Cayenne-fighting SUV brings impressive AMG poke and surprising refinement to the premium sector

What is it?

If you’re looking for a Merc alternative to the Porsche Cayenne Coupé or the Range Rover Sport – and are prepared to fight your way through the Daimler-owned firm’s confusing nomenclature – you’ll find your way to this, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53, the second-generation high-performance SUV coupé that made its debut in Geneva a bit over a year ago but is rather newer in this country.

It’s a typical AMG product – very thoroughly developed, extremely rapid and richly equipped to the extent that the only thing the company’s people could think of to add to our test car – apart from pricey towing and off-road gadgetry – was £685 worth of brilliant metallic paint. Oh, and a set of handsome 22in wheels to replace the standard 20s. It’s big, over five metres long, and spacious enough for a seven-seat configuration. The third row is really for kids only, but that’s mainly because the armchair-like front bucket seats take so much space.

The engine is the latest iteration of the AMG-developed twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol straight six, running a 48V integrated starter/generator that contributes 21bhp and 184lb ft of torque and helps with extremes of acceleration and smooths power interruptions – not that there are many, given that the GLE 53 has AMG’s latest Quickshift nine-speed auto and a 4Matic all-wheel drive system that is extremely quick and flexible about sending power wherever it’s needed. 

The car is AMG-ised via a toothy 'Panamericana' grille, bonnet power bulges, different bumpers and a big rear diffuser. The GLE 53 is undoubtedly imposing and eye-catching but it’s now handsome in a Cayenne or Range Rover way. Many of its styling cues are repeated from other Mercedes models, and unless you’re up to date or can see the badge, you may have trouble knowing exactly where this model sits in the Mercedes firmament. 

The interior is plush and well lined with brightwork, with special AMG graphics for the steering wheel and sophisticated, screen-based instrumentation. The seats are upright and not exactly sporty but they’re supportive and luxurious. Your overall impression is of a densely equipped and beautifully finished cabin.

The whole plot weighs 2250kg, less than many SUVs this size. It can run a 0-62mph acceleration time of 5.3sec (with top speed governed, as usual, at 155mph) and it delivers combined fuel consumption of 30.4mpg while emitting 212g/km of CO2.

3 Mercedes amg gle 53 2020 uk fd hero rear

What's it like?

What sets this car apart is when you start to drive it. The engine feels light and free-revving, with a sporty note to go with the powerful thrust. To control the configurable powertrain and the variable height air suspension, there’s a choice of seven driving regimes (Slippery, Comfort, Trail, Sand, Individual, Sport and Sport+) but we soon found that for the on-road driving this model will do practically every day of its life, Sport is ideal. It speeds the car’s responses, sharpens the gearbox kickdown, adds tautness to a ride that can occasionally allow a little too much body movement in Comfort and provides supreme stability on turn-in.

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The steering and ride are perhaps stars of this show, exhibiting clear evidence of the AMG’s preference for refinement. This is a big and bulky SUV but it can be threaded through small gaps with outstanding confidence because the steering is so precise and quick-acting. No waiting for a response from this five-metre 4x4.

Despite the excellent body control, bump absorption is also very good. Time after time, we’d watch a pothole disappear under the high nose and wait for the jolt, only to feel something less than expected. Noise control is well judged, too. Use the GLE 53 hard and you’ll know you’re in an AMG product. Cruise more quietly and the powertrain will show its creamy and long-legged side. Wind noise is very well controlled, too.

6 Mercedes amg gle 53 2020 uk fd dashboard 

Should I buy one?

This is not the handsomest beast going, but its quality, equipment and AMG-honed driving dynamics make the GLE 53 a fine choice from this sector. At just over £80,000, it even looks like decent value.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 specification

Where Gloucestershire, UK Price £81,170 On sale Now Engine 6 cyls in line, 2999c, twin-turbocharged, petrol, plus electric starter/generator Power 429bhp at 6100rpm Torque 384lb ft at 1800-5000rpm Gearbox 9-spd automatic Kerb weight 2250kg Top speed 155mph (governed) 0-62mph 5.3sec Fuel economy 30.4mpg CO2 212g/km Rivals Porsche Cayenne S Coupé, Range Rover Sport, Audi SQ8, BMW X6

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13 Mercedes amg gle 53 2020 uk fd otr nose

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
ftm594 7 July 2020

Opinions and impressions.

So several readers think the interior is not good. It would be good to know what interiors they do like...what do you seek in your car to make it good? I do not own a GLE but have looked at and sat in them. They are very big and the styling has challenges but the interiors are very nice places to be...loaded in all modern technology, not impossible to understand, have comfortable seats and are very well made. You make not like the styling detail but I am puzzled why you both hate it so much. What would you buy?...I would prefer a Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid but you might hate that as well!

abkq 7 July 2020

Autocar reviews

Autocar reviews proportionately far more AMG models than the % of AMG models sold within Mercedes. Especially when many AMG reviewed aren't very impressive.

I agree the interior is dire. The instrument graphics cheap and nasty, and the grille with vertical bars looks merely grafted on. There are serious problems in Mercedes's design dept.

Antony Riley 7 July 2020

Here is me thinking Mercedes

Here is me thinking Mercedes are a premium car makers ,that interior is like a call girls bedroom whats with all the childish strip  ( ha ha ) lights all over the place Naf Naf Naf and has been said over priced  for such a grosse car

Just Saying 7 July 2020


How would you know what a call girls bedroom looks like?