by Jake Lingeman
Few vehicles personify the emotional nature of car buying like the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Car purchases are emotional. And if you don't connect with a car's looks, at least a little bit, we posit that you could never really love your car. We love almost everything about the redesigned AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. It's ridiculous and powerful, the tech is amazing, and the interior looks beautiful, mostly. It even handles well for a two-and-half ton vehicle. It just looks... funny.
Of course, from behind the wheel, you won't really see what the exterior looks like, and once you fire up the fantastic-sounding 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 and feel its 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque catapult you from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, you're not likely to think about it at all, until you need to load something into the cargo bay. We've said this before, but we're not wholly against SUVs being named "coupe" as much as we used to be. The midsized Audi RS Q8 and Porsche Cayenne Coupe both look great, much better than the BMW X6 M, but it's the mostly flat roofline that fools you into thinking these things are bigger and sportier than they really are. But is the compromise in practicality justified by the sense of style? The GLE Coupe, with its egg-shaped shell, just doesn't do that for us. But that didn't stop us from spending a week with one in our driveway to find out all about it.
This is an all-new GLE 63 S Coupe, based on the GLE generation introduced in 2019. The GLE, or ML, as it was previously known, was introduced in 2019 as a 2020 model. It's entirely new from the ground up, including the engine. The previous-generation GLE 63 Coupe still used the old 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, while the new model uses the smaller but more powerful 4.0-liter with better specs than the outgoing mill.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC Coupe||
4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
At the same time as the engine bursts to life a Starship Enterprise's worth of screens and switches and customizable buttons light up, denoting everything from your drive modes to your quick adjustments and your traction control. This visual assault quickly takes a backseat to the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupe's firmness on the road, although in Comfort mode, it still feels usable daily.
Sport and Sport Plus are the more aggressive modes that can still be used on the road, although we think Sport is as far as we'd go for regular use on US streets. The suspension firms up a touch and the throttle has just the right amount of sensitivity, without being jumpy. We like that this mode keeps the stop/start system active, too; it works great, letting you coast to a stoplight without turning the engine on and off as you modulate the brakes like some other vehicles. Sometimes you brake a little too early, and need to coast up to the lead car, this lets you do that. It also turns off when you put it in Park, instead of firing back up for some reason.
Even in sport plus mode, the GLE 63 soaks up most bumps without transmitting the jounce into the cabin. But those low-profile tires aren't quiet by any stretch of the imagination. You'll hear the pings from the expansion joints, and big potholes make a lot of noise too. Obviously, that mode is the quickest and most fun, especially around smooth, twisty roads, but you need to be paying attention.
From a day-to-day perspective, the lane-keeping/semi-autonomous driving setup is better than average. It'll keep you centered in the lane most times, but you should always keep your hands on the wheel in case one of those lines peels off into a turn lane as it's a little oversensitive about adding steering input.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
You can probably guess what we're going to say here. The power, the tech, the handling, it's all great for a midsize SUV pretending to be a coupe. We brought it to a family party and many folks wanted to jump in and out and play with everything. And half of them even liked the shape, so there definitely some personal preferences that will come into this very emotional decision to buy.
Its main competition is from BMW's X6 M, which also has a polarizing shape. The price is similar to this GLE, and we'd probably say the BMW is a touch more sporty, while this feels a little more luxurious.
But for our money, we'd have to go with the AMG GLE 63 SUV. Yes, SUV, not Coupe. For us, it boils down to personal preference on its looks, but also the added practicality - which is why you buy a crossover or SUV in the first place, isn't it? Somehow, the coupe even weighs more than the SUV by a few hundred pounds, meaning this isn't even the sportiest version of the GLE 63 it can be. But if you're looking for something just for dicing up corners, you're not picking one of these. Mercedes has plenty of cars for that, including the equally-practical AMG E63 Wagon.
BMW invented this segment and inevitably ended up being the leader in many ways. These two four-door coupes are pretty similar, both using a twin-turbo V8. Mercedes-AMG's version is way more charming, if only because of the sounds it makes. But that's about the only thing the GLE 63 S has going for compared against the Bimmer. The X6 M produces 600 hp and 553 lb-ft, but with less weight, it doesn't need as much torque to hit 60 in 3.8 seconds, just a tenth behind the Merc. Strap on the Competition Package and an extra 17 hp puts the two on parity.
The Merc might be a little more spacious inside, but both are remarkably similar, right down to the standard cargo volume. In the end, it'll come down to brand bias and visual preference. To our eye, the AMG is more beautiful and luxurious, but the BMW is a little sportier. The latter is also nearly $8,000 - if that's even a factor when you're shopping in the six-figure range.
Audi's approach to this coupe SUV business is a bit smarter. It may be based on the Q7, but Audi went in a completely different direction regarding styling. The front is entirely different and almost absurdly aggressive. At the rear, the LED lights are an homage to the original Audi Quattro. As a design exercise, it's a lot more successful than either the X6 or GLE Coupe. Still, like the other Germans, it can't entirely hide its size and weight. If it's sheer driving pleasure you're after, the all-new RS6 is way more accomplished.
The RS Q8 is an epic grand tourer, however. It has an adjustable air suspension with various driving modes. We liked the Individual setting the most, as it allowed for a comfort-biased suspension, but everything else in sport mode. That way, you get a comfy ride but an epic response from the 591 hp twin-turbo V8. It's also worth noting that this 4.0-liter V8 is just as glorious as the unit found in the AMG, and just as quick. But perhaps the Audi's greatest success is that its engineers actually lowered the rear seats when building it, so rear-seat space isn't compromised by its sleeker styling. This is where we'd spend our money.
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