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Driven: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe [Review]

You Can Call It Many Things, But Subtle Isn’t Quite One Of Them

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe

As the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe in Obsidian Black Metallic with matte black 22-inch wheels showed up in my driveway earlier this week, I was struck with a familiar feeling. This was the second of Mercedes’ coupe-but-actually-a-crossover vehicles that I’d tested this year, and my thoughts upon seeing it for the first time were the same as my previous go-round with the things.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe profile

Better In The Flesh

They’re striking. In a good way. Looking at the coupe in photos, you’d be forgiven for thinking the proportions are awkward, maybe even lumpy from some angles, but things start to make more sense with the Coupe sitting in front of you in the flesh – or sheet metal. I won’t try to convince you that it’s beautiful, because I’m acutely aware that this particular flavor of vehicle is somewhat of an acquired taste. I will, however, try to convince you that the shape makes more sense in person than in any photograph.

Elements like the oversized Mercedes badge on the grille and almost cartoonishly large wheels are just footnotes to the Coupe’s overall presence. It’s the long sloping hood and the dramatic roof that falls away to the rounded tail that steal the show here. It’s a shape that works just as well here as it does on some of Mercedes’ most iconic sedans of recent times.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe interior

Inside, the story is much the same, though I suspect buyers’ experience will vary wildly depending on how much money they spent on options. My test vehicle’s total retail price of $107,960 represents $31,460 in options and packages, many of which were applied to the interior. The most noticeable here are the seats, which are slathered in black and red Nappa leather and the interior trim, which is brushed aluminum. It’s one of the rare times that I’ve stepped into a vehicle and immediately felt that the end product justifies the costs to get there.

Smart In Smart Ways

There’s also plenty to like with the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe’s tech. The bewitching 12.3-inch infotainment display flows seamlessly into the digital gauge cluster, which also takes up the expanse of a foot-long screen. Navigation is standard, but there’s no need for it with the also-standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. There’s also a standard Burmeister surround-sound system and 64-color ambient lighting system inside, all of which were tested individually in great detail by my four-year-old daughter.

Any other automaker would throw those features at a vehicle and call it good, but there’s more here. The head-up display, while optional, is one of the best and most detailed in any vehicle, though it’s just as difficult to see with polarized sunglasses as in any other. Other, more important options aren’t as easily seen, such as the Driver Assistance Package that was equipped on my test vehicle. It adds the full gamut of advanced safety features, all of which perform as expected and do their jobs without being annoying or jarring with stray alerts.

Serious Performance

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe is quick. Much quicker than a vehicle of its size feels that it should be. The turbocharged 429-hp 3.0-liter engine and 48-volt mild hybrid system combined with the 9-speed automatic gearbox add up to create a surprisingly exhilarating driving experience. This is on top of AMG’s uncanny ability to take a normal Mercedes-Benz vehicle, ram tons of power down its throat, and still end up with a vehicle that is as mild-mannered as the day is long when it needs to be. Seriously, if you took the AMG badges off of the GLE 53 and didn’t drive like a maniac, you’d be none the wiser that the vehicle you were sitting in was capable of such (refined) violence.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe nose

That’s the real magic here, but there’s more. Adaptive suspension more than makes up for the optional 22-inch wheels’ propensity to harsh the ride. Underneath the sheet metal, my test vehicle came with AMG Active Ride Control, which uses two electro-mechanical actuators front and rear. Without getting into exactly how they work, the system helps keep the GLE 53’s mass in check when cornering and makes the ride much more comfortable overall. It’s also lighter than a traditional adaptive suspension system and can adjust itself up to 1,000 times per second to keep things smooth and planted at all moments.

Experience Lives Up To The Price

One point that rarely comes up when discussing the AMG or any expensive performance vehicle, for that matter, is whether or not the driving experience actually matches the price tag. In other words, does this $108,000 crossover deliver a $108,000 driving experience? The equation doesn’t always balance for vehicles at any price point, but it does here, and to great effect. Every touchpoint seems to have been scrutinized, and for the most part, passengers receive the red-carpet treatment from the moment they enter.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe trackpad
My tester was loaded to the gills with added-cost options that, in no small way, make that special feeling more… special. The $1,100 Acoustic Comfort Package adds acoustic insulation and infrared-absorbing film to the GLE 53’s glass, and the $2,100 Energizing Comfort Package Plus brings ventilated front seats with massaging features. You could order the AMG without those things, but at this level there’s almost no reason not to. 

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe: Final Thoughts

It’s hard to say that anyone needs a $100,000-plus luxury sports crossover, but it’s even harder to let go of one once you’ve had the chance to experience it. Here, it’s not so much the raw speed – 5.2 seconds 0-60 mph isn’t mind-blowing – it’s the sensation of speed and the sense of occasion behind the wheel that makes the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe so special.

There’s also something to be said for the fact that the thing just looks great in person, living up to its billing and then some. Of course, all of that is on top of the fact that it’s an extremely solid and useful daily driver as well. It is one that parents and busy families are able to live with and not feel like they’re giving something up to get performance.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe gauge cluster

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Chris Teague
About Chris Teague