The mid-size luxury crossover segment is arguably the one that started the current crossover craze, with entrants like the original Mercedes-Benz M-Class and the BMW X5 making their mark in the 1990s. Fast forward to 2020, and the automotive industry has grown to include a crossover at every price point. Mercedes-Benz turned to their in-house tuning department at AMG to inject some performance into their GLE crossover, and stuffed it with the latest and greatest technologies. This is the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+.
Since adapting to the aggressive radiator grille design with the vertical slats, all AMG models from Mercedes-Benz have embraced the meaner and instantly recognizable look, and the GLE 53 4MATIC+ is no exception. It has a lower and wider stance when compared to the standard GLE-class, and we particularly like the athletic rear end with bulging fenders and quad exhaust tips. Our tester gets dressed-up with the AMG Night Package that sees its exterior trim bits dressed in black, and the optional Hyacinth Red Metallic adds some classiness to the aggressive appearance.
Behind the sporty fascia lies an advanced powertrain that sees the GLE 53 4MATIC+ outputting 429-horsepower and a maximum of 384 lb-ft. of torque through the combination of a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine and an electric auxiliary compressor. The compressor, called the EQ Boost starter-alternator, is an electric motor that combines the starter and alternator that charges the battery as well as an exhaust gas turbocharger. The motor can briefly add 21-horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque to aid the GLE 53 4MATIC+’s acceleration, and also reduces fuel consumption and emissions.
Thanks to this electrified engine set up, the GLE 53 4MATIC+ has a power delivery that is unlike the traditional turbo engine set up. The electric compressor spools up the turbocharger before the exhaust gas takes over the task, thus eliminating most of the turbo lag felt behind the wheel. Zero to 100 km/h is achieved in 5.3 seconds, and it can continue its sprint up to 250 km/h. The GLE 53 gives up some performance when compared to the BMW X5 M50i, which leads the class with a 523-horsepower engine, but the GLE gains in refinement with a smoother power band.
The GLE 53’s engine sound is more subdued than we are used to in recent models, but the AMG Performance Exhaust as part of the optional AMG Driver’s Package makes up for it. Drivers are rewarded with a satisfying bark when shifting through the nine-speed automatic gear box when the Sport+ driving mode is activated, and its transmission response is quick when you engage in the sportiest setting.
Drivers have a choice between one of seven AMG Dynamic Select drive programs that tailors the drivetrain, suspension profile, exhaust note, steering responsiveness, and traction control for the task at hand, and these characteristics can also be individually customized. Handling is above-average for the GLE 53 4MATIC+; the steering feels accurate and easy to row even though feel is lacking.
Given its beefy curb weight, the GLE 53 4MATIC+ is more suitable as a highway cruiser than one to tackle the twisties, but the standard AMG Active Ride Control with its independent electro-mechanic actuators does a good job to overcome much of the weight transfer during cornering. The Mercedes-AMG 4MATIC+ system does an admirable job in directing power where traction is required, and the high-performance braking system offers plenty of stopping power with confidence inspiring pedal feel.
Mercedes-Benz has stepped up their interior game in recent years, and the GLE 53 4MATIC+ gets a similar class-leading design with the optional AMG Carbon Fibre trim to bring up its overall sportiness. Drivers sitting behind the wheel will notice there are two additional two AMG exclusive themes available for the widescreen cockpit, and a vast amount of customizability within the instrument cluster and the touchscreen multimedia display. Those who plan to take the GLE 53 4MATIC+ to the track can utilize the optional AMG Track Pace software within the infotainment system to record vehicle specific performance data including lap times and acceleration stats.
The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) is a sophisticated system. Once drivers get over the higher-than-usual learning curve, the system is excellent with a vast amount of customizability and information. Commands are accepted with through touching the multimedia display screen, the trackpad, or the steering wheel mounted touch-sensitive controllers, and Android and iPhone users will be able to connect using their native software through the USB-C ports. The optional Burmester surround sound system is one of the best in-class, offering crystal clear sound quality.
Interior space is excellent in the GLE, as long as you are not putting any adults in the optional third row. There is adequate head and legroom, and the vehicle feels larger inside than it looks. Our tester’s cabin is jazzed up with loads of optional features, including massage, rapid heating front, heated front armrest and upper door panels, heated second row, as well as climate comfort front seats that can be heated and ventilated at the same time to ensure the comfort of its occupants. We find the seat ergonomics and the strength of the seat massager to both be above average. The GLE 53 has a cargo capacity of 630 litres, and can open up to 2,055 litres with the second row folded down.
A full suite of driver’s assist features is included as part of the optional Intelligent Drive Package on our test car. This includes radar guided cruise control with stop-and-go assist, Active Lane Keeping and Lane Change Assist, blind spot monitoring, Active Emergency Stop Assist, and Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe Plus and Impulse Side systems where the vehicle can detect impending rear-end or side-impact collisions and automatically engage features using its seats and brakes to prepare the front seat occupants and helps to reduce the potential injuries.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ SUV starts at $92,500, and our tester came fully loaded with a host of optional packages such as the Premium, Comfort, AMG Driver’s, AMG Night, AMG Carbon Fibre Trim, AMG ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL, and Third Row Seating packages, bringing the as-tested total to just over $113,000.
With stiff competition at this luxury mid-size crossover segment, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ stands out with smooth driving dynamics and a premium interior. The BMW X5 M50i wins on straight line performance out of the box, and those looking for the sportiest driving dynamics can always turn to building the most expensive Porsche Cayenne they can afford. For buyers seeking a combination of aggressive styling, interior comfort and performance for their daily commute, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ is a compelling choice.