Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 31, 2021
Fresh off our comparison with the Porsche and Maserati, we’re faced with another entry into the field of preposterously oxymoronic SUVs. Turns out that every automaker wants a slice of that lucrative pie. This one’s from Germany and is called the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC+ Coupe. It’s also a good thing that by the time you’re finished typing out the name, its V8 will have already thrusted you to the moon and back.
The GLE 63 is AMG’s ultimate expression of a five-seater SUV that expertly balances both daily usability and track day prowess. It houses a reactive 600 horsepower V8 engine, combined with a slick-firing 9-speed automatic, rear-biased all-wheel drive system, and all the performance goodies expected of a modern day sports car. We’re talking electromechanical anti-roll bars, a track app that displays lap times and G forces, dynamic engine mounts, an adaptive air suspension, and an aptly named Race Mode.
But the star of the show is the hand-built AMG engine that is firmly nestled under the hood. The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 dishes out a staggering 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, enough for a 0-100 km/h time of 3.8 seconds. That means this 2,499 kg floating castle can out-drag actual sports cars like the BMW M2 CS and the Porsche 992 Carrera 4. Let that sink in for a moment.
The V8 is further paired with a mild hybrid system that marries an electric supercharger with a 48-volt electrical system, and it serves multiple purposes. It powers the car’s electronics, acts as both a starter motor and alternator, allows the car to disconnect from the transmission while coasting at speed, and dishes out supplementary torque to eliminate turbo lag. The end result is a lag-free powertrain that barely shivers or shudders when the start-stop system engages, and it delivers gobsmacking acceleration.
It’s as expected, because once you pilot a -63 Series AMG engine, the rest of them kind of feel the same. We’ve experienced the E 63 S Wagon, G 63, and C 63 S Coupe, and they all exude the same kind of character, personality, and charm expected from that hand-built V8. Which is not to say that AMG should change up their 4.0L specifications, but it’s a warning to prospective buyers to not expect anything terribly unique, new, or mind-blowing when transitioning between the family tree offerings of V8 AMGs. We just sound spoiled at this point, don’t we?
Road comfort is adequate but don’t go expecting Range Rover levels of compliance. Comfort Mode feels just right for daily driving, as the stiffer Sport and Sport+ modes are overkill, and offer a terribly pokey and sensitive throttle map that thrusts you forward even when feathering the gas pedal. It adds to the excitement and sense of occasion but it’s far from gentle. The 9-speed automatic is a bit rough around the edges and doesn’t hold a candle to the incredibly polished 8-speed ZF automatic in the BMW. It often fails to engage the right gear during rolling stops and remains somewhat indecisive when hanging around the 7,100 rpm limiter.
The GLE 63 hits unholy straight line speeds but it’s not quite as grounded or as stable as the BMW X6 M Competition or Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The grip levels are high and the cornering limits raise eyebrows - you’d think you were in an E 63 wagon aside from the high seating position - but its slightly firmer and busier ride doesn't augment the drive with any added confidence. We’re just splitting hairs here but the minor differences are palpable.
Mercedes doesn’t just dominate Formula 1, but they have also been dominating exterior designs on their road cars, and it really boils down to that vertical slat Panamericana grill. I can’t think of another modern design accent that carries this much road presence, and it allows you to spot an AMG bolting down the opposing lane from a mile away. On the GLE, the grill is massive and even more eye-catching than the new BMW M3’s beaver teeth.
Hyacinth Red wouldn’t be my go-to spec. It doesn’t seem to capture the bold shoulders and tapered silhouette very well, and ends up appearing too shouty and garish for my taste mixed with the random chrome accents. A more subtle silver paint, or an all black spec would fit the GLE’s mojo better. Alas, we’ll leave it to those with a cool $150,000 in their bank account to make those decisions instead.
The interior is more decisive in its beauty with large glass screens, a multitude of buttons, grab handles on the center console, and a drool worthy AMG steering wheel that makes use of a leather airbag cover - those scratchy plastic covers like in the G 550 just look cheap and heavily devalues the cabin’s upscale vibe. It is flanked by chunky metal shifters that offer more decisive clicks than my expensive Fanatec sim racing ones, and feel like a million bucks when you’re swimming through all nine cogs.
It won’t win any beauty pageants, nor will it be the most road-trip worthy SUV on the lot, but the GLE 63 S will ring true to AMG fans wishing for a V8 sleigh to ferry around their family and cargo. It successfully demonstrates its daily usability and track day prowess with wicked acceleration, stable cornering, and an army of driver selectable modes and settings. It doesn’t stand out in one specific area in such a well-equipped field of other oxymoronic, six-figure, 600+ horsepower sport SUVs, but it hits all the right notes that buyers will be looking for. That just goes to show how high the bar has been set. What a world we live in.
Model: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S 4MATIC+ Coupe
Paint Type: designo Hyacinth Red Metallic
Base Price: $135,300
Price as Tested: $152,250
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,961 / 2,157 / 1,716
Curb weight (kg): 2,499
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 603 hp @ 5,750 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 627 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.5
Tires: 285/40R22 front; 325/35R22 rear