2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S is a Mad Crossover SUV
Can you imagine the meeting? The senior Mercedes-Benz engineering official gets up in front of a room full of people and says something along the lines of, “you guys remember the ML55 right? You youngsters should know what a big deal that was. We invented the hot-rod SUV category with that car and it was the world’s fastest SUV, ok? So here’s what I’m thinkin’: let’s keep the momentum going. Let’s take our 4.0-liter V8, the twin-turbo one, bolt on the nine-speed automatic, and stuff it in the GLE crossover. If we pair it with an EQ Boost starter-generator it should add about 21 hp and could power the 48-volt on-board electrical system.”
“We’ve never done that before, sir,” somebody pipes up from the back of the room.
“Please don’t interrupt me!” comes the response. “Where was I? Oh yeah, if my math is right I’m thinking we’ll get 603 hp and 627 lb ft out of this baby. We throw in air suspension, all-wheel drive and we’d have to beef up that gearbox. I think this could really work. Everyone is going crossover crazy! It will sell like – what do the Americans call it? – Hot cakes! That’s it, hot cakes! It’s a plan!”
And thus, sitting in my driveway is the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. The big news is, indeed, the 48-volt mild hybrid system’s first application with the V8. It combines a starter motor with an alternator wedged in between the engine and the transmission. It’s a busy system. Besides the 21 hp and 184 lb-ft power boost, it also supplies power to the 48-volt on-board electrical system, and acts a generator.
The generator bit is to perform hybrid-ish functions like adding some oomph on acceleration, a gliding function and imperceptible start/stop. Oh, and one more thing: the system also powers quick acting and active anti-roll bars.
So besides the car being a rocket (0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, 174 mph top speed) the AMG Active Ride Control roll stabilization system makes the GLE 63 S remarkably relaxing for a whole day’s drive (yes I did, and the excellent seats and comfortable driving position and a very well constructed interior definitely help).
The system keeps the body nearly motionless and bolt-upright no matter what the SUV is doing. But wait, there’s more, as we say: Those active anti-roll bars are mounted front and rear, not just keeping the body stable, but they can even make the suspension stiffer or not on each individual wheel, reacting to road conditions in milliseconds. There’s also 4Matic of course. The Mercedes-Benz all-wheel-drive system primarily drives the rear wheels but can send as much as 50-percent torque forward, when needed.
It’s remarkably agile in corners, especially for a ute this big, it weighs more than 5,200 pounds, after all. It just tracks through as nice as you please. As I mentioned, it’s also ultra-comfortable on the freeway. The ride can be adjusted for comfort, or for sport, and, this being Detroit, I like comfort best.
With the sticker price beginning at $114,495, it’s not cheap. My car has a few options, including a designo diamond white metallic paint that I think is worth every bit of the $1,515 AMG charges for it. Add in some other stuff like AMG carbon trim, carbon fiber engine cover, matte black 22 inch AMG sport wheels and the grand total comes to $133,660.
If you’re looking at this flamethrower GLE 63, you’re probably also looking at the BMW X5M, the Audi SQ5 and maybe the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The latter has the most power, but both BMW and Mercedes-AMG are more luxurious. The Audi SQ5 is lovable, but nowhere near what the other Germans can do on a drag strip, if such things matter to you. The Lexus RX is the most popular in this class, but the brand doesn’t have a hot rod version.
The pioneering ML55 our board room friend refers to came out in 1999, had a 5.4-liter V8 under the hood, and could hit 60 mph in around 6.5 seconds, or slightly slower than your garden variety 2020 Ford Explorer. Today it seems every crossover and SUV has some sort of performance version available. Love them or hate them, people just can’t seem to get enough.
Base Price: $114, 945
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, nine-speed automatic, AWD
Output: 603 hp between 5,750-6500 rpm; 627 lb-ft between 2,500-4,500 rpm
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Length/Width/Height: 190.0/79.5/70.2 inches
Curb Weight: 5,203 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 15/19/16
Pros: Fantastic powertrain, the usual high-quality Benz interior.
Cons: It ain’t exactly cheap.
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