My favourite marketer, Seth Godin has always purported the notion of marketing to the outliers. To paraphrase his saying, average companies make things for average people.
The key to success is appealing to appeal to the edges of the bell curve, whether it’s very cheap or very expensive, to get a minimum viable audience that will absolutely love your products.
Case in point is my test vehicle for this review, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe.
What is it?
As Porsche has very successfully proven with its line-up of 911 sport cars, you can convince customers to pay for more while giving less “stuff”.
From a pure financial or practical standpoint, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe might not make a whole of sense. For about $2,000 more money, you get less cargo space, less rear passenger headroom, and less metal compared to its traditionally shaped SUV stablemate, the Mercedes-AMG GLE63s SUV.
The GLE coupe has about 2.55 inches less rear headroom and 779 versus 954 litres of cargo space with the second row seats up.
What your extra dineros buy with the GLE63s coupe versus SUV though, is less of a soccer mom or dad image and more of a crossover vehicle with a sporty character that will be different than that of your neighbours. For better or worse, it’s the classic case of keeping up with the Jones.
Like the GLE63s SUV, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 coupe comes in two flavours. Powerful, and even more powerful. Both trims are powered by Mercedes-AMG’s latest evolution of their twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, paired up with a 48-volt high powered electrical system and a “EQ Boost” mild-hybrid starter-alternator system integrated between the engine and the nine-speed AMG Speedshift auto transmission.
To distinguish the GLE63s from its non-AMG brethren, Mercedes-AMG has updated the exterior with what they say is “the embodiment of hallmark AMG Driving Performance”.
What this marketing speak really means is that there is an AMG-specific Panamerica grille, a jet-wing designed front bumper, prominent power domes on the hood, as well as unique side skirts, mirror housings, and flared wheel arches.
The rear bumper features an AMG-specific rear apron, a diffuser, and a chrome trim strip to further accentuate the GLE63s coupe’s width. The twin AMG tailpipe elements round out the package.
My vehicle was also fitted with the AMG Night package, where the front splitter and front apron trim, inserts in the side skirts, mirror caps, and window frames were finished in black. In addition, the twin tailpipe trim elements were also finished in high-gloss black.
In “standard” non-“S” fair, the GLE63 coupe already outputs 571 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. The addition of the “S” bumps this up to a whopping 603 horsepower and a staggering 627 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 to 4,500 rpms. The two twin-scroll turbochargers are arranged between the cylinder banks in a “hot inside V” design to increase responsiveness versus an exterior turbocharger configuration.
The EQ Boost starter-alternator setup combines a starter motor and an alternator in a single, powerful compact electric motor producing an additional output of 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The 48-volt on-board electrical system serves as both an alternator and is also responsible for the hybrid functions.
In addition to the temporary power boost, the system works absolutely seamlessly in allowing for virtually imperceptible restarting of the engine when the start/stop function is active.
Although AMG owners might not prioritize fuel efficiently, Mercedes-AMG nonetheless equipped with the GLE63s coupe with a cylinder deactivation system. When set to “comfort” drive mode, the system functions between 1,000 to 3,250 rpms.
A display in the instrument cluster shows when the system is in four-cylinder mode. Unlike other systems on the market where it’s immediately apparent when four cylinders have been shut down, the GLE’s is almost completely transparent.
If you’ve been in recent Mercedes-AMG models, you’ll feel right at home in the GLE63s coupe. Similar to the SUV version of the GLE, you’ll find comfortable thickly bolstered heated, ventilated AMG front sports seats covered in nappa leather and alcantara.
These seats can even be optioned out with active dynamic side bolsters to hold you better during hard cornering maneuvers.
Count me in as a big fan of the fat alcantara/leather AMG three-spoke heated steering wheel with satin-finished aluminum paddles and buttons. I also love the configurable AMG steering wheel buttons that allow for the driving dynamics to be adjusted on the go with a twist of the dial or a press of either one of the two buttons.
The centre console houses an AMG-specific control unit with additional switches that are used to regulate the 3-stage ESP stability control system, the manual transmission mode, the Adaptive Damping System, the AMG Performance exhaust system, and the GLE63s coupe’s air suspension ride height level.
Also benefitting from the 48-volt electrical system is the AMG Active Ride Control roll stabilization system. This system responds faster than the usual hydraulic-based system, adapting to the conditions within milliseconds.
The system uses two independently operating, electromechanical actuators at the front and rear axles, each with their own integrated planetary gear. This not only reduces body roll when cornering, but also allows for more precise tuning of the cornering and load cycle properties.
The GLE63s’ MBUX infotainment system has a few AMG-exclusive bits and bobs including a “Supersport” view that provides extensive AMG-specific information such as upshift prompts in manual mode as well as a few new visualizations.
I was most impressed with the animated presentations of the driving assistance programs, particularly the gradient/incline displays, and differential lock graphics when the Trail and Sand modes are activated.
How does it drive?
In a nutshell, the GLE63s coupe is blisteringly quick, engaging, and certainly has all the sounds, character, and excitement expected from a full fat AMG vehicle. There’s no lack of theatre when you want it, if you want it.
And yet in comfort mode with the exhaust system toned down, you can easily carry on a conference call thanks to the excellent noise cancellation algorithm for phone calls integrated into the MBUX Infotainment / Burmester sound system.
In comfort mode, the GLE upshifts early and the vehicle is set-up for full comfort and economical motoring.
On the other side of the spectrum is Sport+ mode, where the computer even double-declutches the gearbox on downshifts and targets torque interventions on upshifts with cylinder deactivation for optimized shift times. The idle speed is raised for faster pulling away and there is an even more dynamic setup for the suspension, steering and powertrain.
In the unlikely event that you wish to take your GLE63s coupe to the track, Mercedes-AMG’s engineers have you covered with a dedicated “Race” mode for dynamic driving on closed circuits. In this drive program, efficiency is completely thrown out the window and all of the parameters are configured for max performance.
While there are too many other technical systems to cover in this review, the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system deserves special mention. This system is different from the non-AMG GLE coupes in that it has an electronically controlled locking rear differential as standard equipment and is integrated into the multi-mode stability control system.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63s coupe combines two classes of vehicles, each with its own distinctive style, to make a new model.
The sporty nature of the coupe dominates the vehicle’s silhouette, imbued with the traditional box shape of an SUV. With its flowing side contour, elongated and low greenhouse, and the striking Panamericana AMG grille, the GLE coupe shares many styling features typical of sport Mercedes-Benz coupes.
So now comes the $150,000+ question. How does it compare with its main rival, the 2021 BMW X6M coupe?
Surprisingly, the Mercedes is somehow snortier, more raw, more visceral than its rival from BMW. Although the X6M’s driving position is arguably better, mainly thanks to a lower dash, as far as sights, sounds, feel, and quality, the Mercedes has the slight edge over its rival from Bavaria.
It’s brawnier than the X6M, if that’s what you’re looking for. But as far as finesse, the BMW is still a more entertaining vehicle to drive at speed.
Ultimately, while nobody “needs” a two-ton SUV coupe that can challenge some supercars in a straight line. But if you’re shopping in this upper end of the market, which vehicle you choose will likely come down to some minute preferences to bring maximum smiles per kilometre driven.
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