Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - GLC63 - S
Manic twin-turbo V8 performance, the noise, lightning-fast gear changes, sportscar-like handling, wagon looks tough
Room for improvement
Uncomfortable standard front seats, harsh ride on country roads, coupe is a bit pointless, we can’t afford one
Mercedes-AMG disrupts status quo with sportscar-challenging GLC63 S mid-size SUV
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1 Jun 2018
WHETHER we like it or not, the high-performance game is moving on. Reflecting a wider trend, buyers are flocking to hi-po SUVs over hi-po passenger cars in increasing numbers, which means the term ‘sportscar’ has begun to take on new meaning.
One such example is Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 S wagon and coupe, which are a pair of mid-size SUVs hell bent on disrupting the status quo – so much so that they might even be better than their passenger-car counterparts.
Of course, such talk is ludicrous because high-riding soft-roaders cannot possibly hang in there with sleek coupes and sedans – or can they? Have we finally reached the point where the distinction between SUVs and passenger cars has become unnecessary?
To put this theory to test, we signed up for the unenviable task of putting the GLC63 S twins through their paces. Spoiler alert: They’re bonkers, truly bonkers – and we loved every minute of it.
They say life can catch you by surprise, and they (whoever ‘they’ are) weren’t lying – we were surprised. Mercedes-AMG has built its reputation on high-performance sportscars, such as the C63 S and GT – two models that have become synonymous with outright capability.
So, it wouldn’t make sense to suggest that an SUV should join the ranks of Affalterbach’s best, does it? An SUV, in 2018? Really? We know, we know, but let us explain why the GLC63 S exists to change opinions. It’s able to talk the talk and walk the walk, after all.
Just like any good sportscar recipe, the GLC63 S starts off with a knock-out engine, which in this case is Mercedes-AMG’s revered 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol. In this application, the bent eight punches out 375kW of power from 5500 to 6250rpm and 700Nm of torque from 1750rpm to 4500rpm. For those of you playing at home, these outputs are the same as the C63 S sedan/wagon.
Step two: Find a way to make the most of those kiloWatts and Newton metres. For Mercedes-AMG, this means employing its nine-speed AMG Speedshift MCT automatic transmission and AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system with variable torque distribution, which were both made famous by the E63 S.
That’s all very well and good, but it’s got to be able to perform around corners, too. Mercedes-AMG’s solution? Sprinkle on a multi-chamber air suspension, adjustable adaptive dampers and an electronic rear-axle limited-slip differential. Sorted.
Combined, you get the GLC63 S. Given that variety is the spice of life, Mercedes-AMG offers the mid-sizer in wagon and coupe body styles, which are priced from $164,900 and $171,900 before on-road costs respectively. Pretty simple recipe, right? But, how does it taste? As it turns out, it tastes good, damn good.
Jump inside, start the engine and listen to the GLC63 S’ bi-modal AMG Performance exhaust system purr. It is controlled by an in-cabin button that, in our opinion, should always be turned on. Boy, is it fun to listen to. Mash the right pedal and enjoy the beautiful pairing of brutal acceleration with an aural masterpiece. Rinse and repeat. It’s that addictive.
However, as good as the noise is, it’s easy to forget it about it when you get pinned into the back of your seat. The GLC63 S is tremendous off the line when loaded up. Peak torque comes on steam just above idle, leading to a relentless and frankly absurd rush, and the same can be said when overtaking. This monster is always up for the challenge.
While the C63 S is quick in its own right, it’s not GLC63 S quick. The former sprints from standstill to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, while the latter pips it to the post by 0.1s. Granted that, on paper, this difference appears minuscule, the GLC63 S’ drivetrain affords a level of confidence that the rear-wheel-drive C63 S cannot.
Grip and go – that’s the name of game here. Standing starts typically begin with a split second where you feel the GLC63 S try to muster as much traction as it can before delivering its knockout punch. We can’t blame you if you feel floored afterwards, because we did too. Acceleration is just that violent.
Explore the upper reaches of the rev range and the GLC63 S rewards you in spades. Maximum power is held to perfection just before the redline, and turbo lag is basically non-existent, too. Mercedes-AMG’s flagship powertrain is truly the cream of the crop.
Every great engine deserves a great dancing partner, and in this case, it’s the GLC63 S’ automatic transmission. Gear changes are wickedly fast – imperceptibly so. Whipping through the nine ratios is a seamless experience. To make matters even better, it is a smart unit that knows exactly when to kick down or hold onto gears.
Significantly, five Dynamic Select driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual – allow the driver to adjust engine, transmission, suspension, steering, stability control and all-wheel-drive settings while on the move. Most of our time was spent in Sport+, which offers up 95 per cent of the GLC63 S’ potency without demanding too much in return. Conversely, Comfort is a more docile affair that is suited to the everyday commute.
The performance-focused modes really come into play during dynamic driving. SUVs are renowned for falling short of dynamism due to their pronounced bodyroll and significant size, but the GLC63 S is a different kind of beast. It is an SUV that can genuinely challenge some proper sportscars around the twisty stuff.
When confronted by winding country roads punctuated by narrow lanes, blind corners and hill crests, the GLC63 S unexpectedly confronts the task with such confidence, encouraging you to push harder and harder. At the same time, the chassis is communicative enough to let the driver know when to back off, not that you have to that often.
Steering is meaty and direct – two key characteristics for a sportscar – while the suspension manages to keep the GLC63 S planted through corners, making bodyroll more or less absent.
However, ride quality is harsh on country roads, but we have to give it the benefit of the doubt due to the coarse, uneven and unsealed tarmac we drove on. We’ll reserve full judgement for a more extensive test on higher-quality roads.
So, what’s not to love? Not much, actually. The standard black Nappa leather AMG Performance sports seats up front are uncomfortable on longer journeys, proving too firm for the daily commute. Thankfully, Mercedes-AMG offers softer pews as a no-cost option – a no-brainer from our perspective.
Additionally, the coupe’s $7000 premium is hard to justify when you sacrifice practicality for ‘style’. In our opinion, the wagon is a better-looking proposition, anyway, so why bother? It’s a much more contemporary take on Mercedes-AMG’s SUV design language than what the coupe offers. Instead, spend the money saved on the $7500 carbon-ceramic brakes for the hell of it, if you must.
In many regards, the GLC63 S is a higher-performing version of the regular GLC that many have come to know and love – but, on the other hand, it’s a completely different beast. In fact, it’s a beast that has earned the right to challenge the C63 S and GT for the mantle of best AMG model on sale today.
We hear the cries of the purists and understand where they’re coming from, but the GLC63 S is a jack of all trades – a family car-cum-performance weapon. It’s easy to understand why the game has moved on, and Mercedes-AMG clearly doesn’t want to be left behind. Until the mooted BMW X3 M and Audi RS Q5 lob, it leads the mid-size-SUV pack and threatens traditional sportscars. Bravo.
Model release date: 1 May 2018
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