I recently spent a week with a 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. If you aren’t familiar, the GLE is Mercedes’ midsize SUV, and the AMG GLE 63 S is the most powerful, most obnoxious, and most expensive version of it. Quick specs on the GLE 63 S are as follows: Twin-turbo, hand-built 4.0-liter V8. 603 horsepower. 627 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. Top speed of 180 miles per hour. The GLE 63 S has a base price of $114,000, and the one I tested stickered for just under $132,000. That’s nuts, but by the end of my week with the car, I was wondering – could it be that the AMG GLE 63 S is actually worth it?
Under the Hood
Let’s start with the powertrain. We’ve already gone over the stats – two turbos, more power than pretty much everything else on the road, and acceleration that can cause a temporary separation of mind and body. Now for the subjective stuff – this thing rips. Not only is it brutally fast, but it’s brutally fast at the exact moment you want it to be. There’s a slight turbo lag when accelerating from a dead stop, but once those turbos kick in, it’s off to the races. On the highway is where the GLE 63 S is most impressive; this is a vehicle designed to perform at high speed for sustained periods on the Autobahn, after all. Acceleration is instant, and you go from the speed you’re at to the speed you want to be going in barely any time, whether that’s 50 to 70 or 80 to… significantly more than 80. Steering is light, but handling is sharp, especially for a vehicle weighing 5,300lbs. The GLE 63 S has a number of different drive modes too. The default mode is comfort, and from there, it goes Sport, Sport+, and Race. There’s also a customizable Individual mode, plus modes for wet and off-pavement driving as well. The transmission, suspension, exhaust, engine mapping, steering, and overall driving dynamics change with the different drive modes and can be manually adjusted via controls on the steering wheel and dashboard too.
As for hardware, the GLE’s interior leaves little room for improvement. Every surface inspires confidence, from the leather seating surfaces to the rubberized dashboard to the brushed aluminum paddle shifters. LED lighting strips wrap around the dashboard, door panels, and center console and can be adjusted to 64 different hues. My tester came with heated armrests on both the center console and door panels, and the cupholders even had a heating and cooling function. Oddly though, it didn’t come with a heated steering wheel. The second row had plenty of legroom, a massive panoramic sunroof, and power-operated sunshades in both side windows.
Comfort and Ergonomics
An underrated selling point of current Mercedes models is the ergonomics. While buying a premium luxury car means enhanced driving dynamics and a nice interior, paying for one of these more exclusive marques doesn’t necessarily mean the car will be easier to use when it comes to buttons and switches (here’s looking at you, Lexus). In the case of the GLE, though, and every other Mercedes I’ve been in recently, for that matter, I found everything to be thoughtfully placed and easy to use. Nobody should be turned off of current-day Mercedes-Benz by the complexity of its cabin tech. My favorite thing about these interiors is the redundant controls. The performance controls on the steering wheel are replicated on the center console, while the touchscreen infotainment system can also be operated via a touchpad on the console, which, as far as in-car touchpads go, is pretty intuitive to operate.
Is it Worth the Price Tag?
Having gotten to experience a large portion of the new cars on sale today over the past few years, I’ve gotten a little cynical, especially about European luxury cars. Are they worth twice, or in this case, three times as much as your every-day midsize crossover? In the case of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, I’m inclined to say it is between its top-shelf design, excellent interior layout, and world-beating performance. AMG has been around for a long time, and while there are perhaps more expressive options out there from Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, and the like, it’s hard to argue with the consistency, and no-nonsense refinement of Mercedes-AMG and the 2021 GLE 63 S. Find a Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Find him on YouTube and on Instagram.