The current flagship in the GLE range, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe is a redesigned take on an already popular model within the range. Coupe styling aside, Mercedes-Benz’s big, luxury SUV might look similar to the old model, but it promises to be significantly better.
The most obvious reason it should, in fact, be better is the 60mm difference in wheelbase. Compared to the regular GLE, the Coupe reflects its sporty intention with a shorter wheelbase that, according to Mercedes-Benz, has an impact on dynamics along with a more direct steering ratio and improved aerodynamic efficiency.
In short, then, you won’t just be buying a GLE Coupe because it looks sportier.
According to Mercedes-Benz Australia, when you walk into a dealership, you already know whether you want a GLE Coupe – perhaps even more so an AMG GLE53 Coupe. The buyer profile identifies with this particular model, and is unlikely to cross-shop another product within the ’Benz range.
I find that interesting, given I prefer – regardless of make – the conventional SUV body style. If you want a coupe, buy a coupe. Still, the public’s desire to have exactly what it wants, however it wants it, means the success of the SUV coupe is assured.
Mercedes-Benz launched the GLE Coupe in 2016, and it went on to outsell its fierce rival, the BMW X6, in 2017, 2018 and 2019. No doubt, then, that it’s popular with Aussie punters, many of whom were new to the brand, enshrining the GLE as an important vehicle in winning new buyers.
When we speak to buyers in the market for an SUV coupe, they tell us that they are looking for three things – design, performance and features – when they do their homework.
The GLE53 AMG looks pretty tough to the eye, even when it’s static. The performance numbers are robust, to say the least, and it’s packed full of tech as you’d expect, so it looks like the all-new model is on the right track from the get-go.
At $171,800 before on-road costs, the GLE53 Coupe asks for a deep pocket, but it’s also a big step further up to the GLE63 Coupe that starts from $222,700 before on-road costs.
AMG enhancements to the mild-hybrid 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder deliver 320kW at 6100rpm and 520Nm between 1800–5800rpm.
The AMG performance exhaust adds to the theatre, and is a must for this type of vehicle in our opinion.
Claimed fuel usage is 9.3L/100km, and the 0–100km/h run is dispatched in just 5.3 seconds. On test, our average fuel usage was 11.4L/100km, mainly around town, showing that you can be frugal despite the power on offer.
The engine works with a nine-speed automatic and onto a performance-tuned 4Matic+ variable all-wheel-drive system that ensures you can get that power and torque to the road as safely as possible.
The GLE53 Coupe feels like a special SUV, with beefy styling – 315mm rear tyres if you don’t mind – and touches like the lip spoiler, redesigned grille, and dark tinted windows. The five-spoke 21-inch alloy wheels are huge, and certainly don’t disappear into the arches as some SUV wheels have a tendency to do.
Standard air suspension and AMG-tuned ‘Active Ride Control’ mean that despite the amount of rubber on the ground, despite the sporting nature of the GLE53, and despite the performance figures, it’s actually comfortable around town.
They might be 21s, but the Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres have plenty of sidewall, and the 48V active roll bars come into their own on irregular road surfaces. The system keeps the ride taut when you’re hooking in, but supple and compliant on poor surfaces.
There’s no doubt the cabin keeps that premium feeling rolling on either. The twin 12.3-inch screens are perfectly positioned and clear, while the ambient lighting front and rear is neatly executed. The seats are comfortable and trimmed luxuriously, and there’s plenty of adjustment for driver and passenger.
The way in which the centre console has been designed, with only enough switchgear to get the job done, ties in neatly with the steering-wheel-mounted controls, too – there’s nothing here that you don’t need.
It makes for a clean, pared-down appearance, once again adding a sense of elegance to the cabin. It’s easy at this end of the market to overload the driver’s compartment with switchgear and controls, but Mercedes-Benz has avoided that thankfully.
The infotainment screen – which responds to touch as well as the console-mounted command pad – is responsive, clear and positioned well. Apple CarPlay worked faultlessly for us on test, and the standard satellite navigation is accurate, too.
The system also responded reliably to voice commands – something not all systems do well. The standard audio system is quality, too. Perfect for longer road trips.
The GLE53 Coupe is fully loaded with Merc’s Driving Assistance Package as standard, as well as route-based speed adjustment outside the driving assistance package that you can turn on or off when it suits.
The system uses a combination of satellite navigation, radar, what the cameras can see, and what it ‘knows’ about the roads and surroundings to pre-emptively adjust speed. Standard on all GLE Coupes, it’s something worth asking your sales rep to run you through because it’s a clever initiative.
The second-row door openings are also wider than the old model and there’s lots of useful storage – 40L of incidental storage, in fact. Cargo room is up, too, at 655L with the seats in use and 1790L with them folded down.
Crucially, the loading height of the boot floor has dropped by 59mm, making the act of getting gear in and out significantly easier. Further, the standard Airmatic suspension for the GLE53 adds a button that drops the rear by another 50mm when you’re loading and unloading.
The second row is more comfortable, more spacious, and has better visibility than you might think from the outside. Once you’re seated, there’s enough head room and shoulder room for even taller occupants, and you don’t feel at all like the roof is closing down in on you.
As you can see in the video, there’s more than enough room for six-footers back there, despite the external rake of the roof line.
What might surprise you straight off the bat – especially given the size of the GLE – is the pace with which it rockets off the mark. There’s a conventional turbocharger, but also a 48V electric compressor that works from 0rpm to deliver immediate urge. Punch the accelerator and the big GLE just gets cranking rapidly.
The revised steering and the quality of the chassis mean – despite my cynicism – that it does feel sportier than a regular SUV might. That’s not to say it’s a C63 AMG, but it is definitely punchy and capable. Go back even one generation and there’s no way you could drive a large SUV this rapidly.
Around town, the GLE53 feels premium, insulated, and effortless no matter what you’re doing. The ride is sublimely comfortable for an SUV that can handle as well as this one can, and the steering, which you’d expect to be sporty, is also light at city speeds.
The high seating position means occupants have broad visibility, and it undoubtedly shrinks around you the more time you spend with it.
Despite the fact that there’s nothing wrong with ‘regular’ SUVs, the new raft of ‘coupe SUVs’ cater to a different market. Those of you who need an SUV for practical reasons, but also covet performance ability and poise, will find the GLE53 does exactly what you want it to do. If you’re the buyer we speak to, who is driven by tech and standard equipment, it also ticks that box.
Regardless of what I think, the GLE Coupe has been a strong sales success for the brand in Australia. The improvements made to the new model, and the way it feels from behind the wheel, should ensure that success continues.
It’s better than it’s ever been, that much is certain.