2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE is a mid-size, five-seat SUV that’s powerful, luxurious, spacious, safe, swoopy, and fun to drive, especially in hot AMG versions. It’s also hugely versatile, with no fewer than seven versions.
For 2021, there are four new sporty models from AMG, which is Mercedes’ high-performance division: the AMG GLE53 and AMG GLE63, in both standard SUV and coupe-like SUV body styles. Also for 2021, wireless smartphone charging and ambient lighting become standard. Options have changed, as well.
The GLE is 194 inches long, with a wheelbase of 118 inches. There’s an optional third row that increases seating capacity to seven, if the two passengers in the wayback are kids.
The base GLE350 uses a 255-hp turbo-4. It’s the only GLE that comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Otherwise every GLE comes with all-wheel drive.
Power ranges from the turbo-6 in the GLE450 to the GLE53 AMG’s mild-hybrid turbo-6, to the twin-turbo V-8 in the AMG GLE63 S. All GLEs use a 9-speed automatic transmission that pairs well with the family of engines.
The GLE350 is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined with rear-wheel drive. The GLE53 AMG and almost all the others get 18/22/19 mpg. The GLE63 S gets 15/19/16 mpg. All GLEs use premium unleaded fuel.
The IIHS gives the GLE its best safety rating, Top Safety Pick+. The NHTSA hasn’t crash-tested it yet.
Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control is an expensive option on most models. The advanced adaptive cruise control is paired with active lane control and a system that will automatically look for an opening in traffic and switch lanes when the turn signal is tapped.
Made in Alabama, the vast GLE lineup ranges from base SUVs to exotically powered AMG “Coupe” models.
The GLE350 starts at around $57,000 with all-wheel drive,and comes with the turbo-4 engine, synthetic leather upholstery, power front seats, twin 12.3-inch screens, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, keyless start, 19-inch wheels, and LED headlights. The GLE450 uses a turbo-6.
Options on those two models include leather upholstery, wood trim, four-zone automatic climate control, Burmester audio, a third-row seat, 22-inch wheels, and an AMG body kit.
The GLE580 gains most of the above options as standard equipment. So does the GLE63 S, which costs about $117,000, with another $20,000 in available extras.
The 2021 GLE marries the swoopy style of Mercedes’ sedans with a more upright SUV body, punctuated by a rakish C-pillar. Different models have different grille designs, all of them expressive.
The Coupe versions are nearly identical in the front, but have a more sloping roofline that reduces head room and cargo space. We can’t say we get the idea of an SUV with less space, but that’s us. Some buyers value looks over versatility. The Coupes are attractive and popular.
The cabin of the GLE is much like that of the luxurious E-Class sedan. Twin displays housed under a single glass pane dominate the instrument panel. There are many interior hues and trim combinations. We’ve only driven well-equipped GLEs with lots of leather and wood, but base models are just as nice. Some of the materials are lavish, if not downright decadent.
The front thrones are supportive forever. They can be heated, cooled, and massaged.
The second row isn’t quite as luxurious, but access is easy. The optional third row is too small for adults. Cargo space is impressive, at around 80 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.
Outward vision is good, but not great. The relatively high beltline and beefy roof pillars make the optional surround-view camera system a feature to consider. Coupes are even worse.
The 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the GLE350 is quite willing. It easily keeps up with traffic while holding plenty in reserve for passing. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds, with all-wheel drive.
But if the GLE is carrying 4 or 5 occupants, the GLE450 is better, with its 362-hp 3.0-liter inline-6. It can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, and is capable of towing up to 7,700 pounds. It uses a 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system that offers a 21 lb-ft of torque boost allowing for more efficient highway cruising.
The GLE580 uses a 4.0-liter V-8 with 483 lb-ft of torque, to reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
New this year are four AMG versions, the GLE53 and GLE63, in both standard SUV and coupe-like SUV body style. The GLE53 uses an AMG-tuned version of the inline-6 making 429 thrilling horsepower. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
The GLE63 uses a hand-assembled twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, while its 48-volt system can add up to 21 hp and 184 lb-ft in certain situations. It can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.
All the engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.
An air suspension comes on the higher models, and is optional on the lower ones. The standard coil springs on the lower models are fine, but the air suspension provides a ride that’s more plush, while still being controlled. The air suspension can be augmented by Mercedes’ hydropneumatic active body control system. That setup works in concert with various sensors to scan the road ahead and adjust the suspension in anticipation of bumps. It works amazingly well.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE is one of the most versatile vehicles in the automaker’s lineup. Its sheer range of choices means shoppers can choose from family hauler to luxury chariot with astounding power and grip. We’re happy with the GLE450, but the AMG GLE53 can tangle impressively well with other performance SUVs—and with your favorite winding road.
—By Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection