Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and GLS 63: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceMercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and GLS 63
In the last year, Mercedes-Benz introduced new versions of its two largest sport-utility vehicles — the 5-passenger GLE and 7-passenger GLS. Both SUVS offer premium levels of luxury with the latest high-tech features and safety equipment, as well as updated styling. For those who seek the luxury and utility of these big sport utes but would appreciate an additional level of performance, Mercedes-Benz now offers the all-new AMG GLE 63 S and AMG GLS 63.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
As the performance division of Mercedes-Benz, the heart of any AMG model is the powerful engine under the hood, and the GLS and GLE are no exception. Both the GLS 63 and GLE 63 S get power from a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine producing 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. Both AMG models are also equipped with an integrated EQ Boost starter/generator. This electric motor works as a starter and an alternator, and it’s fitted between the engine and the AMG SPEEDSHIFT 9-speed automatic transmission.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEQ Boost
The innovative EQ Boost system acts as a power generator while also supplying the 48-volt electrical system. EQ Boost makes for seamless start/stop operation as well as providing the ability to glide — adding to the vehicle’s overall efficiency. But EQ Boost also contributes to performance, adding 21 horsepower and up to 184 lb-ft of torque when extra power is required, such as hard acceleration from a stop or while passing.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePerformance
Both the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and GLS 63 offer acceleration quite surprising for vehicles of their size. The smaller AMG GLE 63 S can zoom to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, while the larger GLS 63 accomplishes the same feat in a rather miraculous 4.1 seconds. Both vehicles are limited to a more-than-adequate 174 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAMG DYNAMICS
Handling typically falls by the wayside when purchasing a large SUV, but AMG is anything but typical. Both the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and GLS 63 feature AMG DYNAMICS, a range of electronic aids designed to improve agility via steering, torque distribution, active stabilizers and all-wheel drive. DYNAMIC SELECT allows the driver to optimize the vehicle for various conditions and driving styles. These include off-road settings such as Trail and Sand, as well as Comfort and Sport settings. The GLE 63 S adds one more setting: Race, which sets up the vehicle for ultimate performance.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
As with all AMG variants in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the GLE and GLS offer massive power, impressive handling, aggressive styling and lavish interiors. But these sought-after enhancements don’t come cheap.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S
With a base price of $113,950, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S comes with heated and ventilated AMG-specific front seats, Nappa leather trim on the seats and steering wheel, a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, five USB-C ports, wireless device charging, active park assist and a surround-view camera system. Active LED headlights, LED taillights and 21-inch AMG wheels are also standard.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePerformance and Comfort
“With our new GLE Performance models we are transforming a 20-year tradition into the future. With our new premium SUVs, our customers can look forward to an unrivalled package of Driving Performance, high day-to-day suitability, optimum traction on practically all surfaces and also comfort on long journeys with high levels of efficiency,” said Tobias Moers, chairman of the board of management at Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDistinguishing Design
The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S distinguishes itself from common versions of the GLE with an AMG-specific radiator grille with its trademark vertical louvers, larger air intakes highlighted by chrome trim, and a power dome on the hood. The AMG’s muscular nature gets further enhanced with side skirts and flared wheel arches. Adding to that performance look are standard 21-inch wheels enhanced by red brake calipers.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceQuad Pipes
At the rear of the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, a chrome strip spans the body between the taillights, providing the illusion of even more width. Adding to the high-performance look are quad rectangular exhaust outlets integrated into the rear diffuser.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
Priced at $132,100, the AMG variant of the GLS gets similar upgrades to the GLE 63 S but also sports a Burmester Surround Sound audio system, seating for up to seven, nine USB ports, heated and cooled front cupholders, heated second-row seats, a 115-volt AC power outlet and active front-seat massage functions.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNo Compromises
“With the new GLS 63 we are offering a vehicle to customers who won’t accept compromises when it comes to versatility, effortless superiority and spaciousness. We have further increased the powertrain’s efficiency in conjunction with the EQ Boost starter-alternator and 48-volt electrical system, which makes our GLS 63 the ideal companion for long distances, on a par with the S-Class, with rough-terrain attributes and space for up to seven people,” said Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceLargest AMG Grille
The Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 gets similar treatment up front with its sculpted hood and large air intakes; however, the distinctive AMG grille is the largest of any AMG model in the Mercedes lineup. The grille gets flanked by standard dynamic LED headlights. The GLS 63 can also be fitted with massive 23-inch wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
Both AMG SUVs not only reside at the top of the Mercedes lineup in terms of performance, these are also the most luxurious of the line. The AMG sport seats are trimmed in exclusive Nappa leather with AMG badging and contrasting stitching. The pampering provided by the active massage function provides classic massage or even activating heated treatment. The driver can further set the mood with 64-color ambient lighting.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAMG Steering Wheel
The latest generation, 3-spoke AMG Performance steering wheel comes standard, featuring aluminum shift paddles with the rim lined in Nappa leather/DINAMICA. In addition to the common audio and display controls, the wheel has quick access to adjust the driving dynamics with controls for stability systems, exhaust as well as drive mode. Adding to the sporty interior are AMG brushed stainless-steel sport pedals for throttle and brake.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHey Mercedes
Equipped with the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz User Interface — or MBUX — the GLE 63 S and GLS 63 feature advanced voice recognition. The innovative system is activated by saying “Hey Mercedes,” and is able to perform functions based on real language requests. For example, occupants can ask it to “find the closest Starbucks” and it will set a navigation route to the nearest Starbucks coffee shop. However, users need to be careful about what they say and how they say it. During our test drive the system activated several times unintentionally.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAugmented Navigation
One of our favorite features in these two SUVs  is the Augmented Video for Navigation. As a turn is approaching on a programmed route, the forward-facing video camera activates and overlays navigation information to positively identify the next direction. This includes showing the street name hovering over the street along with arrows indicating the direction.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat — GLE 63 S
As a 5-passenger midsize SUV, the GLE 63 S offers a roomy second row that looks as elegant as the front seats. Cushions are comfortable and there are controls for rear-seat occupants to adjust their own climate controls. Seats can be folded flat to increase cargo space.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSeven-Passenger Seating — GLS 63
If the whole family needs to be somewhere fast, the GLS 63 is one of the quickest people movers on the road. The second row can be fitted with two bucket seats or a 3-passenger bench, while two additional passengers can sit in the third row. The power-operated second-row seats can be moved forward for easy access to the third row. It may be a bit cramped back there, but seats are wide and can even be heated. USB outlets for the third-row passengers helps ease the pain of relegation to the third row.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space – GLS
Room for luggage can be a bit tight in the GLS 63 when all seats are in use; however, if the third is unoccupied, these seats can be easily folded flat with the push of a button in the cargo area, providing plenty of room for that run to a big box store.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space – GLE
As a 5-passenger SUV, the GLE 63 S already offers a large space behind the second row.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
Driving either the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S or GLS 63 completely changes perceptions about what is possible with a large SUV. Although we expect vehicles this sophisticated to be good on rough terrain or in bad weather, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and AMG GLS 63 have the skills to take on twisty roads like a sports car.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceImpressive Handling
Smaller and lighter, the AMG GLE 63 S is a bit more agile on the road. In the hills west of Los Angles, we were able to really enjoy the winding roads thanks to the vehicle’s precise steering and surprisingly little body lean as we dove into corners. Acceleration is strong, accompanied by a fantastic V8 roar. The GLS 63 is a bit less capable when it comes to high-speed cornering, but it also carries considerably more mass and weight. Still, it can hold its own on canyon roads.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceStill a Mercedes
An appealing aspect of these big vehicles is that they still drive like a Mercedes should. The ride is comfortable, and with the adjustable dynamics it can be as soft as the driver desires. Cruising down a highway or through town, these high-performance SUVs cosset their passengers in comfort and luxury.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
There are several high-performance SUVs on the market, but these Mercedes-AMG offerings certainly stand out. Whether you need 5- or 7-passenger seating, the AMG GLE 63 S or AMG GLS 63 offer a great blend of utility, luxury and performance. Although the price of entry is rather high, these AMG SUVs with their more aggressive styling and roaring exhaust will stand out from the crowd, letting those around you know they are in the presence of something special. And take our word for it — these rigs are indeed special.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0 / 9.0
Pros: Excellent performance; lavish interior; standout styling.
Cons: High price; cramped third row in GLS 63; only USB-C ports.
Bottom Line: The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and GLS 63 set the bar for luxury performance SUVs.

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