by Deiondre van der Merwe
The Mercedes-AMG GLE53 sits in the middle ground of the AMG-division in many ways. Want an SUV that's not small, but not too big either? A powerful engine, but not outrageously so? The GLE53 SUV hits the sweet spot. It wraps feisty performance up in a sleek, sporty body with an interior that's as deluxe as you'd expect from a Benz that sits close to the $75,000 mark. A turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six sends 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels as standard, augmented by a 48-volt electrical system with 21 hp and 184 lb-ft available. Still, it's a good bit more affordable than its rivals that include the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne S. The go-fast SUV has had our stamp of approval since the redesign breathed new life into it. With this new performance middle ground, the AMG SUV will undoubtedly find its way onto the driveways of well-to-do families across the US.
The GLE-Class was completely redesigned for 2020, and the GLE53 is an all-new model for 2021 that replaces the outgoing GLE43. The go-fast SUV also relies on an in-line six with EQ Boost assistance in place of the old twin-turbo V6.
|AMG GLE 53 4MATIC SUV||
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Hybrid
The SUV does an excellent job of focusing on performance without overcompensating in the styling department. A classic AMG-style Panamericana grille dominates the face of the GLE53, flanked by a set of sharply-designed LED headlights with twin-strip LED DRLs. The combination makes for an aptly intimidating face, and the trend continues when you have a look at the back of the German machine. Down-turned LED taillights are the focal point of the rear end, further complemented by a set of two round exhaust pipes poking out from either side of the diffuser. It sits on 20-inch AMG wheels as standard, but 21- and 22-inch items are optionally available. A power liftgate is standard, and a panoramic sunroof can be added for $1,000 in place of the standard power sunroof.
The GLE53 sits just below the GLS-Class in terms of size and has a length measurement of 194.4 inches. Its dimensions are on par with both the Audi SQ7 and the BMW M50i. The wheelbase stretches 117.9 inches, and the SUV measures 84.9 inches wide including the mirrors. It stands at 70.2 inches tall, and the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system and hybrid powertrain components don't result in a curb weight that's as heavy as you would assume. The GLE53's 5,082-lb curb weight makes it lighter than its rivals from Audi and BMW.
Mercedes-AMG makes an 11-color palette available for the exterior of the GLE53, two of which are available at no extra charge. The standard colors include Black and Polar White at no cost, while metallic hues add $720 to the invoice. The optional metallic range begins with Iridium Silver, followed by Mojave Silver, Lunar Blue, Brilliant Blue, Emerald Green, Selenite Grey, and Obsidian Black. But if you're one for the finer things, a designo Cardinal Red metallic hue can be had for $1,080. Rounding off the range is the designo Diamond White metallic that costs $1,515.
Even as the popularity of go-fast SUVs increases, some still detest the concept. Regardless of which side you're on, most will agree that a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six hurtling over 5,000 pounds from 0-60 mph in a little over five seconds is ludicrous. Well, the GLE53 manages to do just this in a Mercedes-claimed 5.2 seconds, to be exact. The run it achieves from 0 to 60 mph is just shy of the Cayenne S's 4.9-second achievement, but can't quite compete with the more powerful 523-hp X5 M50i's 4.1-second run. Numbers aren't always the be-all and end-all of the conversation, however. The standard all-wheel-drive system does wonders in wetter weather, and aids in the effort for grip off the line. The GLE53 moves at an impressive pace for its chunky disposition and pushes a deliciously composed soundtrack out of the set of quad pipes out back.
Getting the GLE53's wheels turning is an absolute smash hit of an engine, nabbed from the other 53-badged AMG models. The turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six produces 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, and sings a beautiful song as it drives its power through a nine-speed AMG-Speedshift transmission. Mounted between the two is a starter-generator that Mercedes-AMG calls "EQ Boost." The 48-volt electrical system affords the Merc an extra 21 horses and 184 lb-ft of torque, all while improving the seamlessness of the start-stop function, aiding fuel economy, and powering an electric turbo to mitigate turbo lag. The GLE53 just below the top of the GLE AMG line, yet its outputs fall behind similar performance models from BMW and Audi. Both the X5 M50i and the Audi SQ7 produce well over 500 horsepower. Power is an essential factor to consider in this segment, but so is refinement. The GLE53 is smooth, steady, and intuitive, whether you're in day-to-day traffic or taking a road trip with the family.
