by Jay Traugott
The very idea of a four-door SUV coupe did not exist until fairly recently. It was BMW, in fact, who started this whole trend with the first-generation X6. The idea was simple: take the existing mid-size X5 platform, engines, and most all other components including the interior, and add a new body. It was essentially a parts bin model that was relatively cheap to develop but sold for a premium. That's brilliant business right there, and rival Mercedes-Benz took notice.
The result was the GLE Coupe, based on the highly popular GLE SUV. And like BMW's M division, Mercedes-AMG was tasked with a high-performance version. Meet the all-new 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe, a 429 horsepower sexy SUV coupe with hybrid technology. This is the second-generation GLE Coupe courtesy of AMG and, at least on paper, it'll be a formidable foe against the BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne Coupe. The German sports sedan wars have expanded to SUVs.
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
At first, some might think this is a typical Mercedes GLE Coupe, but a close examination reveals this is not the case. For starters, Mercedes-AMG applied its Panamericana front grille which comes directly from its GT high-performance sports car. There's also some AMG-specific bodywork, AMG emblems, standard 21-inch wheels with optional 22s, flared wheel arches, and a mean-looking rear diffuser.
There will also be an AMG GLE 53 SUV, but the difference here, once again, is the solely the design. The SUV actually has a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase that translates into greater cargo space. For the AMG GLE 53 Coupe, there's no way a third-row can fit. But remember, those who prefer the coupe body style are typically fully aware of this fact. They're happy to sacrifice some practicality to get more sexy styling.
This is not only a luxury vehicle but a performance-tuned one as well, therefore it was necessary to have an interior that offers both. The cockpit features two large 12.3-inch screens, one is the driver's gauge cluster while the second is for the MBUX infotainment system and all HVAC controls. Leather upholstery is standard, as are sports seats that offer increased lateral support. There's also a new sports steering wheel with Nappa leather trim. As noted above, the coupe body style does not offer an equal amount of space as its SUV counterpart, but occupants will hardly be squished. Mercedes claims the GLE 53 Coupe, compared to the previous generation GLE, has increased interior dimensions throughout, as well as providing additional cargo room behind the second-row seats. Speaking of which, those seats fold flat 40:20:40 for increased space. For a more open air-like experience, there's an optional sliding roof panel that's also larger than before.
Occupants will also benefit from Amazon Music streaming service. Those who have an Amazon Music Account can easily transfer their music into the vehicle through the Mercedes me "Online Music" feature, allowing for one's music to be played via touch or even voice input.
A 3.0-liter inline-six with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology is standard, but don't think for a moment that just because it's a hybrid means it's boring. Quite the contrary. Total output is 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to all four wheels through an AMG Speedshift nine-speed automatic. The mild-hybrid system actually powers the stop-start system, adds additional boost pressure until the turbocharger spools up, and even powers the interior lights and infotainment displays. AMG claims this GLE 53 Coupe can blast from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
Not only is it straight-line fast, but it's also engineered for curves thanks to AMG's optional Active Ride Control. This adds two independently operating, electro-mechanical actuators at both the front and rear axles. Translation: it limits body roll during hard cornering. Drivers will have a choice of three damper settings, "Comfort," "Sport," and "Sport+", various driving modes including "Slippery," "Comfort," and "Sport," as well as stability control settings of "Basic," "Advanced," "Pro," "Traction," and "Slide."
There's also an optional AMG Track Pack which, via the MBUX infotainment system, offers drivers up to 80 data points such as lap times and acceleration data on the head-up display or infotainment screen.
Official pricing has yet to be announced but Mercedes said that US sales will get underway in mid-2020. What's for certain is that the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe will be expensive. The outgoing AMG GLE 43 Coupe has an MSRP of $71,350. Given that the GLE 53 is more powerful and completely redesigned, expect this price tag to increase a few thousand dollars. Say around $75,000. As always, adding extra option packages will only increase the price even more. The also upcoming but still not revealed redesigned AMG GLE 63 Coupe will certainly cost more. Today, the outgoing model bases at $113,000. German-built and engineered high-performance never comes cheap.
The mid-size luxury SUV and SUV Coupe segment is extremely popular these days, as evidenced by sales of the previous generation GLE. While Mercedes-Benz does not offer a specific sales breakdown between non-AMG and AMG model variants, the GLE-Class, in general, has been a strong seller. In 2018, a total of 48,010 examples were sold in the US, which is actually slightly down from the previous year's result of 54,595 units. There's no doubt the AMG GLE 53 Coupe will find plenty of buyers, but the question is whether they'll be willing to settle for its 429 horsepower powerplant or spend more on the hi-po AMG GLE 63.