by Jay Traugott
High-performance SUVs were once a fairly rare breed. Not anymore. These SUVs have not only become the go-to vehicle of choice for enthusiasts with families and stuff to haul, but they've also become image statements thanks to their combination of power and luxury. The all-new 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is a welcomed addition to this exclusive club. With just over 600 horsepower on tap, the AMG GLE 63 S may look similar to the standard GLS, but there are many noticeable exterior changes, not to mention what's under the hood. Mercedes-AMG, as always, has done an excellent job of engineering a family SUV that can, if so desired, handle some hot laps around the track.
You also may have noticed something in its name; there no longer appears to be an AMG GLE 63 without the S. Presumably the majority of buyers were opting for the more potent 'S' model or Mercedes simply doesn't want to give them the option of the 'base' model anymore.
Like all other Mercedes-AMG models, the new GLE 63 S features several exterior modifications to set it apart from its non-AMG counterpart. For starters, there's an AMG-specific radiator grille with vertical louvers, a front bumper with a dynamic A-wing design painted in the body color with black air intakes, a powerdome hood, and a front splitter in silver. Even the side skirts and exterior mirror housings are AMG-specific. Also, notice the flared wheel arches for a truly muscular appearance. Standard wheel size is measured at 21-inches, though buyers can opt for 22-inch wheels. Out back, the rear bumper incorporates the diffuser and a unique AMG exhaust system with two rectangular twin tailpipe trims. There's also a roof spoiler.
Buyers can also select the optional AMG Night package, which simply switches the above exterior trim elements to black. It also finishes the twin tailpipe trim in black chrome.
As with any Mercedes-AMG model interior, the GLE 63 S cabin does not disappoint. Standard fare includes AMG seats in Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery, a three-spoke AMG Performance steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles, and AMG brushed stainless steel sport pedals. There's lots of "AMG" lettering throughout, from the floor mats to the embroidered front seat backrest.
There's also the familiar yet always welcomed dual 12.3-inch screens, hosting Mercedes' latest MBUX infotainment system. Passengers will also appreciate 64-color ambient lighting and a center console featuring a control panel with switches that can adjust the 3-stage Electronic Stability Program (ESP), suspension level, and exhaust system.
Power comes from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. An electric 48-volt EQ Boost starter-generator contributes another 21 hp and 184 lb-ft, which means, for the first time, this particular engine has been electrified. All of that power is directed to the 4Matic all-wheel drive system through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Expect 0 to 60 mph to happen in just 3.7 seconds while top speed is electronically limited to 174 mph.
Because of that sheer amount of power, Mercedes-AMG engineers had to systems such as AMG Active Ride Control for roll stabilization, an electronically controlled locking differential at the rear, and an advanced braking system. Up front are 6-piston fixed brake calipers and 16-inch brake discs, while single-piston floating brake calipers with 14.6-inch discs are at the rear. A high-performance ceramic braking system is optional. Fuel economy figures are not yet available.
Drivers have seven driving modes to choose from: Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, Race, Trail, and Sand. All modes are linked to the AMG Dynamics agility control system.
The most interesting piece of tech in the AMG GLE 63 S is the latest version of the MBUX control and display system. It can be operated via a center console-mounted touchpad, steering wheel buttons, or voice and hand gesture control. Drivers can select from four display styles: Modern Classic, Sporty, Discreet, or Supersport. Supersport is AMG-specific and focused on, you guessed it, motorsport. The driver can see various displays with this style, including G-Meter, race-timer, engine data, and a warm-up menu.
Some of the active driver assistance systems include active speed limit assist, active steering assist, active lane change assist, active emergency stop assist, and emergency lane function. Buyers can also opt for the Driver Assistance package, a system that provides driver support, as necessary, adding speed adaptation, steering, and lane changes. It can even help avoid collisions.
Mercedes-AMG has not released official pricing, though it will be announced closer to when the 2021 GLE 63 S arrives in dealerships in the middle of next year. The outgoing model, for example, carries a starting price of just over $102,000. Don't expect the redesigned model to cost any less, perhaps slightly more. Fully-loaded, one can easily spend nearly $110,000.
The competition may be fairly small in this segment but it's fierce. There are two immediate standouts: the BMW X5 M and Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Another new addition is the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid with a total of 670 hp and 663 lb-ft. Like the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, these competitors carry $100,000+ base prices.