Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S: FIA Super License Holders Need To Run Errands Too
Affalterbach's perfect car for picking up the kids from soccer practice and setting lap records.
Packing obscene amounts of power and handling capabilities into big crossovers is becoming so common that the segment is outselling performance cars in the same manufacturer's lineup. Mercedes-AMG has been storming roads for nearly two decades with fast offerings of the ML and now GLE Class, and for 2021, the GLE 63 S packs more power and tech than ever.
Going head-to-head with BMW's X5 M and Audi's RS Q8, AMG's offering can haul more than groceries, and now is equipped with the wicked EQ Boost system that adds gobs of electric torque on-demand. On the outside, it may look like another soccer mom car, but underneath, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is potent with the stuff racing drivers crave. To see how the big, fast AMG hauler in the hands of an enthusiast driver, I gave it a properly thorough examination.
Going Over The Numbers
As is the case with many AMG models, the GLE 63 S is stuffed with the popular 4.0-liter hot-inside-V twin-turbo V8, with 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft (850 Nm) of torque. The power doesn't stop there, because the EQ Boost starter alternator setup adds 21 horsepower and 180 lb-ft (244 Nm) of torque when you stab the throttle, flattening the power band.
This powertrain is identical to the seven-seat Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 I tested recently, but is packed into a smaller, more attractive five-seat package that carries 700 fewer pounds. Even though AMG's GLE weighs a hefty 5,300 pounds (2,400 kg), all the power shoves you from 0-60 MPH in 3.7 seconds, on your way to a top track speed of 174 MPH. All this performance and luxury comes at a steep price, and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S has a base price of $113,950, with an as-tested sticker of $131,935.
Stacked With Tech And Creature Comforts
Mercedes-AMG recently overhauled its interior design, and with that came a wave of tech and screens across the model lineup. The GLE 63 S sports a dash and infotainment that you'd spot in the more expensive GLS, and in this configuration its much more tidy and streamlined than the AMG GLC 63 S I tested not too long ago. Customizing the new MBUX screens and info available has limitless options, everything is easy to read, but I will complain about the touchpad to control the main infotainment screen. I wish there was a clickable wheel like the last generation COMAND setup used. The steering wheel trackpads are actually good to use for both the infotainment screen and the instrument cluster though.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, as does wireless mobile phone charging, a fantastic Burmester audio system, and front seats with heating, ventilation, and epic massage features. I do wish there was a better spot to put my iPhone while it's plugged in and using CarPlay. What doesn't come standard is a big suite of safety features, including lane keeping assist, emergency stopping, lane change assist, and adaptive cruise control. While the option price for this package is only $1,700, these are the sorts of things that should come standard on a premium car in a time when Honda includes them in every new car.
I like the infrared-treated glass (keeps out heat), extra sound deadening and thicker glass in the acoustic comfort package, to keep the cabin quieter than your five-year-old who just broke a nice vase while playing football in the house. Skip the energizing package if you've got a sensitive nose, as the air freshener is a bit intense. The quick-heating option is great if you're in a colder climate, and the option package that includes this also features heating in the door panels and center armrest. That's neat!
For Your Ordinary Errand Running
If you're picking up the kids, heading to the shops, or making a trip to visit relatives, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is composed and civil in the normal drive modes. I played with using an individual mode that kept the engine and transmission in more tame modes while sharpening up the handling, and enjoyed that setup. The cabin is spacious, with plenty of room for four adults, and while my tester didn't tick the box, there's an option for a third row of seats for kids that folds down into the massive cargo area. AMG's seats are fantastic, with good bolsters, wide buckets, and a ton of comfort considering the sporty appearance.
The turbo V8 has a good tone that reminds you there's a performance car underneath, but it's not shouty. If you want more noise, there's a button to open the valves and let the fury ring out from the quad exhaust tips. The exterior package on this AMG model is subtle yet sporty, and I like the look of the optional 22-inch cross-spoke wheels wrapped in Yokohama rubber.
As you're running around town, you'll be reminded that the GLE 63 S weighs 5,300 pounds, but it's steady and composed. Brakes aren't too grabby, considering they're intended for sportier driving, and the steering is quite sharp. EPA MPG estimates are 15/19/16 (city/highway/combined), and my mostly city duty and addiction to electrified power on tap had me average 16.1 MPGs during my week-long test.
Electrified Performance Runs Rampant
Spending many thousands of dollars over a more tame crossover was done with every intent of having some fun, and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S will flush out any thoughts of boring driving when you stare down a twisty back road and dispatch gobs of electrified power. Pairing AMG's EQ Boost system to an already fast 600-horsepower twin-turbo V8, smart all-wheel-drive system, and electric limited-slip diff gives you performance wizardry typically stuffed into supercars. Having a combined 800 lb-ft of torque at your disposal is a blessing and a curse. Be smooth with throttle applications to get the most enjoyable shove of torque, as the electrified system can be set free faster than a hummingbird's wing flap, and can be a bit more jumpy rather than smooth like you get in the Bentley Bentayga Speed.
With a 48-volt suspension and anti-roll setup equipped, the big crossover makes tackling corners a breeze, and almost hides the massive curb weight. If you don't have the smoothest hands on the carbon fiber steering wheel, you can quickly upset the balance and behavior of the electric suspension aids, so be mindful when you go hooning. The body roll is typically diminished easily, but if I tried driving the GLE 63 S like a sport sedan, yaw would increase dramatically, but grip was still positive.
I love the optional AMG Drive Unit control knob on the steering wheel, letting me change between the default and custom modes, and appreciate AMG letting drivers tweak all sorts of settings in the traction control to let you play on fun roads or tracks as you please. The optional steering wheel also includes programmable buttons to quickly toggle and swap exhaust, suspension, and drive modes to my liking. Yokohama Advan Sport rubber was surprisingly grippy, and only got hot and slippery when I was driving in more maniacal ways on a twisty bend far from the city. With 325mm rears, the tires aren't going to be cheap to replace, but they help you hook up when you stomp the accelerator.
My tester had the standard performance brakes equipped, which were more than suitable, but if you want to drop a bunch of cash while reducing unsprung weight, AMG does offer ceramic brakes as an option. I can't imagine really wanting to get them unless you're really flogging the big GLE around like a sports car on a regular basis, as the standard ones are good, but the upgraded discs will probably reduce fade nicely.
Soccer Moms And Racing License Holders Approve
Fast crossovers are packing a trend that isn't stopping any time soon, and as manufacturers are finding margins and sales figures are both going up the selection is increasing. Mercedes-AMG offers a good sweet spot with the GLE 63 S, with more tame styling inside and out than the Audi RS Q8 while cooler in those same departments than the BMW X5 M.
With plenty of practicality, a wild amount of performance, and loads of technology on board, AMG gives the driver that wants a performance car but needs a crossover a banging package with the GLE 63 S. At over $120,000, it does ask for a lot of your hard earned money, but you end up with a package that can please an errand runner as much as a track lapper. How you divide your time between the shops, Autobahn, and Nürburgring is up to you.