Coupe SUVs. Are they just a fashion statement or are they something actually worth considering like this 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63S AMG Coupe?
Engine – A – not so – big V8 resides under the hood of the GLE 63S AMG. It only displaces 4.0L but it does have help from a pair of turbochargers as well as a 48-volt mild hybrid system that Mercedes-Benz calls “EQ-Boost”. The total system output is 603 hp (450 kW) and 627 lb-ft (850 Nm) of torque. Despite this SUV tipping the scales at 2,500 kg (5,511 lbs), the 0-100 km/h sprint is just 3.8 seconds according to Mercedes-Benz, which has a tendency to be on the conservative side.
The EQ-Boost system provides an additional 21 hp (15.6 kW) and 184 lb-ft (250 Nm) of torque for brief moments when accelerating at a brisk pace or until the turbochargers get up to speed to provide full boost. This system also provides a very smooth auto start/stop function but you can’t actually drive the GLE 63S on electricity alone. The EQ-Boost is there to help this monster engine get into its sweep spot which is above 2,500 rpms. From there to the redline, the engine pushes you in the back of your seat as though you’re launching in a rocket. Speaking of which, launch control is standard and thanks to the 325 wide rear tires and 4MATIC+ AWD system, launches from a stop feel violent…. in a good way of course.
But it’s not all about raw power. The engine can be frugal if you’re gentle on the throttle pedal. It is rated for 12.8 L/100km (18.4 MPG) on a highway and 16.3 L/100km (14.4 MPG) in a city. During my time with the Mercedes GLE 63S AMG Coupe, I averaged 14.2 L/100km (16.6 MPG). So in the real world, the fuel economy figures are surprisingly easy to achieve. Definitely better than the 17 or so L/100km (14 MPG) I managed with the BMW X5M Competition. The Mercedes-AMG GLE63S achieves these fuel economy figures thanks in part to the EQ mild-hybrid system as well as cylinder deactivation which will shut off 4 of the cylinders under cruising conditions.
Transmission – Swapping cogs is a 9-speed automatic transmission. This is one beautifully smooth – not to mention quick – shifting gearbox. In Comfort mode, you don’t notice the gear shifts beyond 3rd gear, that’s how smooth they are. The only way you can tell that the transmission is shifting, is by the V8 rumble changing pitch. Of course in Sport, Sport+ & Race drive modes, the shifts are more noticeable and the gear shifts are aided by the engine blip when slowing down.
Braking – Stopping 2.5 tonnes of weight is no easy task. Thankfully the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63S AMG Coupe has 6-piston front calipers and 400 mm discs (that’s 15.7-inches of brake disc!) that help bring the big boy to a stop with authority. For everyday driving situations, the brake pedal doesn’t need much force from your foot. In fact, coming to a smooth stop can be a bit of a challenge if you have a heavy foot as the brakes tend to be a bit “grabby” just before completely stopping. At higher speeds, the brakes feel solid with a firm & confidence inspiring brake pedal. If you want more braking performance, the GLE 63S AMG is available with carbon ceramic brake discs for $6,900 CAD. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the GLE 63S AMG.
Handling – By far the most impressive characteristic of the Mercedes GLE 63 is the way it drives around corners. Yes, it is a heavy vehicle. Yes, it is a relatively tall vehicle. Yes, you sit high up in it. But from behind the steering wheel, it feels like you’re driving a sports sedan. The speed-sensitive steering, adaptive dampers, and 4MATIC+ AWD system work together very well to make the GLE 63 AMG go around corners like as though it’s an E53 AMG. The front end of the big SUV responds instantly and the dampers do a fantastic job of settling the body after each bump in the road. Meanwhile, the AWD system uses real torque vectoring to rotate the GLE Coupe through turns and on corner exits. You can really feel this system working around tight, hairpin corners, even in the dry.
But when you just want to have a comfortable drive, the variable steering system provides really good straight line stability on highways. As well, it becomes lighter and easier to maneuver the big SUV around parking lots.
Ride Comfort – While the Mercedes GLE 63S AMG is equipped with 22-inch wheels, the air suspension does a fabulous job of ironing out most potholes and road imperfections. Overall, the ride is a bit firmer than the GLE 450 that I drove last year but for a performance SUV, it is more than acceptable for daily commutes. In Sport+ & Race modes, the suspension firms up but it’s not exactly a back breaking driving experience.
If you do feel your back feeling a bit stiff from the drive, it’s ok because the GLE 63 can be equipped with massaging front seats like this demo vehicle. As well, the lumbar, side bolsters, and thigh extensions can all be adjusted to your specific height & body type. One thing to note, however, the side bolsters may be a bit on the tight side for some. Just something to be aware of.
