Mercedes GLE AMG 53 — Impressively classy with tech galore

By Jim Prueter

(March 22, 2021) I headed east out of Casa Grande Ariz., taking the backroads home avoiding the interstate. I wanted to go slow, to savor the ride and experience. I wanted it to last. I was behind the wheel of the AMG variant of Mercedes’ mid-sized GLE SUV powered by the hand built 429-horsepower turbocharged AMG-enhanced inline 6-cylinder and paired with a 9-speed AMG Speedshift automatic transmission.

Power is delivered to the AMG Performance 4Matic all-wheel drive with adjustable Airmatic suspension, and a dynamic driving select system. That isn’t the most powerful GLE setup, that honor goes to the monstrous GLE AMG 63 S with 603-horsepower however Mercedes discontinued most of its V-8s out of the U.S for 2022.

Mercedes vehicles including the GLE AMG 53 tested here are very much like a proper suit you order from a patrician tailoring house - say, Armani, Brioni or Prada. Impeccable styling, indisputable craftsmanship, hugely versatile, and expensive but worth every penny spent.

Visually, our GLE strikes a debonair profile, sporting a wide stance, sculptured hood blisters, short overhangs front and rear, massive foot-wide tires on crafted wheels, and a sleek, cabin interior befitting furnishings at New York’s exclusive Union Club. This is not a vehicle that demands to be noticed, just admired.

The silky revving and mellifluous exhaust notes, with the AMG software tune and paddle shifters hold a gear until the engine valves seemingly come out and dance on the hood. GLE AMG 53 drives all four wheels, using Mercedes’ rear-biased 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system. The “plus” in 4Matic+ denotes the ability to send 100% of available engine torque to the front or rear wheels.

There’s standard four-corner air suspension that can stiffen or loosen based on drive mode selection and raise up a bit to clear low driveways and curbs. The ride is great in both Sport and Comfort settings, but it’s hard to hide the bulk of the GLE as you hustle it through a corner. It feels wide, no matter what.

The GLE AMG 53 is also equipped with EQ Boost. On the surface, it’ a 48-volt mild-hybrid system added to every “53” series Mercedes. While increased fuel economy is one goal of EQ Boost, it’s got some performance implications as well and makes the E53 AMG more interesting than our tester’s gorgeous and optional Emerald Green paint finish.

And of course, being a Mercedes AMG with nearly $10,000 in options it was quite well-equipped with AMG black Nappa leather upholstery paired with natural grain grey genuine oak trim, an acoustic comfort package with increased cabin insulation, windshield with infrared-reflecting film, side windows with acoustic and infrared absorbing film, semi-autonomous active steering assist, active lane change assist, evasive steering assist, rear-end collision protection, and more.

The GLE AMG 53’s standard Burmester sound system is one of the best I’ve heard in a vehicle, period. Clarity, separation and tone were on a level most car audio just can’t achieve. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Sirius SM radio come standard. All housed in a dual 12.3-inch infotainment displays that stretch nearly the entire length of the dashboard. There are several ways to act with and operate the system, including the MBUX voice-recognition system. It works like Apple’s Siri or Google’s virtual assistant responding to voice commands enabling the driver to keep their hands on the wheel but still tune to a specific radio station and others.  

Overall, the virtue of the GLE AMG 53 is its refined, elegant class but with enough suggestive performance capability and personality to make it always the right fashion choice and a target of many who envy.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $73,550
Price as Tested: $82,750
Engine/Transmission: 429-hp, 3.0-liter inline turbocharged 6-cylinder paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 18/22/19 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: Up to 7

Crash Test Ratings: Highest possible 2022 Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and highest possible overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Vance, Alabama

Competes With:
Audi SQ7, SQ8
Land Rover, Ranger Rover Sport
Porsche Cayenne S

Fab Features:
Quiet, Private Club-like cabin
Engaging to drive with superb agility and driving dynamics
Distinctively tailored styling