2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is powerful brute, but in a refined package

By Paul Borden

(May 22, 2020) MIAMI — So, you want a vehicle with lots of pop but need one with lots of room for hauling stuff? Well, how about getting one for both. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S performs both functions in luxurious fashion, befitting the company that introduced the concept of the performance-oriented SUV when it brought forth the 342-horsepower 1999 Mercedes-Benz GL 55 AMG.

The name has changed and the horsepower upped considerably, but the concept is the same: A top-of-the-line performer that takes a backseat to no competing vehicle when it comes to a high-performance hauler with a stunning array of ultra-luxurious features and technology that can do about anything for you short of your taxes.

We start with what’s under the hood.

A push on the starter button fires up a 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 power plant rated at 603 horsepower and a peak torque of 627 pound-feet with a burst of an extra 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft. coming from the onboard EQ Boost starter-generator system, moving its 2.5-plus tons from zero-to-60 mph in a company reported 3.7 seconds and topping out at an electronically limited 174 mph.

That engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission with manual mode via paddle shifters and Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and RACE settings for most conditions. Trail and Sand modes raise the suspension a couple of inches to increase ground clearance in poor conditions.

The GLE 63 S rides on standard 21-inch wheels with 22-inchers as an option and gets Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system as standard.

The government does not yet list fuel milage ratings for 2021 Mercedes models, but Car & Driver put them at an estimated 15 miles-per-gallon city, 20 highway, and 17 combined, which is about what you would expect from a vehicle of this power and size.

It does have an ECO stop/start function that operates in Comfort mode (fear not; it can be be deactivated with the push of a side button next to the start button), and often when cruising four of the eight cylinders (two, three, five and eight if you’re counting) are deactivated to reduce fuel consumption. A small icon appears in the instrumental panel to alert you to this (though you’ll play hell finding that information in the mammoth owner’s manual).

As is typical of vehicles rolling off the Mercedes assembly line, the AMG GLE 63 S glides along soothly in Comfort mode with Sport, Sport+ and RACE settings firming up the suspension for more adventurous forays.

The front bumper, the oversize Mercedes-Benz logo in the front grille, and the large black front air intakes give the GLE 63 S a brutish look, but it is a civilized brute with lots of soft surfaces and Nappa leather seating surfaces that coddle your backside.

AMG trim elements throughout the interior, including some in carbon fiber, leave no doubt of its pedigree. The special AMG exhaust system features two rectangular twin tailpipe trims.

It also is packed with the latest in technological innovations, though the touchpad system to operate them leaves more than a little to be desired. Fortunately, many of the infotainment functions also can be accessed via buttons on the steering wheel or voice (“Hey, Mercedes”) or even optional gesture control.

The HD touchscreen at the top of what would be the center stack of controls if there were an actual stack is clear and nicely incorporated into the flow of the dash instead of stuck up in the middle like some just remembered iPad. There is no question about the quality of materials throughout the interior. They’re all top-rate.

The base MSRP for the GLE 63 S is $114,945 including the $995 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S: This is an impressive vehicle with an aggressive, in-your-face profile that lives up to its powerful image. There is tons of space for passengers and with just two rows of seats, there is lots of room for them to put their stuff in the back.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S: The touchpad for operating the infotainment functions on the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system can be very frustrating. Even if you resolve to only use the steering wheel buttons or voice commands to get to where you want, the touchpad still gets in the way. Especially when picking items out of the console cupholders, you’ll find your self suddenly listening to a different radio station if you lightly brush the touchpad with your palm.

Would I buy the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S: It is a bit too much over-the-top for my personal preferences, but for those seeing the ultimate in driving performance in an SUV, it is tough to beat this behemoth.