There was a time – it was not a long time ago – when V8s were pretty common and V12s were exotic.
This was circa the late 1990s/early 2000s.
Now, it’s V8’s that are becoming exotic. Most of the mid-priced luxury cars that used to at least offer them now come standard with four cylinder engines; a six is the usual upgrade. If you want a V8, you increasingly have to go . . . exotic.
Which will get you something like the Benz GLE 63 AMG S.
What It Is
The GLE 63 S is the exotic, ultra-high-performance of Mercedes’ mdi-sized GLE SUV. It comes standard with a V8, something as uncommon as a standard V12 used to be – when V8s were still pretty commonly available and even came standard in some pretty commonplace, non-exotic cars such as the Ford Crown Victoria – which was a not-exotic family car back in the early 2000s.
But the Vic’s V8 only made about a third of the power produced by the Benz’s V8. And the Vic did not get to 60 in 3.7 seconds, which the Benz SUV can – notwithstanding that it weighs about 1,000 pounds more than the Ford.
It can also pull the Ford – behind it, on a trailer.
And it hardly uses any more gas, either.
Base price is $120,000 – which includes (and surpasses) everything that comes standard in other GLEs, with the exception of the otherwise optional third row seating option, which is not available with this exotic.
What’s New for 2024
The standard navigation system gets video augmentation, the MBUX voice-command systems gets some AMG-specific functional upgrades and there is a new 22-inch AMG wheel/tire package.
The front end also gets some minor styling revisions.
V8 is stronger than V12s used to be.
Goes almost 500 highway miles on a tank.
Doesn’t force you to wait longer than five minutes to refill the tank.
What’s Not So Good
V8 is as exotically priced as V12s used to be.
If you get the V8, you lose the third row option.
Rival BMW X5 M – which also comes with a 600 horsepower V8 – costs about $11k less.
Most GLEs come standard with a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine; some are powered by the optional 3.0 liter in-line six cylinder engine (which is augmented by – and made more fuel efficient via a mild hybrid system that cycles the engine off when it’s not needed and adds power when maximum performance is wanted).
The AMG GLE 63 is powered by something special.
A hand-assembled, 4.0 liter twin-turbo’d V8 signed by the master technician who put it together for you – that makes 612 horsepower and 627 ft.-lbs. of torque at 2,500 RPM. It is sufficient to propel this 5,523 lb. mid-sized SUV – it is not a crossover – to 60 MPH in 3.7 seconds.
As impressive as that is, even more so – arguably – is the fact that this 5,523 lb. V8 SUV rates 15 city, 20 highway. The V8-powered Ford Crown Victoria only got 16 city, 24 highway. And its V8 only managed 239 horsepower. It took more than twice as long to get to 60, too.
Nor did it have a top speed of 175 miles-per-hour.
This one does.
Credit for the AMG GLE’s efficient brutality goes to the same – well, a similar – mild-hybrid set-up as used in other GLEs. It includes a flywheel-mounted altenator/starter system combined with a 48 volt electrical system that allows the engine to be cycled off when you’re decelerating or just coasting along – and cycled back on so quickly (and quietly) when you’re accelerating that you won’t notice it just came back on.
Or that it shut off.
The high-powered flywheel starter can spin the engine back to life much faster than a conventional starter; almost instantly, in fact. And the system adds a little extra power (22 horsepower) when you punch it.
It’s a win-win.
Also something more – in that you can go remarkably far in this AMG GLE, notwithstanding how quickly it can go. This is no small thing, in the context of the EV thing. They are also very quick, some of them – including the Mercedes EQS I got to test-drive a few months back. But, they do not go very far, especially when you make more than occasional use of their quickness.
This is a paradox. Use it – and lose it. So why have it?
And even if you don’t make use of it, you still lose. The AMG version of the EQS sedan, for instance, only has about 280 miles of fully charged range.
This Benz can go 337 miles – in city driving. On the highway, its range goes up to more than 450 miles. This, incidentally, is also significantly farther than the similarly powerful/similarly quick BMW X5 can go (284 miles in the city and 394 miles on the highway) because the BMW’s V8 is always running.
The latter is italicized to emphasize a fact not often conveyed about EVs and charging them, which is that – for safety reasons (to reduce the risk of a fire) and for battery-longevity reasons – “fast” charging is usually limited to 80 percent of the battery pack’s fully charged capacity. Put another way, you resume your drive with 20 percent less range – unless you have the time to wait to recover a full charge, which will take much longer.
