $117,000, or about 40 grand more than the less potent GLE53 Coupe. As for this example, it checks out for $131,430 including requisite delivery fees, which total $1,050. A few options pad the bottom line, things like that $1,950 driver-assistance package, a head-up display ($1,100), the fancier Burmester High-End Surround Sound System ($4,550) and the Warmth and Comfort Package ($1,050), to name a few.
With thundering performance, a comfortable and refined cabin, plus plenty of style both inside and out, the coupe-ified crossover is well-rounded and surprisingly livable. If you value style over capaciousness get the GLE63 S Coupe, but if versatility matters more, stick with the standard GLE SUV. Either way, you can't go wrong.