Interior Space – As is the norm in most vehicles, front occupants have enough leg and headroom. It’s the back seats and trunk space that is different with this Coupe SUV.
Starting with the back, there’s less legroom and headroom. The wheelbase is slightly shorter than that of the regular GLE which eats away at the rear legroom space. As well, the sloping roof means that taller adults may have to hunch over in order for their heads to not touch the headliner. Having said that though, I fit – just – behind my 6’4” driving position but it’s definitely not as spacious in the back as it is in the standard GLE.
As for trunk space, it’s not what I was expecting. On paper, the GLE Coupe has slightly more cargo space than the regular GLE SUV. There’s 655 L (23.1 cu-ft) with the seats up in the Coupe and 630 L (22.2 cu-ft) in the regular GLE. But fold those seats down and the regular GLE has significantly more cargo volume; 2,055 L (72.6 cu-ft) vs 1,790 L (63.2 cu-ft) for the Coupe. Just be aware, there are no rear seat latch releases in the trunk. You have to walk to the side to fold the seats. However, there is a button to raise or lower the rear suspension for easier loading & unloading. Also, the hatch doesn’t open as high up as on the regular GLE and if you’re as tall as myself, you could end up hitting your head as I did a few times.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Starting with the bad, the tires can be pretty noisy at higher highway speeds. But overall, the GLE 63 Coupe is a quiet vehicle. The good news is that at the touch of a button, the valved exhaust can open and you can listen to the glorious V8 soundtrack. Ironically, the exhaust sound is louder from inside the GLE with the windows rolled up than with the windows down. So there’s definitely some enhanced engine noises coming from the stereo system.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 63S AMG Coupe starts at $135,300 CAD ($116,000 USD). For that kind of price, you’d expect it to be fully loaded. But this being just like BMW, it has a few packages and standalone options that can be added to it.
Just highlighting a few of them, the GLE 63 can be equipped with heated & ventilated cup holders, heated door and center console armrests, a built-in dashcam, soft-close doors, a cabin fragrance system, head-up display, and the aforementioned massaging seats & carbon ceramic brakes.
One thing that was a bit weird for me on this particular demo vehicle was the fact that it was not equipped with a heated steering wheel. It is a standalone option but in a 6-figure car, something as simple as a heated steering wheel should be equipped… at least to my eyes.
Interior Design – The GLE 63S AMG looks as a 6-figure SUV should look on the inside. The quality of the materials is top-notch including the soft leather, real carbon fiber, and real aluminum. The ambient lighting system is one of the best in the business with the GLE having a tiny bit less than it’s smaller GLA & GLB siblings. But nevertheless, it still looks stunning at night.
Getting in and out of the GLE Coupe is easy if you’re short thanks to the optional side steps. But if you’re as tall as myself at 6’4”, those side steps are an inconvenience. They increase the distance between the side of the seat to the edge of the step themselves making it feel like you pretty much have to jump in or out of the car. But once inside, the seating position is high up so you feel as though you’re in a big SUV… actually it is a big SUV. Visibility out the front and side is good but looking through the rear view mirror is like looking through a mailbox slit.
Exterior Design – The idea with a Coupe SUV is to have the good looks of a coupe car but with the height and utility of an SUV. You definitely get the height and some of the practicality but to me, the coupe body on something so big doesn’t really work. It’s disproportionate somehow. Mind you, it definitely looks better as an AMG 63 with the larger wheels and more pronounced bumper design. I don’t think it would look as good if it were a GLE 450 which is why the GLE Coupe is only available as a 53 AMG or 63 AMG. But regardless, I would personally go for the regular GLE if only looks were involved.
Warranty – Just like every other Mercedes-Benz vehicle, the 2021 GLE 63S AMG Coupe comes with a 4 year / 80,000 km new vehicle warranty. It also comes with 4 years / unlimited km roadside assistance, 4 year / 80,000 km surface corrosion, and 8 year / 130,000 km warranty for certain emission parts.
In the end, I understand the appeal of coupe SUVs. They offer a tall driving position, more practicality than a coupe car, and have more unique and head turning looks than a traditional SUV design. But if you’re looking to buy an SUV in the first place, it usually means that you’re looking for a practical vehicle. A normal SUV offers more practicality than this Coupe. But if you want something stylish & practical, there’s always the E63 AMG Wagon. So I understand the appeal of a coupe SUV but logically, a normal SUV is the better choice.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca
Thank you to Drive Marketing Group for the use of their studio. www.DriveMarketingStudios.ca