After a major redesign last year, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class returns with only one major change – the return of the fearsome AMG trims. The two performance-oriented models are also available in a sleek coupe body style.
Aside from the new trims, the GLE gains a few tech perks. Satellite radio and wireless charging now come standard, and the Mercedes me Connect app includes a new feature that lets you know if your vehicle gets dinged while it’s parked.
Choosing Your Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
The addition of the AMG models brings the GLE-Class range up to five trim levels: GLE 350, GLE 450, AMG GLE 53, GLE 580, and AMG GLE 63 S. Prices (including destination fees) start at $55,745 for a base model and rise to $1114,945 for the range-topper.
As is tradition for Mercedes, each trim gets its own powertrain. The GLE 350 is available with either rear- or all-wheel drive, but all other models come standard with Mercedes’s 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. Every powertrain uses a nine-speed automatic transmission.
|Engine Type||Horsepower||Torque||Fuel Economy (Combined)|
|2.0L Turbo 4-Cylinder||255 hp||273 lb-ft||22 mpg|
|3.0L Turbo 6-Cylinder||362 hp||369 lb-ft||23 mpg|
|3.0L Turbo 6-Cylinder||429 hp||384 lb-ft||19 mpg|
|4.0L Twin-Turbo V8||483 hp||516 lb-ft||19 mpg|
|4.0L Twin-Turbo V8||603 hp||627 lb-ft||16 mpg|
The GLE 450 costs nearly $8,000 more than a base GLE 350, but its 3.0-liter engine offers a significant power bump without a penalty on fuel efficiency. For speed addicts, few SUVs on the road can match the AMG GLE 63 S, which sprints from 0-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds.
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
Every GLE starts with seating for five passengers. The cabin is spacious, and options include luxuries like massage-capable seats. A third row is also on the options list, but it’s best suited for children.
Cargo capacity starts at 33.3 cubic feet without the third row, and folding the second opens up 74.5 cubes of space. Both are strong numbers for the class. Coupe bodies sacrifice some capacity to aesthetics, with a maximum of 63.2 cubic feet.
The Mercedes GLE-Class comes with a strong safety resume. Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring come standard. Advanced features like adaptive cruise control are on the menu, and an optional semi-autonomous driving mode can handle lane changes on the highway.
The NHTSA hasn’t yet tested the new GLE-Class, but the IIHS liked it enough to bestow the highest possible Top Safety Pick Plus award.
Tech is front and center in the GLE-Class. A 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen dominates the dash, with a twin screen handling gauge displays for the driver. Mercedes’s MBUX system can be controlled via voice commands, touchscreen, or a touchpad on the center console. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and wi-fi compatibility are all baked in.
The GLE 350 may be the cheapest member of the family, but it brings plenty of luxury. The front seats are heated, power-adjustable, and covered in synthetic leather. In addition to the standard safety and infotainment features, the GLE 350 gets a power liftgate, a sunroof, and push-button start. On the outside, 19-inch wheels join LED headlights and aluminum roof rails.
Mercedes separates trims primarily by powertrain rather than feature set, which means that the GLE 350 has access to most of the same luxury features as the rest of the line. A popular choice will be the Premium Package ($1,375), which adds Burmester sound and a surround-view camera.
To get the remaining active safety tech, buyers will need the Driver Assistance Package PLUS ($1,950), which includes adaptive cruise control as well as the semi-autonomous modes. Adding the third row also requires a package ($2,100) with power-adjustable second row seats and extra USB ports. Other packages upgrade the climate control, heating elements, and appearance.
Notable standalone options include a panoramic roof ($1,000), four-zone automatic climate control ($860), and multi-contour massage-capable front seats ($1,100).
The main draw of the GLE 450 is its 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive. The two combine to boost towing capacity up to 7,700 pounds. Otherwise, the GLE 450 is identical to the 350 in features and options.
The AMG GLE 53 is new for 2021, and it comes with a healthy dose of performance. Mercedes tunes the 450’s engine up to 429 hp, which is enough to drop 0-60 mph times to 5.2 seconds. Also included are an AMG-tuned adaptive damping system, upgraded brakes, and 20-inch wheels. All of the features in the Premium Package are included at this trim. Choosing the coupe body style costs an extra $4,150, but brings 21-inch wheels.
The only new package is the AMG DYNAMIC PLUS ($5,200), which adds active roll stabilization, track-day data logging, and an Alcantara steering wheel with controls to adjust performance settings.
Although it isn’t technically an AMG model, the GLE 580 comes with a twin-turbo V8 making 483 hp. It lacks the performance features of the AMG GLE 53, but ups the luxury ante with leather upholstery, wood trim, and privacy glass.
The AMG GLE 63 S is the king of the range, with a price tag to match. To go with its class-leading performance, the GLE 63 S gets an exclusive electronic limited-slip rear differential. The cabin is trimmed in Nappa leather, and AMG accents decorate both interior and exterior. Also standard are luxury perks like ventilated front seats, heated and cooled cupholders, and power sunshades.
Of the 2021 Mercedes GLE-Class lineup, unless you need the towing power of the GLE 450, the GLE 350 will be enough for most buyers. We’d get it with all-wheel drive and the Premium Package.