5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Weapons-grade engine, intimidating visuals, laugh-inducing acceleration and sound, fearsome handling
Low speed gear calibration, bulky transmission tunnel, some ride foibles
The Wheels Verdict: With its buff bodywork and thuggish engine, the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S cuts a brutish character. Nevertheless, it’s a surprisingly fearsome corner carver. Playful dynamics are one of the biggest surprises in a display of all-round competence only marred by some minor niggles.
WHAT IS THE MERCEDES-AMG GLC63 S?
The flagship of the GLC range, the GLC63 S shoehorns the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 into the engine bay, creating a package that has all the raucous enthusiasm of the C63, paired with the practical body of a mid-size SUV. Available in Australia now with a mild mid-life facelift, this $164,400 super-SUV is riotous fun.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
When the GLC63 S first arrived it was one-of-a-kind, with no eight-cylinder mid-size SUV on the market. Now, JLR has entered the fray with both the F-Pace SVR and Velar SV Autobiography. Factor into the mix feral twin-turbo six-cylinder offerings from Porsche, BMW and Alfa Romeo, and the field gets pretty crowded. With some new minor upgrades for 2020, can the AMG hold its own against this stacked competitor set?
Force your right foot into the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S’s firewall, and two things will happen in very rapid succession. First, the back of your head and the driver’s seat will be thrust together, and second is you’ll burst out with laughter at how this 1935kg SUV is ripping you into a new dimension.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 at the heart of the GLC63 S is the same wet-sump M177 unit found in other 63-badged AMG products, and has the same tune as the C63. However, unlike the C-Class based product, the GLC63 sends its 375kW/700Nm to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission, resulting in a claimed 0-100km/h time of 3.8 seconds. This prevents some of the ‘power down’ issues that plague C63 variants, with the V8 SUV clawing at the tarmac with tenacity as soon as the throttle is applied.
Peak torque is delivered from 1750rpm, and maintained until the tacho passes 4500rpm, with max power arriving from 5500rpm to 6250rpm. This combination of low down torque and top end power means you are never left wanting for more oomph in the GLC63 S. An AMG performance exhaust is standard kit, and sounds absolutely fantastic to boot.
The nine-speed gearbox is an impressive unit, but not without faults. There are some low-speed shudders around town, and the shift between first and second gear at full throttle is delivered like a kick to the head. However, the shift logic is such that it retains an element of dual personality, softening shifts at low revs and providing intuitive gear selections during dynamic driving.
The updated 2020 model rolls on 21-inch rims as standard, shod in Continental Cross Contact rubber (265/40 front and 295/35 rear). Changes compared to the pre-facelift model are limited to redesigned front and rear lights, updated interior screens, new steering wheel with digital performance dials, and reworked centre console with the old rotary dial replaced by a sleek touchpad.
Inside, the instrument cluster is now a 12.3-inch digital screen, while a 10.25-inch touchscreen takes care of the multimedia. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now standard, along with Merc’s MBUX system, three-zone climate control, an AMG performance steering wheel and nappa leather upholstery.
The GLC63 S feels worth every bit of its $164,600 price tag, with a luxurious interior that feels modern thanks to the most recent updates. The only options fitted to our test car was the eye-catching Hyacinth Red Metallic paint finish ($800), and carbon ceramic brakes ($8300), the latter of which is wholly unnecessary unless you really hate cleaning brake dust off your rims.
Straight-line acceleration isn’t the GLC63 S’s only party trick, it also corners like an absolute demon thanks to the all-paw traction and healthy contact patch providing judicious grip. When deliberately provoked, it’s possible to induce off-throttle oversteer in the early parts of the corner, while at corner exit the GLC63 just squats and rips towards the next set of bends.
Air suspension with adaptive dampers is standard, and does a good job of finding the middle ground between sportiness and everyday useability. It is firm, with higher-frequency bumps felt in the cabin, but isn’t a punish around town.
Other faults for the GLC63 S are limited to a transmission tunnel that makes the footwell feel cramped.
But those issues are never enough to wipe the smile off your face when behind the wheel, and isn’t that more important?
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q, BMW X3 and X4 M, Jaguar F-Pace SVR, Porsche Macan Turbo, Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography, or perhaps a fast wagon if you want to stand out from the crowd
MERCEDES-AMG GLC63 S PRICE AND SPECS
Model: Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S
Engine: 3982cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 375kW @ 5500-6250rpm
Max torque: 700Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
On sale: Now