Automotive

Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE and GLS hit the high note

Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE...
The largest of our test group, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
The largest of our test group, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, was also the most powerful
View 15 Images
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 is a midsized offering with seating for five and large amounts of cargo space
1/15
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 is a midsized offering with seating for five and large amounts of cargo space
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63
2/15
The AMG treatment to the 2021 GLE 63 adds more aggressive braking, engine tuning, exhaust upgrades, and suspension improvements to the already sporty GLE Series
For the 2021 model year, the GLE gets AMG variants in the 53 and 63, denoting a six- or eight-cylinder engine respectively
3/15
For the 2021 model year, the GLE gets AMG variants in the 53 and 63, denoting a six- or eight-cylinder engine respectively
The lines on the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE are similar up front for both the standard SUV (shown) and the Coupe model
4/15
The lines on the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE are similar up front for both the standard SUV (shown) and the Coupe model
The driver's cockpit for the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 in both its SUV and Coupe formats are the same
5/15
The driver's cockpit for the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 in both its SUV and Coupe formats are the same
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe compromises some rear seat headroom and cargo space for a sportier fastback wagon-like design
6/15
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe compromises some rear seat headroom and cargo space for a sportier fastback wagon-like design
The front fascia, hood, and other design elements of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe are nearly identical to the standard SUV model of the GLE
7/15
The front fascia, hood, and other design elements of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe are nearly identical to the standard SUV model of the GLE
The dramatic downsizing of the bodywork on the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe versus the SUV give it a far different silhouette
8/15
The dramatic downsizing of the bodywork on the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe versus the SUV give it a far different silhouette
Cargo space in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe is more restricted than it is in the standard SUV
9/15
Cargo space in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe is more restricted than it is in the standard SUV
The optional red highlights and stitching in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe are sporty upgrades
10/15
The optional red highlights and stitching in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe are sporty upgrades
The largest of our test group, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
11/15
The largest of our test group, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, was also the most powerful
The big 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 adds many AMG highlights to the three-row SUV without changing the adult-friendliness of that third row
12/15
The big 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 adds many AMG highlights to the three-row SUV without changing the adult-friendliness of that third row
Boasting 603 horsepower, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is sporty in more than just name
13/15
Boasting 603 horsepower, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is sporty in more than just name
With bigger size comes more interior room, as shown here in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
14/15
With bigger size comes more interior room, as shown here in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
Cargo space is more than useful in the big 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 and controls for folding and raising the third row are electronic from the rear
15/15
Cargo space is more than useful in the big 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 and controls for folding and raising the third row are electronic from the rear
View gallery - 15 images

For the 2021 model year, Mercedes-Benz has added AMG tuning to both its midsized GLE sport utility and its full-sized GLS. These luxury SUVs now come in both standard and AMG-tuned models with powerful six- and eight-cylinder engines.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE and GLS models were both completely revamped for the 2020 model year. For 2021, AMG sport variants were added that boost power output and road presence in these new-generation SUVs. We tried both models in AMG formats to see what was what.

Our test models were the AMG options in both the GLE standard and Coupe (63 and 53 respectively) as well as the GLS in its AMG 63 variant. In all cases, standard equipment was plentiful and power output from the engines was on point. The 53 models are powered by a 3.0-liter inline-six turbocharged to produce 429 horsepower (320 kW) with a 48-volt hybrid system adding another 21 hp (15.6 kW) to the nine-speed automatic transmission. The 63 models feature a 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine that produces 603 horsepower (449.7 kW) with another 21 hp from its 48V system. The same nine-speed automatic also matches this engine.

Both the six and the eight produce beautiful engine sounds, though the throatiness of an eight-cylinder engine is hard to compete with. We enjoyed both engines for their responsive power output and smooth delivery; and the nine-speed automatic is an excellent match for either engine. On top of those qualities, they look great and include a long list of safety and convenience items.

There are downsides, however, especially when you talk dollars. The starting price for the AMG GLE 53 Coupe is fairly reasonable at around US$76,500, but that quickly gets higher as options are added, with our fully-loaded test model ramping that number to $93,155 (including shipping). That includes $2,100 in seat massage options, $1,250 for a performance exhaust system (worth it), and $1,950 for the well-executed driver assistance package. The latter adds active systems for steering assistance and even active lane changing assistance, allowing the SUV (under cruise control) to change lanes on a driver signal. Still, pushing past $90,000 for what is essentially a chopped down sport utility (aka “wagon”) seems a little much. But compared to the starting price for the standard GLE SUV in its AMG 63 variant ($113,950), it’s far less eye-boggling. Our test model ran to $131,880 with delivery, which is only $280 shy of the starting price for the AMG GLS 63 full-sized sport SUV ... and our test model for the GLS 63 had another $20,000 in add-ons and delivery charges after that.

The optional red highlights and stitching in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe are sporty upgrades
The optional red highlights and stitching in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe are sporty upgrades

To put it bluntly, the Mercedes-Benz family of SUVs can get very expensive very quickly. If your financial math routinely uses six figures, though at the end of the day that's probably not a huge surprise.

As a daily vehicle, all three of the Mercedes-Benz SUVs we drove have merits. The GLE is the smaller of the two models and the Coupe variant is the smallest of that. In its standard format the GLE enjoys the benefits of a square-bodied utility with all the headroom, cargo space, and legroom that implies. It’s a big, comfortable, five-seater with a large amount of storage besides. The Coupe model cuts down the rear into a fastback style, reducing cargo space significantly and slightly impacting rear headroom with the curvature of the roofline. Even at that, however, it’s a roomy, practical wagon-style utility with great driving dynamics and performance as upsides.

Upsizing further to the GLS adds an adult-usable third row, seating for 6 or 7 (depending on second row configuration), and a large cargo area. This variant benefits greatly from the eight-cylinder grunt as well, given the SUV’s bulk. It’s a classy, capable, and muscular vehicle with a beautiful pipe symphony.

There’s a lot to be said for a well-done luxury SUV, and benchmarks for the class usually have the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star on them. We think that’s still true here with the GLE and GLS models. Assuming you can afford them.

Product pages: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE, 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS

View gallery - 15 images
2 comments
michael_dowling
We are facing an existential threat from climate change,but auto makers are still flogging ICE powered obscenities like these!
ReservoirPup
Yes, michael_dowling, and those "obscenities" are enhanced by V8s. We ate the planet, didn't we?