2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe: The Middle Child Shouldn't Be Ignored
Raiding the goodies bin at AMG, this crossover coupe doesn't leap off the page, but should it?
As crossover coupes go, the Mercedes-AMG GLE is a good one. Sharp styling, reasonable usability for any condition, a massive range of engines to please any driver, and plenty of luxury balanced nicely within a tech-heavy cabin. Up against the BMW X6 and Audi Q7, the GLE has some German rivals that keep it honest.
As a middle of the pack engine offering, the AMG GLE 53's turbo straight six isn't as widely admired as its 4.0-liter V8 big brother, but since when does a performance-focused crossover need over 600 horsepower to be good? I took it upon myself to see if the more reasonably-powered AMG crossover coupe was worthy of the AMG badge.
The Vital Specs
Pulling the 3.0-liter turbo inline-six from the AMG parts bin and adding Mercedes' EQ Boost mild hybrid system to the mix, the GLE 53 coupe delivers 429 horsepower @ 6,100 RPM and 384 lb-ft (520 Nm) of torque across a plateau from 1,800 - 5,800 RPM. Through a nine-speed DCT and all-wheel-drive, the mid-range Mercedes-AMG crossover can run from 0-60 MPH in 5.2 seconds, which isn't too shabby.
The GLE 53 coupe measures 194 inches long, 85 wide, 70 tall, and has a 118-inch wheelbase. Surprisingly light for its size and class, this Merc tips the scales at 4,960 pounds (2,250 kg). With a large list of available options, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 coupe has a base MSRP of $76,500, and the heavily-optioned Polar White tester I was delivered rang up a total of $92,735. That sticker price is a bit more than the BMW X6 xDrive 40i I tested recently, but this AMG model ticked more option boxes than the BMW.
Toting Kids And Shopping Bags
Whether you're running errands, taking a trip to the in-laws' place, or buzzing around a good farm-to-market road, the GLE 53 coupe's drive quality is fantastic. Packing AMG's Ride Control+ air suspension, the GLE 53 adapts wonderfully along any paved texture, and easily copes with disruptions. Fortunately, being an AMG model the GLE 53 gets the Dynamic Select system which allows drivers to pick different drive modes and individual settings. If you're driving around town, definitely keep the suspension in comfort mode.
The turbocharged straight-six has a pleasing amount of power on its own, but if you want to put your foot down, the electrified boost seamlessly provides an additional 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This electric starter alternator system also manages the start/stop system in a less intrusive manner than many cars I've tested.
Sharing cabin treatments with the larger, more upscale GLS, the GLE crossover and coupe get a tastefully appointed cockpit with fine materials, massive infotainment and instrumentation screens, and big comfy seats. I dig the black and tan themed seats, and appreciate that they're nicely bolstered, but not overly racy. You're giving up some cargo space with the coupe roofline, but the storage is still plentiful, and the back seat still has sufficient space for adults of above average height.
Fun Enough On Twisty Roads?
Slapping an AMG badge on a crossover doesn't necessarily make it a performance car, but the GLE 53 coupe gets the job done. More nimble than I anticipated, the midsized crossover makes quick work of twisty roads. With EQ Boost on tap, ignore the 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque ratings, because the hybrid gives a pleasant amount of extra shove at nearly any RPM. I sense a hint of fake engine noise through the speakers, to give you a racier sensation from the straight-six, but the exhaust notes are more robust than I expected from such an engine package.
Equip the optional AMG performance steering wheel and you get a round controller for drive mode selections and two customizable buttons on the left side of the wheel that let you independently tweak suspension, exhaust, stability control settings. Dampers are on the firm side, but they're not jittering the fillings out of your teeth. Fortunately you can tweak the individual drive mode to your liking, and I suggest sticking with a comfort suspension setting no matter which engine and exhaust mode you crave.
Steering feel is a bit lighter than I prefer, due to being electronically boosted, but it's precise. Carrying around a couple tons of mass is easy in the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 coupe, with surprisingly smooth handling through faster sweepers. There's no mistaking the ride height when you're buzzing around bends at quicker speeds, but I never lost confidence in the car's grip. I attribute the GLE's good handling to AMG's air suspension and adaptive dampers, but the 275 mm front and 315 mm wide rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV rubber get honorable mention too.
Adventurous drivers should take advantage of the off-road drive mode settings that enable sand and trail options for any camping trip or summer journey. Adjustable ride height is a nice touch too, toggled by a quick switch on the center console. Just don't go too crazy off the pavement if you still have the stickier Michelins equipped, as the AMG engineers did more to give this GLE better on-road manners.
Tech That Makes You Cooler Than Most Parents At Soccer Practice
Step inside the GLE, and you're treated with a nice ensemble of leather, wood, and shiny metal trim. The Mercedes cabin themes are a nice balance between the BMW's more tame and Audi's more futuristic setup. Mercedes' new MBUX infotainment system may look similar to the outgoing COMAND setup, but touchscreen functionality is a welcome upgrade, and the user experience is a massive improvement.
With a pair of 12.3-inch screens, instrument cluster and infotainment screens allow for a plethora of custom setups, ease of controls, and more data points than you probably need. Users that like a central touchpad will be happy to see there's still one on the center console, but I like the smaller touch control buttons on each side of the steering wheel, which sync with the corresponding displays.
Tweaking ambient cabin lighting involves loads of color choices, in addition to a bunch of pre-loaded color-shifting themes. Even the climate control vents can change colors with a momentary illumination of red or blue, depending on whether you're adjusting the cabin temperature up or down. Seat heating and ventilation is fantastic, and the optional massage feature has a handful of modes to enjoy.
Equipped with the optional Burmester audio system, the GLE packs quality any audiophile will appreciate, and the speaker grills are some of the coolest you can get in a car. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, in addition to wireless mobile device charging, NFC pairing (which I could not sort out with my iPhone), and five USB-C ports throughout the cabin.
The steering wheel-mounted AMG Dynamic Select control provides easy selections of several modes including slippery (for inclement weather conditions), comfort, sport, sport+, individual, and new trail and sand options. If you press the button in the center of the dial, you'll quickly engage the individual mode, which I like for changing moods on fun roads.
More Like AMG-Lite, But Still Good
Mercedes-AMG is sneaking its badge on the back of more Mercedes models to attract buyers who want more sportiness in their driveways while getting a bit more respect from the neighbors, but the GLE 53 is not as hardcore as a proper AMG model. If you're comparing the GLE to the BMW X6 or Audi Q7, it's a strong contender. The GLE's appearance is great for a crossover coupe, the performance is potent enough to please most drivers, and the tech-forward interior is fantastic.
The AMG take rate is quite high in the Mercedes lineup, but in the case of the GLE 53, it should have a lower designation. Maybe "AMG Sport" would work. (Feel free to send me the checks, Mercedes.) By no means is it a disappointing car, as the GLE 53 is quick, nimble, and competent for any driving need, but if you want the full-fat AMG experience that provides supercar figures in a crossover package, you're better off getting the 63 variant.