From the moment you put your foot down, you can tell you're steering upwards of 5,000 pounds around town. It's one of the few downfalls of the GLE53, but the heaviness can be overlooked when you consider the other redeeming qualities the SUV offers. It's wonderfully predictable, and the powertrain is eager, making it a delightful car to drive based on that alone.
But it doesn't end there; unlike many automatic family-haulers, the GLE53 manages to shift intuitively even in Comfort Mode. Navigation through the gears is delightfully smooth on a simple commute, but there's an immediate response when you request it. It's remarkably fun in manual or Sport mode, dropping gears willingly via the steering wheel-mounted paddles. An even more pleasant aspect of the nine-speed 'box is that it won't mother you. The absence of an automatic upshift when the rev-counter is in the red is a welcome feature.
The combination of the GLE53's air suspension with active anti-roll bars means that it can handle itself on a twisty road and in a straight line, but what about comfort? The standard air suspension gives an elegant middle finger to a bumpy road, and the optional AMG Active Ride Control does even better. Responsive steering is part and parcel, so carving out the corners should not be a difficult task. To summarize, it's more fun behind the wheel of this SUV than you'd think based on looks alone.
Mercedes-AMG's mid-range SUV does rather well in this department. We wouldn't call it class-leading, but it's good enough. With EPA estimates of 18/22/19 mpg, it falls slightly behind the Porsche Cayenne S's 18/22/20 mpg figures. It does offer a slight improvement over the BMW X5 M50i that returns figures of 16/22/18 mpg, and it's notably more frugal than the Maserati Levante, with EPA estimates of 15/21/17 mpg. With the 22.5-gallon fuel tank at full capacity, the Merc will manage a total distance of around 425 miles.
Another one of the GLE53's strongest points is its interior. We've made no attempt to hide our fondness for Mercedes-AMG interiors in past reviews, and this one is no different. The cabin is impeccable; seating swathed in premium upholstery and a seamlessly integrated infotainment system is just the beginning. The steering wheel is perfectly designed, with enough controls under your fingertips to avoid unnecessary fingerprints on the large touchscreen - the latest iteration of Mercedes' twin-12.3-inch screens loaded with the MBUX software. Loaded with tech and convenience, the inside of the GLE53 is grand enough to make you sad to leave it when you reach your destination.
The seating is as plush and supportive as expected and does exceptionally well at coddling occupants, even over longer journeys. In standard guise, the GLE seats a maximum of five occupants, but for an extra $2,100, you can add third-row seating. While the option is nice to have, the addition isn't worth it as it's extremely cramped. For the front occupants, the seating is heated and multi-way power-adjustable with four-way lumbar support. If you want to go the extra mile for ultimate comfort, you can opt for multicontour front seats with a massage function for $1,100. Ventilation can also be equipped for the front seats at $450, and heating can be added to the rear seats for $580. As for space, passengers will enjoy a lot of room in the GLE53 with 40.3 inches of legroom and 40.5 inches of headroom up front and similar figures for the rear. It's spacious and airy inside, making it an excellent choice for shoppers with a family to consider.
Part of the GLE53's interior appeal can be attributed to the use of premium materials throughout the inside. As standard, black MB-Tex upholstery with red stitching complements the bolstered seats perfectly. However, for added luxury, there are eight other options available. Black Nappa leather upholstery can be had for $2,990, along with a Tartufo and black combination and a Classic Red and black combination, too. Exclusive black Nappa leather upholstery is available in the same shades as the regular Nappa selection for $4,550. If that doesn't do it for you, you can opt for Black Nappa leather with quilted stitching for $4,800, or you can clad your seats in Macchiato Beige Nappa leather for the same fee. Seatbelts are available in both black and red, and a Black Dinamica headliner can be had for $1,600. The AMG Performance steering wheel can be clad in Dinamica leather or a combination of that and Nappa leather. If that simply isn't enough, the MB-Tex top-stitched dash and door trim is optionally available for $350.
Two types of insert styles come standard, including Grey Linden wood and aluminum. Grey Oak or Walnut wood can be had for $160, while a metal weave will cost $600. For even more of your hard-earned dollars, designo Brown Linden "Flowing Lines" wood costs $850. But the ultimate option is the AMG Carbon Fiber that'll set you back $1,750.
