Review: Is the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe the Shape of Modern Luxury Performance?
Appraising a six-figure land missile built for a very special class of extroverts
Does the shape of speed really matter anymore? That’s the question asked by the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, the enormous, less practical cousin to the standard GLE SUV. Gifted with one of the mightiest twin-turbo V8s on the market, the AMG edition of the GLE Coupe stretches the definition of the “C” word with its massive, four-door, jelly-bean body, all while drawing the attention of pedestrians and passersby with its brutal exhaust note and imposing road presence.
Not-so-useful takes on the sport-utility theme are by now old hat, especially in the luxury segment, which makes the pinched-waist GLE not as much of an outlier as its polarizing appearance might at first suggest. The fact that AMG has turned the majority of its attention to massive, multi-ton land missiles is also par for the course in a world where sedans and true coupes have been relegated to the back of the showroom both in terms of profits and prestige.
A Rakish Coupe for Extroverts
The first impression offered by the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is an indelible one, for better or worse. There’s very little middle ground when taking a poll on the vehicle’s sloped hindquarters, which not only impede on the headroom of backseat riders but also restrict the amount of gear that can be stowed below its more abrupt hatch.
In a world where both the Coupe and standard GLE sit side-by-side in the Mercedes-AMG portfolio, however, those who choose the aggressively rakish model do so with the full intention of suffering somewhat for style. Every example on the road represents a conscious choice favoring conspicuous flash with a price to match, as the vehicle’s $116,000 window sticker also checks in a few grand higher than the non-Coupe (that is, the GLE 63 S SUV).
Even if one tried to look away from the GLE 63 S Coupe’s countenance, its sheer size makes the task a difficult one — particularly if you’re sitting directly behind its proud hindquarters in traffic. This is a vehicle for a very special class of extroverts, those who revel in the attention drawn not just by its bulk, but by the multi-decibel snarl of its active exhaust system.
Last of the Biturbo V8s
Backing up that bark is considerable bite. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe is outfitted with what seems likely to be the last of the brand’s hand-assembled, twin-turbo V8 engines (in the face of an emissions-driven pivot to four-cylinder engines). Displacing 4.0 liters, the power plant is good for a startling 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, figures that place it near the top of its class. More importantly, it also shunts you to the front of nearly any drag race you’re likely to engage in, as the Coupe is capable of 60 mph in a ridiculous 3.4 seconds. This marker undercuts sports car stalwarts like the Porsche 911 Carrera S that weigh in at a fraction of the AMG’s nearly 5,000 pounds.
How is this possible? The GLE 63 S Coupe leverages a stealth 48-volt mild-hybrid system that delivers a significant chunk of torque — 184 lb-ft — instantaneously when pulling away from a stop. Intended to provide an imperceptible transition between the vehicle’s automatic engine start/stop feature and its apocalyptic low-RPM power, a side effect is acceleration that sees the AMG’s equally gifted brakes more than earn their keep.
For all of that bluster, it’s important to note that when the road bends, so too does the Mercedes. Thanks to a sophisticated four-wheel drive system, sway bars that automatically adjust to level out body roll, and suspension that can be set from firm to firmer to firmest via the vehicle’s various drive modes, the GLE Coupe is remarkably planted despite its gangly frame.
Fair warning: as competent as the AMG is at staying in its (racing) lane, it would be a stretch to call it a fun time through a slalom. There’s little to engage with outside of its guttural, hackle-raising twin-turbo roar and pupil-dilating forward push, but this should be more than enough to keep most SUV drivers entertained in between gulps of premium fuel and more-than-seasonal tire replacements.
Classic Comfort in a Modern Package
It’s almost unnecessary to mention that on top of its mega muscle the Coupe maintains the same kind of interior opulence one would expect from a six-figure automobile. There are a few exceptions — the vehicle is devoid of any active safety equipment, or even adaptive cruise control, unless one springs for the appropriate $1,900 options package, and of course there’s the fudge factor on the rear seat room — but overall, the coddle factor is high, the tech quotient is competitive, and as long as you keep your right foot disciplined, any extended road trip in the GLE’s “Comfort” mode maintains a veneer of civilization.
The AMG’s sneer is still there, though, captured in the unlikely shank of the GLE Coupe’s sheet metal that sounds out loud and clear even with the engine switched off. Each generation embraces its own displays of wealth and privilege (or at least a truly excellent credit rating), and in the 63 S Coupe the modern bass-drop crowd has finally found its truncated — but still truculent — champion.
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