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2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe Pros And Cons: Excess In Excess

If Gordon Gekko were a real person, he’d drive a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Surprised? Did you think he’d be rocking some kind of Bentley or Rolls-Royce? Or maybe the GLE’s big brother, the Maybach GLS? Nah, the “greed is good” guy would gravitate towards the excess of the most powerful SUV in the AMG stable, but he’d only have it in the less practical body style, a physical synonym for “screw you, I’m rich.”

Gordon would enjoy an incredibly quick and surprisingly agile crossover that still manages to present Mercedes’ trademark luxury driving experience. That’s not to say it’s the best choice in the segment or even the one we’d recommend if Gordon’s real-life counterparts sought our advice (they’re welcome to – our consulting fee is outrageous). But as an excessive SUV for excessive people, there are few vehicles that can match the 603-horsepower GLE Coupe.

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Pros

Even saddled with 5,390 pounds of vehicle, the GLE 63’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 and accompanying EQ Boost mild-hybrid system provide savage acceleration. The German automaker promises 60 miles per hour will arrive in just 3.7 seconds, equal to the Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe and BMW X6 M Competition and only a tenth off the 670-hp Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe. The aforementioned 603 hp mingles with 627 pound-feet of torque to spectacular effect.

The GLE 63’s party trick, though, remains its EQ Boost mild-hybrid system, which pairs a 48-volt battery with an integrated starter-generator and an electric compressor. While the battery and ISG are doing all manner of boring things, the electric compressor immediately spools up the turbocharger. The result is a very high-output turbocharged powerplant that requires virtually no patience from its driver – mash the pedal, and the GLE will wow you.

Handles Smaller Than It Is

Yes, the GLE 63S is what we scientifically refer to as “a weighty boi.” It’s big in stature, too, spanning 195.3 inches from nose to tail and coming in at just over 84.9 inches across. And yet, you’ll struggle to notice this size and weight at the helm. Credit goes to the standard air suspension, yes, but we’ll also heap praise on AMG Active Ride Control.

Using a pair of electromechanical actuators, one on each axle, the GLE 63 can quash body roll like the annoying pest that it is. Switch this 5,400-pound SUV to Race mode, and you’ll start to question the laws of physics as the GLE addresses even tight bends with impressive corner entry speeds and excellent manners.

Still Impressively Luxurious

When Gordon tires of leaving peasants in his dust, he can settle back into this well-heeled segment’s best interior. The GLE 63 is a lovely place, loaded down with soft and attractive leather upholstery and real metal, carbon fiber, or wood trim (our tester has the first item). But what we appreciate about AMG’s work is how so little of it impacts the overall sense of luxury in the cabin.

Yes, there are aggressively bolstered seats and a meaty AMG steering wheel, but the level of restraint in this cabin is impressive. In fact, were it not for the wheel and the gray accents on our tester’s black Nappa leather upholstery, we’d struggle to pick this GLE apart from a non-AMG variant. That’s great news if you don’t want to live with 24/7 sportiness.

Cons

Design Still Not Worth Practical Compromises

While we appreciate the uniqueness of the GLE 63’s sleek body, we’d refuse to sacrifice quite so much practicality. Believe it or not, Mercedes actually claims the Coupe has an extra inch of second-row headroom relative to the GLE’s more traditional body, but we have to believe there are some creative measurements at work – the second row here feels noticeably tighter, while ingress and egress is unquestionably a less graceful process, owing to the plunging roofline and relatively small footwell.

And as expected, there’s a substantial drop in cargo volume with that fast rear glass. The two-box GLE SUV offers 33.7 to 74.9 cubic feet of space to the Coupe’s 27.5/63.2. That’s a noteworthy drop, especially when you lower the second-row bench.

Doesn't Feel As Dynamic As Equivalent BMW X6

If you read our comparison from early last year of the BMW X5 M and the standard bodied GLE 63, this con shouldn’t really surprise you. While we preferred the approach of the AMG, which we considered more muscle-car-like, the BMW feels more like a sports car. That difference carries through to the GLE Coupe and the X6.

The GLE is an impressive handler, but in a move to retain everyday usability it sacrifices some of the ultimate cornering potential you get from BMW and its unforgivingly firm suspension. And while the EQ Boost setup provides immediate turbocharged punch, the overall power delivery and the way the V8 engine revs here is simply less exciting.

The GLE 53 Is How Much Cheaper?

$39,500. The GLE 53 Coupe, with a less powerful (but still amazing) engine and missing a few pieces of equipment costs $76,500 to the GLE 63’s $116,000 starting price. That’s a staggering difference in price that doesn’t require customers to give up that much.

Sure, you’ll lose a lot of power – 429 hp and 384 lb-ft to 603 hp and 627 lb-ft – but 60 miles per hour arrives in 5.2 seconds and the 3.0-liter straight-six in the 53 is arguably more likable. And while the GLE 53 doesn’t come standard with the 63’s neat active anti-roll bars, they’re part of a $5,200 package. So yeah, a touch slower but just as agile while saving over $34,000? Even Mr. Gekko wouldn’t ignore that.