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
Second Opinion: MOTOR review
Motor focuses exclusively on high-performance cars, offering a heart-stopping, hair-raising blast into the world of prestige and performance culture.
AMG’s $164,600 medium-size SUV marauds drag strips with ease
By: Louis Cordony
To say the refreshed-for-2020 AMG GLC 63 S drives like a jacked-up hot hatch would be the biggest complement you can pay any SUV. And while this road test will investigate if that’s the case, it can lay claim to that praise for another reason –that engine.
Yes, the twin-turbocharged V8 shoehorned in the GLC 63 S’s nose (which, by the way, has undergone surgery to reshape its headlights and grille) seems like its biggest point of difference to something like an AMG A45, or even its own natural segment rivals from BMW, Alfa Romeo or Porsche.
But its 3982cc V8, known as the M177, is inextricably linked to the turbo four-cylinder engine found in the original A45 hot hatch since its identical cylinder spacing, bore and stroke measurements imply it’s essentially two of them stitched together.
Here, the GLC 63 S shares the wet-sumped version with a C63 S, employing the same 375kW and 700Nm outputs (unchanged for 2020) that are also matched to a wet-clutch nine-speed automatic. It also scores an E63-derived all-wheel drive system, which gives the GLC63 S tarmac tearing acceleration for a true hot-hatch-on-stilts experience at least in a straight line.
AMG claims it hits 100km/h in 3.8 seconds from a standstill. And when we tested the car for an upcoming comparison between the GLC 63 S wagon and Macan Turbo it proved even quicker … by a smidge.
It’s so savage it’s almost physical. When unleashed from launch control you can feel the car’s chassis, suspension and drivetrain strain under the incredible forces until it almost twists. As the nose lifts and you try your best to steer it down a straight road it’ll tag 100km/h in 3.76 seconds and then eventually cross the 400m mark in 11.96 seconds at 185.49km/h.
Right now, there’s only one SUV we’ve performance tested quicker than that – a 522kW Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk that boasts respective figures of 3.70sec/11.80. Not much between them, really.
The accelerative grip is surprising given that the most significant change on the GLC 63 S wagon for 2020 are new Continental CrossContact tyres around new design 21-inch wheels. In corners we found the Continentals struggled to give the GLC 63 S’s fast, light-footed responses the grip they deserve.
The GLC 63 S would cut power and brake the inside front wheel, spoiling the potential to use its locking rear diff and fat 295mm rear rubber to drive it out of a bend. You’ll quickly have to dial down your commitment to try and avoid ESP intervention.
It’s also disappointing the new AMG Dynamics matrix (as found in the 2019 C63 S) in ‘Master’ mode does little to loosen the ESP’s strangle hold on cornering speeds. Especially given how much we enjoyed the GLC 63 S’s multi-link front and rear suspension setup on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres with the pre-2020 coupe.
Granted, since AMG’s press release says the ‘Master’ sub-mode aims to keep an “extremely neutral” vehicle balance, it could be trying to nix oncoming understeer, but it felt premature. Thankfully, there’s still a lot going for the new GLC 63 S besides its monster grunt.
While the nine-speed wet clutch transmission can prove jerky around town from a take-off, it’s brilliant in action, offering instant throttle response and assuring gear changes under load – it’ll even hustle into low gears with little shunt.
Shift speeds are quicker than any torque converter automatic, or fractionally slower than a dual-clutch transmission, and you’ll never tire of plucking the smooth, metal paddles behind the AMG steering wheel.
The powertrain’s intuitive when left to its own devices and can manage stop-start situations well, but it’s out on the open road that the GLC 63 S feels in its element. On part-throttle openings its V8 blows its significant-1950kg mass down the road with ease.
Comfort mode extends the stroke in the GLC 63 S’s air dampers. They unlock a genuine waft over undulating roads, even if the big 21-inch wheels heavily thud over potholes – which is becoming an increasingly common trademark in AMG products.
The GLC 63 S is also an excellent every day cruiser. In standard guise it feels exceptionally kitted out, with brilliant front power seats covered in Nappa leather that offer both bolster and support. And the updated MBUX system is more intuitively controlled through a new track pad that thankfully shuns a Lexus-style mouse pointer on screen.
We’re also in love with the AMG steering wheel’s one-touch drive mode buttons. They make it easy to unlock the V8’s delicious, deep growl from the standard fit AMG exhaust and shut it up quickly for more discreet cruising.
And that’s what the GLC 63 S feels so well suited to. Given the car’s broad, squat wagon looks that are backed by a deep, V8 bellow, you’ll get a kick out of its gangster vibe, as if you’re doing something wrong and getting away with it.
But you’ll be hurting the planet less than you think, since the GLC 63 drunk 13.8-litres per 100km on a less-than-well-behaved drive cycle. That’s commendable given it misses out on the cylinder deactivation smarts found in more expensive AMGs like the E63 and S63.
Speaking of, at $164,600 it’s way up there for price. And it’s easy to predict a $157,900 BMW X3 M would eat the GLC 63 AMG for brekky on most roads – which is slightly disappointing for the AMG since it was recently the fastest production SUV around the Nurburgring North Loop.
But really, is that what we want from a mid-size SUV? The muscle-packed GLC 63 S has enough merit to argue it’s worth the ask. Few other mid-size SUVs, except the Jaguar F-Pace SVR (which boasts a blown V8 for $143K), offer the novelty of all-wheel drive grip with V8 brawn.
So while the GLC 63 S might not handle like an A45 on stilts on its newest tyres, that V8 with all-wheel drive grip offers hot-hatch annihilating pace instead, which, considering the laws of physics, may be the best outcome for both car and driver.
2020 MERCEDES-AMG GLC63 S SPECS
Engine: 3982cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 375kW @ 5500-6250rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 1750-4500pm
0-100km/h: 3.76sec (tested)
Likes: Noise, looks, comfortable and speccy; nicely damped; great front seats; insanely quick
Dislikes: Thumpy ride at times, jerky take-offs; under-tyred handling; expensive
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars