Driven: 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63 S Coupe
The 603 Horsepower Hybrid Family Hauler.
We're suckers for horsepower. It's really no secret that if it goes fast, we'll drive it (who are we kidding, we'll drive anything with wheels). Staying true to that mantra, when we were offered a go in the new 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLE 63 S Coupe we quickly said yes. In early 2020 we had the opportunity to jump in the driver's seat of a nearly identical 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S. However, that was the SUV version, and this was differently optioned Coupe, so how could we say no? The first time around, we took the GLE 63 S on a trip on the open road across the desert. This time, we spent our week doing the complete opposite, commuting. How did the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupe fair contending with stop lights, carpool lines, and copious drive-thru fast-food? Read on to find out!
What's The Difference Between The Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV and Coupe?
We get this question a lot, and the answer is fairly simple. Mechanically, the GLE SUV and Couple are identical. The biggest difference is body styling, with the Coupe featuring a sleeker and more athletic look than the larger and boxier SUV. This styling comes at a cost however, as the Coupe has less storage space and interior space overall than the SUV. And, while there are several standard models of the GLE SUV, the GLE Coupe is only available from AMG, bringing with it all of the styling, functional bits, and price tag of an AMG model. The Coupe also comes standard with many of the extras that are optional on the AMG SUV.
What Makes the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupe Special?
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupe is one the most powerful SUVs, and vehicles for that matter, that Mercedes currently offers in the United States. A hand-crafted, biturbo, 4.0L V-8 engine lives under the hood and churns out a whopping 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claims a 3.7 second 0-60 time for the GLC 63 S Coupe, with an electronically limited top speed of 174 mph.
Utilizing what Mercedes calls a "hot V", both of the engine's large turbochargers reside on top of the engine inside the space between the cylinder heads. Cylinder head flow is reversed, with hot exhaust gases coming directly to the turbochargers on the inside, while cool compressed air enters the heads from the sides (where the exhaust manifolds typically would be found). The 4.0L AMG V-8 engine is also beltless, utilizing a 48-volt integrated starter-generator for starting and charging duties, and electric water and A/C pumps for cooling needs.
The 2021 GLE SUV and Coupe were the first AMG models to feature Mercedes' new 48-volt "hybrid" system. Called EQ Boost by Mercedes, the new 48-volt system utilizes an integrated starter-generator (ISG) that is capable of adding up to 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque to the driveline. The system works at low rpm and off-idle, so these figures do not contribute to the max power and torque figures (which are already impressive at 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque). Much like the other 48-volt mild-hybrid systems on the market, Mercedes' EQ Boost replaces both the starter motor and alternator and works to add torque when pulling away from a stop, to smooth shifts, and to reduce NVH when shifting between four- and eight-cylinder operation. The EQ Boost system also allows the GLE to "sail," or driving and coasting at low speeds with the engine off.
Suspending the GLE 63 S Coupe is Mercedes' four-corner air suspension and AMG Active Ride Control. The AMG Active Ride Control system features a 48-volt active anti-roll bar that uses a set of planetary gears on each bar to counteract body movements. The GLE 63 S Coupe also comes standard with Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. However, this model's AMG performance-tuned 4MATIC+ is able to send up to 100 percent of available torque to the rear wheels, along with splitting power 50/50, when needed. This gives the GLE 63 S Coupe a driving dynamic that's nearly unrivaled in the SUV world. An electronic limited-slip rear differential further sharpens the GLE 63 S Coupe.
So, How Does The GLE 63 S Coupe Drive?
In short, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupe is amazing to drive. With the simple turn of a knob, the vehicle can go from a docile commuter to a snarling track beast. Leaving the GLE 63 S Coupe's AMG Dynamic Select knob in Comfort mode would leave even the stuffiest passenger believing that they were riding in nothing more than a high-end luxury SUV. The ride is comfortable, the cabin is quiet, and there's nothing that would be cause for alarm. However, switching the GLE 63 S Coupe into Sport, Sport+, or Race mode awakens the beast within.
The torque boost from the 48-volt EQ Boost system virtually eliminates turbo lag, which allows the GLE 63 S Coupe to shoot off the line like a bullet from a gun. Passing and merging are nonevents, and if you're not careful with throttle input, the vehicle will scream past the century mark in no time flat. Everything tightens up in the more aggressive drive modes, which provides nice flat cornering while carving twisty roads. Steering feel and feedback are great for a nearly 5,000-pound SUV, and there's no lack of grip thanks to the GLE's 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system and sticky Michelin tires.
All The Luxury You'd Expect From Mercedes-Benz
Inside, the GLE 63 S Coupe has all of the luxury niceties that you would expect from a Mercedes SUV. And to be honest, it came to us equipped with far more features than we could even begin to explore in just a week with the vehicle. We enjoyed the Multicontour massaging front seats, an $1,100 option. We also appreciated the Warmth and Comfort Package on cold morning, which for $1,050 brought rapid heating front seats, heated arm rests, and heated door panels. The Burmester surround sound stereo system is fantastic, and honestly, we didn't really miss the $4,450 "high-end" Burmester system found in the last GLE we drove. We think those dollars were better spent on the 22-inch wheels ($2,000), AMG Night Package ($750), and Acoustic Comfort Package ($1,100).
We also enjoyed the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment and information system. For 2021, the dash of the GLE 63 S Coupe is now flanked with a pair of 12.3-inch screens, one serving as a digital instrument cluster and one as a media display. The screens pair seamlessly for more than 2 feet of screen space. Options are the name of the game, and the new MBUX can be controlled by four different means: voice command, touchscreen, console touchpad, and steering wheel-mounted touch control buttons. In our past experience with this system, we enjoyed using the voice control to command the system, as it responded very well to natural language. However, on this occasion we had a really difficult time getting it to follow even the most basic of commands. More time with the system and further mastery of the trigger words (it still chimes in every time you utter the word "Mercedes," so be careful when talking with your passenger) would likely yield a more enjoyable experience. We found the best way for us to navigate the system was with either the steering wheel mounted touch pads or directly on the screen. In a week of driving, we never used the console mounted touchpad.
As if from the future, the MUBX Interior Assistant uses a camera mounted at the windshield to sense if the driver or passenger is reaching for the touchscreen or touchpad and adjusts the icons appropriately in anticipation. There are also gestures that can be used to command the system, though we didn't have time to learn any. The system also uses artificial intelligence to learn your actions and prepare for them. For example, if you call the same person each day at 5 p.m., the system will provide prompts for setting up the call and reminding you to make it.
Speaking of artificial intelligence, the MBUX system has the ability to use the same windshield-mounted camera to display on the screen a view of what is coming up ahead of the vehicle. Combined with the advanced AI, the system can overlay street names, house numbers, directional arrows, and much more. We definitely appreciated this function when using the built-in navigation system. This augmented video system is a $350 option that we'd say is well worth it.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S Coupe. It's civil when it needs to be and a brute when it wants to be. It's got the luxury befitting the Mercedes-Benz emblem and the performance to justify the AMG tag. While we didn't get a chance to tear around a racetrack or carve a canyon road, the driving we did do was always enjoyable and the GLE 63 S Coupe put a smile on the face of everyone who rode in it. And at the end of the day, isn't that what owning any vehicle is all about?