Back in 1991, one of the fastest vehicles you could buy was the GMC Typhoon – a high-performance version of the Jimmy, stoked with a 280 horsepower turbocharged V6 engine and electronic all-wheel-drive that could run 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds. It kept pace with contemporary Corvettes and spoiled passengers with a leather-lined luxury interior. Flash forward thirty years and we have the Typhoon’s spiritual successor, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S.
Things have changed. Stashed beneath the GLE’s hood is a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 making 603 horsepower and 627 lb.-ft. of torque. It connects to a 9-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, enabling 0-60 mph runs in a scant 3.7 seconds. Mercedes’ EQ Boost light hybrid system levels the power band and gets you off the line smartly. If you care, fuel economy is rated 15/19-MPG city/highway. The brick-square Typhoon surely posted better digits, but the ‘Benz will slap your backside every time you stab the throttle.
You get the first clue to the GLE’s capability when you see it. The AMG grille with vertical slats, angry lower facia sporting two giant snorkels, and twin hood bumps from the 300SL signify extreme performance. More fluid bodylines are considerably less frumpy then the previous generation model. LED headlamps, painted brake calipers behind 22” wheels, and quad exhausts flanking a diffuser frame a pretty picture.
Slide inside. By standards of the day, the Typhoon was a pretty luxurious SUV, but the GLE63 takes it way beyond leather seats and a banging audio system. Glossy carbon fiber and stitched materials grace the dash, doors, and steering wheel. Leather and suede seats are heated/ventilated up front, heated in the back, and feature an array of massage functions, including hot stone, for the owners of this limo. Front armrests are even heated. Crank the Bermester Surround Sound system before settling beneath the twin-pane panoramic sunroof.
In the Typhoon’s time, infotainment was a paper map and cassette player, but thirty years on, the GLE 63 is comparatively a supersonic jetliner. Devices connect via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless charging. Four-zone automatic climate control keeps everybody comfy while navigation gets them there. Control infotainment via twin screens in the dash or via touchpad in the console. Drivers enjoy a wide head-up display while adaptive cruise, active lane change assist, lane keep assist, and blind spot warning keep them on-path. That’s a bit more advanced than the Typhoon’s high-tech anti-lock brakes.
Some additional buttons in the console, and dials on the steering wheel, transform the GLE’s behavior. Steering, throttle response, exhaust tone, and air suspension can be configured for light-footed touring or for all-out track assailing. The air suspension is too fluttery in its softest setting, so I left it in Sport mode most of the time. Raise it up for off-roading if you think those summer performance tires are up to it (I wouldn’t). Typhoon owners would have lost their minds over all this sorcery.
As a further illustration of how much things have changed during the past three decades, the GMC Typhoon cost about $30,000. And, what will it take to ring the register for a GLE63 S? You can buy a base Mercedes GLE for $54,750, about the price of a Typhoon allowing for inflation, but our tweaked AMG edition chimes in at a lofty $131,935.
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