First Drive – 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S ensures you’ll never be late with 4.0L twin-turbocharged V-8 that produces 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque
We put the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and GLS 63 to work in the twisted and scenic hills of Malibu, California, testing out what's said to be the zippiest SUV in the company's lineup.
Squaring up to the new SUV, the grille glared at us with its AMG-signature vertical chrome bars before we stepped inside. Upon ignition, the 4.0L twin-turbocharged V-8 roared, ready for our input, which we gladly applied. With 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque routed through the AMG Speedshift nine-speed automatic transmission, the GLE 63 S pushed us back in the seat, a thrill akin to riding a rollercoaster. It took only 3.7 seconds for us to break 60 mph before we settled into the turns.
AMG's Dynamic Select drive settings allowed us to choose from Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Race modes, each with its respective tunes to the vehicle's steering, throttle, suspension, and shift points. "Comfort" was better suited for around-town jaunts, where fuel economy and pothole avoidance took precedence. When the situations presented themselves, however, the sportier settings were selected and the GLE 63 S lowered its air suspension by 0.4 inch for reductions in body roll and better aerodynamics. As we pushed the SUV further into turns and explored the various modes, we felt the 48-volt AMG Active Ride Control working with us to electronically compensate for body roll and shifts in weight. AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive was also hard at work, undetectably transferring power to the front axle as the computer deemed fit, keeping all four tires pinned hard to the pavement.
Also at work under the hood were the active engine mounts, which alternated between soft and stiff based on drive mode to favor either comfortable or sporty drive characteristics. When in Comfort mode, the engine seamlessly deactivated cylinders two, three, five, and eight for a more fuel-conscious ride.
EQ Boost: The Secret Sauce
Sitting between the nine-speed trans and the 4.0L twin-turbo V-8 engine is the electrical goodness that provides an added 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The mild hybrid system, named EQ Boost, is an integrated starter generator with a starter motor and alternator packaged together and designed to give a more responsive acceleration as well as powering the vehicle's stop/start function. The system also controls the idle speed, which further contribute to fuel savings.
When jaunts with the GLE 63 S involve dirt tracks or a dirt-covered road, Trail and Sand drive modes offer individual tunes of the steering and throttle response as well as a 2.16-inch increase in ride height from the air suspension, allowing for more ground clearance, as long as the vehicle's speed remains under 44 mph.
The Bigger Sibling
Similar to the GLE 63 S in all ways but its size and track times, the GLS 63 features a bit more space for extra humans and cargo, gives the option for 23-inch wheels, and gets up to 60 mph 0.4 second slower than its little sibling. Also, Race mode is only found on the GLE 63 S, perhaps to the delight of unsuspecting passengers of the larger AMG.
After driving both SUVs, we almost found ourselves having more fun tossing the GLS 63 into turns than its smaller counterpart. With the same power on tap, the remaining differences were in the amount of rubber separating us from the tarmac and minor changes in the suspension tuning to account for the slightly larger body. Regardless, both made for a hair-raising experience whether we were commuting to and from sightseeing destinations or engaging in spirited travels through the scenic Santa Monica Mountains.