Innsbruck, Austria. It’s crazy to think that such a niche and low-volume vehicle should get this much attention. As we all know, the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is, in brief, a GLE SUV that’s traded a rearward extended roofline for a sleeker fastback look. To be fair, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe is more than just a nipped and tucked GLE.
In no uncertain terms, I refused to believe it at first but the GLE Coupe does have a distinct personality. Although that may be true, I would personally opt for the “original” SUV as a matter of principle if mostly because I’m a traditionalist or, in other words, an old man. Typically, I’d bring up a larger, more accessible boot, a more accessible second row for normal-sized humans but, in the GLE Coupe’s case, none of this applies.
Based on the GLE, but not exactly
With almost unnerving ease, Mercedes-Benz cut 60mm from the GLE SUV’s wheelbase, lengthened it overall by 24mm, increased the trunk’s volume, and lowered lift-over height by 60mm. In doing so, they gave the GLE Coupe a unique position in Benz’s extensive lineup of SUVs. If I include the all-new GLB, which I just reviewed, and the EQC SUV, there are no fewer than nine SUVs at Mercedes.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe will be offered in numerous variations worldwide, including a plug-in hybrid, but the only one coming to Canada is the AMG GLE 53 Coupe. Truth be told, although the PHEV surely has its merits, we’re getting the most appealing GLE Coupe.
The GLE Coupe sports broader shoulders which widen the Coupe’s haunches and narrow the cabin. The slim LED taillights raise the beltline for a stronger stance which complements the sportier more decisive front end. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe gets the AMG visual upgrades, from the more aggressive and yet soothing waterfall grille, larger air intakes, handsome 21-inch wheels, upgraded rear bumper which includes the one fault AMG-light vehicles all have – fake plastic tailpipes.
Mild exterior, sharp interior
Although attractive as a whole, I find the GLE Coupe’s overall shape to be inhibited, and not impactful enough – same for the Porsche Cayenne Coupe but less so for the BMW X6. The cabin is where it’s at in my opinion.
Drivers are greeted by the current coolest display layout in the business which, in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe works out to a pair of 12.3-inch screens that blend seamlessly into each other. Along with these configurable displays are the latest updated versions of the MBUX with augmented reality navigation and all the desired connectivity. The dashboard is all 21st Century with superb design, materials and a sufficient number of hard buttons for old guys like me.
There’s plenty of room onboard for five adults. Climbing aboard in the second row is not as hazardous to your head as one would think, so long as you’re under 6-feet tall. The boot is incredibly spacious with upwards of 650 litres of usable volume. The luxurious metals and leathers beautifully wrap every surface. The front seats are supportive, comfortable, and ideal for a 200 km/h cruise down the Autobahn.
AMG GLE EQ Boost
As this is an AMG 53, what lies beneath the bulging bonnet is Benz’s turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-6 cylinder engine with EQ Boost. In this application, it produces 429-horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,800 to 5,800 rpm. These numbers are modest but the 48V Integrated Starter Generator system (ISG), aka EQ Boost, holds a 21-horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque gunshot of power when needed. When loaded, the GLE 53 Coupe will hit 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds.
I say “loaded” as the small battery which provides the boost must be charged. This occurs while driving normally, without any special requirements from the driver. This explains why repeated strong accelerations are not equal. Merging onto the highway, as we did, then backing off, to then once again get on the throttle, is not met with the same force. Thankfully, the straight-6’s torque is always plentiful and lag-free, thanks to an electric auxiliary compressor (an electric turbo).
Incredible shrinking technologies
What’s really impressive about the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe is how it shrinks around the driver when pushed. Spirited driving, on the roads leading up to Hochgurgl in Austria, and down again, are as twisted and sharp as any. Despite the impression of sitting on a tank, the GLE’s greenhouse closes in on the driver, tricking the mind into thinking that it’s a far smaller more manageable vehicle.
Part and parcel to this are the fully variable AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system and the standard air suspension with AMG active ride control. The multi-chamber air suspension combined with continuously adjusting dampers maintains pitch and roll to negligible levels without ever being harsh. Through the various AMG Dynamic Select drive modes, the damping, and AMG SPEEDSHIFT 9-speed automatic transmission’s reactiveness are extremely well sorted. The AMG GLE 53 Coupe feels like a heavy sports car, in the best possible way.
Too niche and cool?
All told, this very niche, limited interest vehicle is far more entertaining and usable than most think – I wasn’t sold on the concept. Although I did enjoy my time at the wheel, I still would not go for a Coupe, no matter the brand. As a trendy style, odds are they’ll fall out of favour eventually and look dated. This is a good option in this trendy niche.