Like many, I didn’t seriously start to watch F1 until “Drive to Survive” came out on Netflix. Since then, I can’t get enough of it. I love that it’s the pinnacle of motorsport, and the courage needed to drive these cars on the edge lap after lap. While I wish BMW were still involved, I’m marveled at how Mercedes has been able to dominate. Does that AMG racing spirit get passed down to its road cars? Namely, this 2022 Mercedes AMG GLE 53?
The 2022 Mercedes AMG GLE 53 Overview
What makes a car special? It’s hard to explain, but on paper, this 2022 Mercedes AMG GLE 53 checks the boxes. A turbocharged inline-6 with 429 horses. Cross-drilled brake discs. Adjustable exhaust with big quad outlets. Carbon fiber interior trim, and sport bucket seats that hold you tightly. But despite all that, the GLE 53 is missing something to tie it all together.
Performance Score: 6. Take a lap for the brap.
We start with the GLE’s power unit. A 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-6 that’s been “breathed upon” by AMG, it pumps out 429 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque. A neat trick is an electrically driven supercharger that helps to smooth out the power delivery. That all sounds nice, until you consider an X5 M50i with a V-8 under its hood for similar cost. Supply issues for Mercedes means that the typical 603-horsepower V-8 available in the GLE 63 “S” isn’t available for the 2022 model year.
This is a nice engine. It’s smooth and efficient considering the power it has and weight it’s saddled with. You get four modes here, and the dial on the steering wheel allows you to adjust on the fly. Choose from “Economy”, “Comfort”, “Sport”, or “Sport+”, though you can also select engine, exhaust, and suspension settings on your own too. Sport seems to be the sweet spot, with Eco and Sport+ a bit to far on either side.
Regardless of the mode, the inline-6 is a little sluggish, with hesitation to rev and kick down through the gears. Nine speeds in the transmission is one more than you might normally get, and I wonder if it’s one to many. This is a big SUV, and the V-8 with nearly 200 more horses is missed.
Still, there is some fun to be had. Use the toggle switch in the center console to open the valves in the exhaust, and you’ll get a satisfying brapp each time the transmission shifts under load. It’s a little fun in a car that takes itself pretty seriously.
Mercedes equips their press fleet with winter tires, and this is another example of why it’s best to get dedicated summer tires as oppose to all seasons. With the winter wheels, the steering was vague. You turn the wheel in, and the car responds well, but there’s no pushback from the column. Am I asking the tires for 40% of their available grip, or 90%?
Because of this, the GLE 53’s handing isn’t as confidence-inspiring as you might find in some other cars, even when the suspension is firmed up in Sport+ mode. This is a car that’s based on comfort first, with a dash of performance thrown in, despite what the AMG badge on the trunk might have you believe. Going down the highway, it’s supremely comfortable, with excellent body control that never gets upset with road undulations. Mercedes AIRMATIC suspension is here, which is an air-bag system coupled with active anti-roll bars that provides better cornering capabilities without sacrificing ride quality. It’s just no apex hunter.
The car does raise and lower with the touch of a button on the dash when parked, and no doubt you’ve seen some social media reels with the cute bouncing effect it can provide.
The GLE 53 comes with the standard brakes on my test car, which are cross-drilled, vented, and gripped with dual-piston calipers in front. They work well enough, but they lack initial bite, so it can be a little unsettling when you first drive the car. There is an upgrade to 16.5-inch, 6-pot brakes in the front, and I’d consider that. But also remember that brake size and brake feel are usually independent of each other, especially with today’s brake-by-wire systems.
Utility Score: 9. Bring the family.
This is a big SUV, but it doesn’t feel overly large as you drive down the road. Inside, you have plenty of room in the back, and the trunk holds plenty of gear. You’ll also find multiple nooks throughout for storage. An optional third row is available, but as is common with mid-size SUVs, consider moving up if you need the room. In this case, Mercedes makes the GLS.
Efficiency: 7. Cruise control.
A bonus for skipping the V-8? Better mileage. Over the course of a week, I averaged 20 mpg. Considering that this is a 16-foot long, 5,000 lb SUV, and it’s not bad in the fuel department. You can’t feel the electric supercharger during driving, which is by design, and it helps keep things smooth and efficient.
Features and Comfort: 9. A tale of two halves.
Another way a car can endear itself to its owner is by being useful. Once you get to this price class, buyers expect that usefulness to be closely followed by luxury, and the GLE 53 does not disappoint. Fitted to this example was some special kit inside:
- Power sun shades in the rear
- Heated and cooled front seats with a massage function (a favorite of mine)
- Heated windshield washers
- Leather dash
- Burmester Surround Sound System (This has many speakers, but was just merely ok at reproducing sound)
- Heated front armrests and door panels
- Acoustic Cabin Package, which has increased cabin insulation, a windshield with Infrared-Reflecting film, and Side Windows with Acoustic and Infrared
- The Driver Assistance Package, with the full suite of sensors you’d expect from Mercedes.
- Nappa leather with Alcantara inserts
- Faux Carbon Fiber Trim. Mercedes calls it Metal Weave, and it looks great inside.
About the only things missing here was the larger sunroof (a smaller one above the front seats is standard), and heated and cooled cup holders that were deleted on this 2022 model due to parts issues.
Move on to the outside, and you get the AMG Night Package, which is essentially black trim that replaces the standard Chrome. It looks the business, and is of a higher quality than BMW’s Shadowline Trim. You also get Cardinal Red Metallic paint here, 22-inch AMG wheels (though the winters are 21 – they somehow still look small on this car), and the AMG Performance Exhaust, a must.
It’s super comfy
Once you stop pretending that this is a performance SUV, the GLE 53 comes into its own. The engine is hushed unless you call upon it, then it produces a subdued roar appropriate for this drive. The seats are all-day comfortable, with multiple adjustable points. Every surface you touch is soft and well thought out. The steering wheel feels great. And the digital display is integrated as one screen, with graphics that look very high-end and logically laid out. MBUX Is easy to use on the fly once you get the hang out it, but can be a bit confusing at the outset.
The shifter is on the right side of the steering column, which opens up the center console, but this takes some getting used to. Wipers, computer functions, high beams and turn signals are all integrated into one stalk on the left. More than once, I flashed someone while meaning to turn on the wipers or turn signals. It takes some practice.
While the Corvette would be fine without the nearly $20,000 in extras that came on that test car because you’re still getting the experience of the drive, here the GLE probably needs it. Options add up quickly, to the tune of almost $30,000. But if you’re going for the AMG look, you’ll feel cheated without some of this stuff, especially on the outside. The GLE tested here rang in at $101, 080. I wouldn’t call it amazing value, but you get what you pay for, and here you get a lot.
The 2022 Mercedes AMG GLE 53 is an excellent daily driver that could use a little more excitement
Some friends have “special” cars that are fun to drive but rough to live with. By the time the car show is over, they are ready to put it back in the garage for a bit. You don’t have to worry about that with this GLE.
Still, this is the same Mercedes that has reached the top of the podium in F1 more times than anyone else in the past decade, and some of that excitement is missing here. I know they can do it, just take a look at the AMG GT. But if you want an SUV that offers comfort and utility with the pretense of sport (and the occasional braap), then the AMG GLE 53 is it.
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