Also, “fast” chargers are sometimes hard to find, forcing you to drive out of your way – adding time to the time you spend waiting to recover a partial charge. You can, of course, charge at home. But this will mean waiting several hours at least – and probably overnight.
A heavy-duty version of Mercedes’ 4-Matic full-time all-wheel-drive system with variable torque distribution is standard, as is a heavy-duty, AMG-programmed nine-speed automatic with manual gear changing and multiple driver selectable modes.
On The Road
Driving the AMG GLE 63 is bittersweet. It’s a reminder of everything that’s very wrong – and oh-so-right – with the car business right now.
On the right side, the V8. Out of just 4.0 liters, more than 600 horsepower. Incredible. It used to take a five or six liter V12 to make power like that. And V8s that made less than 300 horsepower got about the same gas mileage as this 600-plus horsepower V8 manages.
It is also as calm as Camry’s V6 – even though it makes nearly as much power as a Winston Cup stock car’s V8. It is also capable of propelling you in suede-swaddled comfort to 175 miles-per-hour in an ultra-luxury SUV that massages your backside on the way there.
On the wrong side, it takes a lot of money.
V8s are very quickly becoming what V12 once were. Exotic. They used to be what you bought when you couldn’t afford a V12. But most of us could still afford a V8 – and that’s wasn’t bad. Almost anyone could afford a V6; they came standard in most family cars like the Crown Vic that were priced in the roughly $28k or so range about ten years ago.
Today, even $50,000 luxury sedans (mid-sized ones) like the Benz E-Class and its BMW 5 across-the-street rival come standard with fours. These were generally economy car engines as recently as 15 or so years ago.
How much longer before a V6 is exotic – and exotically priced?
This will happen – unless the push for electrification is pushed back against. In the name of reducing carbon dioxide “emissions” – which have nothing to do with pollution – engines are being reduced in size and cylinders, with the aim being to reduce them to nothing.
And that is why V8s are the new exotics.
But at least you still get what you pay for, here.
The experience is deeply satisfying, from the moment you push the start button and hear the V8’s substantive sound – as opposed to the less appropriately authoritative sound you’d hear emanating from something less.
Part of what has always made a high-end vehicle worth paying high-end money for is the sound of something that sounds (and is) high end. Battery-powered things sound like the battery powered appliances they are. It explains why the ones people pay high-end money for come standard with manufactured sounds. These are like Chicory in lieu of real coffee. Or “meat” that is supposed to make you forget that it isn’t.
This is a ride you will never forget.
But get it while you still can – because even if you have the money to buy something like this, it is likely there soon won’t be anything like this as the shove (down our throats) toward electrification proceeds.
So enjoy it while it lasts – and while you can.
Why do wolves wear sheep’s clothing? Why, for the same reason the AMG GLE 63 S does. It looks like a GLE. Which isn’t a sheep, of course. But the AMG GLE 63 also isn’t something that looks like what it is.
Or rather, what it can do.
This makes it a whole lot more feasible to do it. And that makes it a whole lot more fun to do it. As opposed to doing it in something obviously wolfish – such as a Corvette. The Benz is not quite as quick (though it’s close) but the point is you are more apt to get away with going almost as quickly because it does’t look as quick as it is.
Attractive, but not in an attention-getting way. There are a few subtle tells – such as the ceramic pie-plate rotors and the powder-coated six piston calipers that are clamped to them, peeking through the 22-inch AMG wheels. The four quadrangle exhaust tips. And the “bi-turbo V8” in delicate chrome script. But you have to look for these clues. And you have to know what they mean.
It is easy to fade into the crowd. To be the just-another-SUV that the cop sitting in the cutout doesn’t look at first.
And he could have used the AMG GLE to haul some of that bootleg beer – for it has the room as well as the pull. It is, after all, still a GLE – which means it’s a mid-sized SUV that has room – realistic room – for five people plus about three times as much stuff behind them, as it has 33.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second row. Fold that down and you have 74.5 cubic feet.
And you could pull a T-topped Trans-Am behind this rig, too.
The AMG GLE 63 comes standard with everything that’s optional (or unavailable) in other GLEs – except for a third row, which isn’t available with this one. The BMW X5 M doesn’t offer a third row, either.
There are just a handful of options – including the $5,450 AMG composite-ceramic brake package and the $1,050 Rapid Warmth package, which adds heated armrests and center console top plus faster warm-up times for the heated seats.
You can also get a “coupe” version of this thing (reviewed separately). It is basically the same thing but with a lower roofline.
The Bottom Line
It’s wonderful that you can still get a machine like this. But it’s tragic that fewer and fewer people will ever get the chance to own something like this.
. . .
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