Super Towing With a Super-SUV: 2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S Review

“Guess Jake’s tow vehicle” has become a game in the NASA paddocks over the last few years. In my quest to test as many vehicles with trailer hitch receivers as possible, a lot of the tests of more capable trucks and SUVs coincide with race weekends. It’s a practical, real-world experience pulling my 20-foot enclosed trailer for hours on end. Of all of these reviews, though, the 2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S is the only tow vehicle that’s received a standing ovation in the paddock.

The GLE’s Emerald Green paint sparkled, full of metallic to catch the sun just so as I idled my way in to Pitt Race. I had the adaptive exhaust set to full bellow as made my way from the front gate to the Spec3 paddock, and admittedly put on a bit of a show with a perfectly-executed 2-to-1 downshift as I approached my old-BMW competitors and friends. Snap, crackle, pop, park.

“This is how you do a tow rig,” was my friend Jon’s first comment. He’s no stranger to performance SUVs, currently towing his enclosed Trailex with a 2021 Audi SQ7. He and many others were all over the big green Benz before I could even get out. They had every right to be excited; as it turns out, the GLE 63S is a fun crossover and a fantastic tow vehicle.

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S in Emerald Green

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S Basics

First launched in the late 1990s as the Mercedes-Benz ML, the GLE is the brand’s midsize crossover and 2024 brings a facelift to the generation that launched five years ago. Our friend Daniel Golson got a first drive of the updated 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE a few months ago, calling the updated model “Goldilocks’ luxury SUV.” It’s not the newest on the block, but he found the GLE 450 to be a great all-rounder.

We’re not here for a plug-in hybrid, at least not this time. While the PHEV is undoubtedly a better option for most people in most environments, there’s an appeal to a big-engined super-SUV. Well, there is if you’re a child at heart and I sure am. The GLE 63S is a full-on “real AMG,” with a hand-built 4.0-liter V8 under the hood. Forced induction is a given at AMG by now, so there are two turbochargers shoving air through the intakes. At full tilt, this drivetrain produces 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque.

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S hand-built engine

Mercedes-Benz also adds a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that provides 184 lb-ft from its own starter/generator. It’s not really added for efficiency, though it does smooth out the auto start/stop functionality substantially. It’s moreso here to help shove the V8 into its torque band and eliminate any possibility of turbo lag.

All of that power and torque flows to a “TCT” 9-speed torque-converter automatic with AMG software, and 4Matic+ all-wheel drive that can send full power to either axle. There’s a limited-slip differential out back, too.

Suspension is clever, with four-corner air springs and active sway bars that run on the 48-volt system to stiffen and soften as needed and keep body control in check. My tester also came with gigantic carbon-ceramic brakes to help slow the whole party down as needed.

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S carbon ceramic brakes

What Can You Tow with the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE?

Mercedes-Benz claims the GLE, in most configurations, is able to tow 7,700 pounds. Poking under the GLE 63S to look at the hitch reveals more nuance. The hitch is rated for weight distribution if you are towing 7,500 pounds or less. Without weight distribution, you’re allowed 7,715 pounds.

In both cases, the maximum tongue weight is 600 pounds. This can pose a challenge, then, for pulling 7,715 pounds with the hitch carrying all of the weight given how trailers in the United States are configured. We generally tow with 10 to 12% tongue weight in the U.S., whereas European trailers are generally set up for about 8% tongue weight. That eight percent number coincides with the 600 pound rating.

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S trailer hitch rating decal

I hooked up my enclosed trailer and did indeed set up the weight distribution bars. Total trailer weight is about 6,800 pounds and given my personal tow vehicle is a Porsche Cayenne with similar limits, I’ve measured the tongue weight and moved trailer contents around to ensure I meet the requirements set here. It’s tough, but possible.

The GLE’s wheelbase is long for a midsize crossover at 117.9 inches, which is good for overall stability when passing semi-trucks or in heavy winds.

The Actual Towing Experience with the 2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S

Towing to Pitt Race is hard on the tow vehicle. Leaving from the DC metro area, my route took me on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and thus, through the Allegheny Mountains. There’s a mix of steep uphill grades, long descents, plenty of tractor-trailers, and the occasional bout of construction with (very) narrow lanes. Oh, and NASA Great Lakes races at Pitt Race in July so the weather is always stupid hot. Friends with 3/4-ton diesel trucks tell me they have to slow to 50 or 55 miles per hour on the steepest grades to prevent overheating.

I used my own Cayenne Diesel for last summer’s trip to Pitt Race, and while it handled the journey just fine, it makes just 240 horsepower and I found myself in the right lane as 55 was about all I could do on the big uphills.

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S brown interior
Not a bad place to spend hours on end dragging a small house behind you

“Slow down?” the GLE 63S asked. “What is… slow?”

As I took my exit for Wampum, Pennsylvania and neared the racetrack, I realized that I simply hadn’t noticed the big hills while towing with the GLE 63S. Its 603 horsepower combined with the two turbos and mild hybrid setup to make every steep grade a non-event.

The transmission is smartly tuned, though it tries to keep from downshifting at all costs, instead relying on boost and electrification to help fill the smaller needs for additional power. Paddles made it easy to command a downshift if I was pulling out to pass, though toeing in to the throttle a bit more worked fine, too.

I used the paddles more on downhill sections of my drive, as the GLE doesn’t have a dedicated Tow Mode in its plethora of drive mode options and thus, doesn’t really do the downhill-downshift logic that some trucks execute so well. Braking was, again, a non-event thanks to the huge brakes on the Benz and my Tekonsha Prodigy RF wireless trailer brake controller.

My ultimate drive mode choice was “Individual,” as it let me keep the exhaust quiet (I love an uncorked V8, but not for five hours) but set the suspension to its stiffest. I figured this, along with the massively-wide tires, would keep the body more controlled, especially while passing bigger trucks, and I was right. The GLE 63S was remarkably composed in these scenarios and on the back roads that lead me to the Turnpike itself.

Final Thoughts

Towing a big (ish) enclosed trailer with a unibody SUV is always a touchy subject. Some people believe you need a 3/4-ton truck for any enclosed car trailer and others believe you’ll be fine with a proper setup. I’m in the latter camp, but the tow vehicle has to be good on its own to be worth a damn with a trailer attached.

And the GLE 63S is fantastic on its own, too. The Spec3 boys and I took the GLE and Jon’s Audi SQ7 to dinner after our race on Saturday night, which allowed for some time on back roads with no trailer involved. Sure enough, the green machine was plenty happy to be thrown around in a more performance-oriented setting. One of my passengers thought it might be faster around Pitt Race’s circuit than our old BMW E36 racecars, given the drivetrain, brakes, and tires involved.

I’d guess most people see performance SUVs and think they’re only good for being driven quickly on their own. But what makes a performance vehicle so good – power, torque, big brakes, wide tires, composed suspension – also makes a tow vehicle a good partner. The GLE 63S was not just good, it was supremely confidence-inspiring.

2024 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S towing enclosed trailer

Leave a Comment