To fully prepare for the face-melting experience of piloting the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, skip the dealer test drive and head to Daytona Beach. Here, behind the gates of the thrill-seeker’s paradise that is Screamer’s Park, you’ll find the Daytona Slingshot. It’s right next to the aptly named Vomatron.
Pay $25, strap yourself in, and get ready to feel the thrust of 40 tons of spring pressure as you catapult 365 feet into the air. This vertical acceleration of up to 5 G’s is not for the faint of heart. Those who survive, however, will be more than ready to tackle the equally explosive GLE 63 S SUV.
To enjoy this 603-hp beast in all its glory, simply engage Sport+, press hard on the brake pedal with your left foot while mashing the throttle with your right, then release. With all-wheel drive channeling 627 lb-ft of torque to the blacktop, there’s not a chirp of wheelspin, just the gut-wrenching propulsion of this 5,300-pound cruise missile as it slingshots toward the horizon.
Holy moly, it’s fast. Fast as in zero to 60 in just 3.7 seconds. Fast as in a top speed of 174 mph. And all this in a family-friendly, five-person luggage-hauler with cupholders.
This trait comes courtesy of the latest iteration of Mercedes-AMG’s hand-assembled 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. The twist here is the 48-volt electric motor system—deemed EQ Boost—sandwiched between the engine and the 9-speed automatic. It’s called a mild hybrid, though there’s nothing mild about it. What EQ Boost does is provide an instant jolt of electric muscle (an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque) for when you need some grunt, such as off-the-line acceleration and zipping past slower traffic.
Yet the real beauty is the V-8’s Dr. Jekyll–and–Mr. Hyde persona. When it’s not acting like the motor out of a top-fuel dragster, it’s a pussycat. Cruise around town, amble along the interstate, idle away in a Starbucks drive-thru, and it plays all nice and quiet. It’ll even deactivate four of its eight cylinders to boost fuel economy.
If this tire-shredding performance sounds impressive, wait until you hurl this red-hot GLE along a curvy backroad. With standard AMG Active Ride Control air suspension that includes adaptive damping, the Merc pretty much does away with body roll. It’s truly otherworldly how this tall-riding sport-ute can fire through a series of squiggly S-bends with the precision and agility of a low-slung, two-seat sports car. Talk of understeer and oversteer is redundant because it goes where you point it—and at ridiculous velocities.
This SUV has the bold looks to match its brain-frying speed. I love that toothy grille inspired by the old Mercedes Carrera Panamericana racers of the early ’50s. The chrome-ringed, air-gulping lower section beneath it is just as tantalizing. Throw in some AMG side skirts under the doors, body-painted flared wheel arches at each corner, and a quartet of polished exhaust finishers at the back, and the 63 S appears as muscular as Sylvester Stallone in his Rocky days.
The craftsmanship of the interior is also second to none. Expect perforated Nappa leather–trimmed seats, an awesome AMG leather wheel, brushed stainless-steel pedals, and some lovely carbon-fiber trim.
Price of entry to the Merc-AMG GLE 63 S kicks off at $114,945, though as with all Mercedes offerings, it’s easy to go crazy with the options list. Our Brilliant Blue Metallic tester stickered at $133,075. But with its near-supercar levels of performance and handling, coupled with the five-seat versatility and load-carrying practicality of an SUV, this mighty Merc offers the best of all worlds. And much like the Daytona Slingshot, it’ll take driving thrills to new heights.