One of the main reasons performance SUVs are so popular is because people want the sport-focus, but don't want to sacrifice practicality. The GLE53 delivers on both fronts. A total of 33.3 cubic feet avails itself behind the rear seats, with access granted by a power liftgate as standard. The second-row seats fold in a 40/20/40 split, allowing for a total of 74.9 cubes when needed. Its impressive trunk puts it ahead of the Porsche Cayenne in this regard. However, the X5 offers a slightly bigger 33.9-cube trunk with the rear seats in place.
As for in-cabin storage, the GLE53 has rather small door pockets, but has a decent-sized glove compartment to make up for it and a cavernous center console storage bin beneath the armrest. Heated and cooled front cupholders can be added for $180.
As you'd expect from an SUV of this caliber, the GLE53 comes well-equipped with standard-fitted indulgences. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof, keyless entry, and push-button start are first on the list, followed by power-adjustable front seats with four-way power-adjustability. Dual-zone climate control maintains the perfect cabin environment, while 64-color ambient lighting sets the visual tone. A gorgeous tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with touch control buttons enables the driver to control the infotainment under the fingertips. A household-type 115V power outlet can also come in handy when you need it. Four-zone climate control can be added for $860 and soft-close doors for $550. Ventilation and a massage function are also optionally available. Standard safety features are inclusive of a rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring as well as auto-dimming mirrors. An available semi-autonomous distronic system allows for distance control based on the proximity of the vehicle in front of you.
The technology found inside the modern Mercedes-AMG gives it a considerable nudge ahead of certain rivals. It's not so much about the actual tech as it is about the way the designers laid it all out. Packing that much innovation in without cluttering accessibility is a difficult task, but the automaker has managed to pull it off entirely. The main attraction is the seamlessly joined 12.3-inch dual-screen set-up with MBUX software and "Hey, Mercedes" voice activation. One screen serves as a digital instrument cluster and the other as an infotainment system that can be controlled via the touch controls on the steering wheel, or by touch itself. The latter enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as standard along with SiriusXM and Bluetooth streaming. A navigation system is also part of the package, and audio is pushed out with perfect clarity thanks to a 13-speaker Burmester sound system. Five USB ports can be found through the inside, and wireless charging for smartphones is a given. If you'd like an even better experience from the inside, a high-end 25-speaker Burmester surround system costs $4,550. The additional options are rounded off by a head-up display that can be had for $1,100.
Despite barely having reached the road, the 2021 GLE53 has been recalled once so far at the time of this writing. It was related to interior switches not illuminating, so nothing mechanical has gone wrong as yet. If it ever does, Mercedes-AMG offers a four-year or 50,000-mile basic warranty as well as a corrosion and drivetrain warranty standard for the same time period and mileage limit. Roadside assistance is also standard for four years or 50,000 miles.
The GLE53 hasn't been officially rated for safety by the NHTSA. The IIHS review of the standard GLE-Class yielded exemplary results, including the top honor of being a 2020 Top Safety Pick +.
This is one of the few areas where Mercedes-AMG could have done a little better with the GLE53. The traditional side of safety in the SUV is perfectly fine, with a seven-airbag system inclusive of dual-front, front-side, and side curtain airbags as well as a driver's knee airbag. A rearview camera is a given. On the modern side of things, active brake assist and attention assist are standard along with blind-spot monitoring. Active parking assist helps in tighter spaces, and a parking damage detector sends a notification to your smartphone when an inconsiderate driver bumps into your car. Effectively allowing you to show up just in time to shake your fists in the air as they drive away. If it's a comprehensive safety suite that you desire, you'll have to opt for the Driver Assistance Package Plus that adds active distance assist, steering assist, brake assist with cross-traffic monitoring and speed limit assist. It also adds lane keep and lane change assist and route-based speed adaptation to name a few. The package balloons the safety suite by a vast amount, but we wish more features were standard.
The Mercedes-AMG GLE53 is a sublime mid-level performance SUV. Nothing about it is outrageous, and everything is refined and well-placed. The ample power under your right foot never feels coarse, and the experience behind the wheel is a pleasurable one. From a style perspective, the AMG-massaged high-rider is unmistakably classy, one can reach this conclusion by merely glancing at any piece of it, whether outside or the inside. The 3.0-liter inline-six is creamily smooth and paired with an excellent transmission, making the daily commute as comfortable as you could hope for. It's also stacked with convenience and modern tech. There are a few small gripes, the fuel economy could be improved and the safety suite could be better as standard, but it's an excellent luxury SUV as a whole. The biggest issue is that there is only the GLE63 above this, and while rivals from BMW and Audi have full-fat versions of their midsize performers, they also have mid-tier models with over 500 hp that the GLE53 should, but simply can't, compete with.
A starting price of $72,350 means that the GLE53 is more affordable than the Cayenne that comes in at well over $80,000 and the BMW X5 M50i that has a starting MSRP of $82,800. The price can hike up quite easily with additional options, but that's common within the luxury segment. The MSRP is exclusive of a $995 destination fee.
There is only one trim level for the Mercedes-AMG GLE53, slotting between lesser GLE-Class derivatives and the full-fat GLE63. It enlists a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder to get its wheels turning, aided by a 48-volt hybrid system that improves fuel economy. The combined mill is married to a nine-speed automatic transmission, and an all-wheel-drive system is standard.
As standard, the GLE53 sits on 20-inch wheels, has a tilt-and-slide sunroof, and a power liftgate. Keyless entry and push-button start negate the need to ever touch your keys, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with touch controls guides the way. Multi-way power-adjustable seats with four-way lumbar support and heating are standard for the front, while dual-zone climate control and 64-color ambient lighting set the cabin environment. As for infotainment, two 12.3-inch screens are joined together and serve as both a digital instrument cluster and an infotainment screen. The latter is a touchscreen and allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard along with SiriusXM, Bluetooth streaming, and a navigation system, while a 13-speaker Burmester system handles audio.
The safety features are inclusive of a rearview camera and active brake assist. Attention warning and blind-spot monitoring are standard along with active park assist and a parking damage detector.
Mercedes-AMG makes plenty of packages available for the GLE53. Some of them are considerably more expensive than others. The most notable one is the Driver Assistance Package Plus that costs $1,950 and adds features like active distance assist, steering assist, brake assist with cross-traffic monitoring, and speed limit assist. It also adds lane keep and lane change assist and route-based speed adaptation. Next up is the AMG Dynamic Plus Package that adds AMG's active ride control, a high-performance braking system and an AMG performance steering wheel for $5,200. Standalone add-ons include an AMG performance exhaust system for $1,250 and a head-up display for $1,100, or a panoramic sunroof at $1,000. A third row of seats can be installed for $2,100, but we'd avoid this. An Energizing Package Plus can also be had for $2,100 to kit out the cabin with an air purification and fragrance system, as well as multicontour front seats with massage and ventilation.
With just one trim available, it's up to the additional packages to customize your GLE53. For starters, we'd opt for the Mojave Silver metallic exterior hue. We'd upgrade the features suite with the addition of the Driver Assistance Package Plus and the AMG Dynamic Plus Package. This will automatically add 21-inch wheels to the mix, and we'd go one step further with the head-up display for $1,100 and the multicontour front seats with massage. This puts the final MSRP at $82,320.
The SQ7 comes in at over $10,000 more expensive than the GLE53. That being said, it's bigger in size and has way more power to offer from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo engine at 500 hp on the button. Both SUVs have predictably luxurious interiors packed with modern tech, but the GLE53 has a better layout in terms of cabin design. The Audi offers less efficiency in terms of fuel economy but makes up for it with 500 horsepower lying in wait under its snout. Inside, the Audi offers more interior space, but the GLE53 has a much larger trunk to offer. The better car will often come down to individual brand preference, but it'll be the GLE53 for us in terms of overall performance and value, not to mention the long list of available technology.
The X5 M50i is a truer performance SUV than the GLE53 is. The BMW hosts a monstrous 4.4-liter twin-turbo that punches out 523 hp and sprints from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds to the Merc's 5.2-second effort, and is only slightly heavier than the GLE in terms of fuel efficiency. Where the GLE wins is its gorgeous, understated interior and low base MSRP, but otherwise, it's outshined by the X5. The BMW offers a bigger trunk behind the back seats, and an equally luxurious interior, even if it's not as well laid-out. Both are good choices as far as go-fast SUVs go, but the X5 is the winner between the two. The only saving grace for the GLE53 in this fight would be that it's significantly more affordable than the X5.