If you like your SUVs to have supercar-like performance, then the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S could be the school-run wagon for you.
It’s entirely appropriate the local launch for Mercedes-AMG’s latest muscle machine, the GLC 63 S, is held in the rural Victorian town of Yea. Because, one short stint behind the wheel of the high-ridin’ skunkworked SUV leaves you with just one expression; ‘Yeah!’
It’s a bit silly, really, to take what is fundamentally a sedate mid-sized SUV in the shape of the Mercedes-Benz GLC, throw a lot of AMG engineering and some prodigious amounts of power at it, and create the beast being launched onto an unsuspecting Australian market today.
Let’s look at the basic building blocks. If you like your SUVs mid-sized and to wear the three-pointed star on the grille, you’ll need to hand over at least $67,500 (plus on-roads) for the Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, a 2.1-litre turbo diesel with 125kW of power, 400Nm of torque, and a sprint time of 8.3 seconds. However, there is a GLC 200 coming later this year, with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol that will ask for $61,990.
But, loosen the purse strings to the tune of an extra $100k or so, and you could park your bum in this, the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, which will set you back $164,900 (plus on road costs) for the wagon, or, if you prefer a slightly sportier looking Sports Utility Vehicle with less headroom in the back row, the Coupe variant can be had for $171,900 (plus on-roads).
Alternatively, for those who love to stand out from the crowd, an ‘Edition 1’ optional spec ($10,900) adds some distinctive touches to the GLC 63 S, with yellow striping, yellow-rimmed 21-inch black AMG alloys, yellow contrast stitching on black Nappa AMG sports seats, more yellow contrast stitching on the dash and door trims and, hoping you really like yellow, yellow highlights on the instrument cluster.
But, going back to basics, what does that additional 100-large over an entry level GLC get you? Well, you get a mid-sized SUV with a three-pointed star on its funky Panamericana grille (only the second vehicle in the AMG range behind the GT coupe to score such a grille) which hides AMG’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with outputs of 375kW and 700Nm. It’s the same unit, with the same outputs, as found in the GLC’s sedan sibling, the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. But get this, the SUV is 0.2s quicker from 0-100km/h than the sedan, 3.8 seconds against 4.0 dead, despite its bulkier dimensions and portlier kerb weight (2010kg versus 1730).
One imagines this is partly due to the SUV’s nine-speed torque converter transmission against the C63’s seven-speed, and partly due to GLC 63’s all-wheel drive platform over the sedan’s rear-wheel-drive underpinnings. Impressive stuff.
There’s engineering nous at play too, with the GLC 63 S benefiting from adaptive air suspension, a rear-axle limited-slip differential, and a high-performance composite braking system with 390mm rotors up front and 360mm at rear. There are five drive modes too – Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race, and Individual that allows for personalised engine, steering, suspension and exhaust mapping.
Inside, the GLC 63 S is a welcoming place, with plenty of black Nappa leather to make you feel cosy. There are plenty of carbon-fibre accents offering that sporty look and the obligatory AMG badging abounds.
The back row is a decent size, if not spectacularly spacious. Two adults? No problem. Three abreast? Probably a stretch, certainly for long-haul drives. The panoramic roof does lend a light and airy feel, making the cabin seem larger than it actually is. Boot space is maxed out at 1600 litres with the second row folded down, although Mercedes doesn’t offer a number with the second row in play. Still, when you’re hustling the biturbo bent eight through some country twisties, the last thing you need is a boot full of gear bouncing around.
And what a hustle it is. From the moment the start/stop button is pressed, there is no doubt this is a wild beast just waiting to be unleashed. Surprisingly, the exhaust note, when in Comfort mode, is a little muted. Sure, there are burbles of bliss, but they are, to the naked ear, quieter than that emitted by its sedan sibling. That all changes in Sport+ mode (or, if you prefer to just make noise, by toggling the performance exhaust button on the centre console) where flap technology opens the pipes and those burbles turn into a snarl. It’s not a fake sound either, just a pure electronically controlled cacophony of eight cylinders working hard for their money.
Tooling around in traffic is best saved for Comfort mode. The suspension and damping, remains firm, and road imperfections are felt through the cabin. It’s not unbearable, but neither is it plush. The steering too, feels a little light.
Once on the open road though, Sport or Sport+ are the go to drive modes. The ride firms up even more, the steering adds some much needed heft and the driver engagement quotient is dialed up exponentially. From muted burbles to a growling snarl, the sound from the 4.0-litre V8 is matched only by the manic acceleration of the GLC 63 S. That 3.8-second claim is entirely believable as the school-run chariot hauls arse with an appetite for acceleration that leaves you breathless.
With lashings of torque under your right foot (700Nm remember, from 1750-4500rpm), the GLC 63 S rarely, if ever, runs out of puff. Press the throttle, and the SUV lunges forward effortlessly. The nine-speed auto is happy to rev out, but stops short of redlining. Switching over to manual mode and controlling your own destiny via paddle-shifters, adds an element of theatre as redline looms large. The accompanying bangs on upshifts are intoxicating too.
Where the GLC 63 S really starts to shine is when bends and twists and corners are thrown into the mix. The 4Matic+ all-paw system provides a surety that means you can really hustle. Simply, when you’re having a lash, you very quickly forget this is a medium SUV.
The electronic rear-axle limited-slip diff no doubt plays a hand, shuffling torque between inside and outside wheels as required, reducing under- and oversteer, allowing you to tip in harder and accelerate sooner, all while that snarling V8 provides an aural accompaniment that makes grown men laugh and children cry.
The ride is firm though, perhaps a little too much, which is why we’d recommend customising your drive mode in Individual. Set everything to Sport+ but leave suspension in Comfort. You can thank me later.
Of course, that overwhelming need to have some fun behind the wheel – and believe, me, once you fire up that engine hiding behind that sexy Panamericana grille, you’ll want to have some fun – requires some pretty good stopping power. To that end, the standard fit AMG high-performance composite brakes don’t disappoint. Pedal feel is firm and reassuring as the GLC 63 S pulls up confidently. There is an optional Ceramic brake package at $7500 but really, we wouldn’t tick this box.
Fuel consumption. Do you care in a vehicle like this? Not really, but Mercedes-AMG claims a not unreasonable 10.9L/100km on the combined cycle. Our launch drive, which included a mix of urban, highway and outright raucous driving netted 14.1L/100km. Not bad.
Mercedes-Benz Australia expects the GLC 63 S to eventually outsell the C63 S sedan, and considering Australia’s predilection for buying SUVs, that wouldn’t come as a total shock. Buyers of the GLC will certainly be catered to with plenty of safety tech as standard. Adaptive cruise control, active lane keeping, brake assist, blind-spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist are highlights along with a suite of nine airbags.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S is covered by the brand’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty while service intervals are a pretty reasonable (considering its high-power underpinnings) 20,000km/12months, whichever occurs first. Be warned though, while the 12-month service is a reasonable $580, the 24-month and 36-month check-ups will set you back a hefty $2660 and $1330 respectively. The cost of owning a high-powered, German luxury SUV can be steep, it seems.
There’s no question, the GLC 63 S will find its place in the market. It is blisteringly quick, does an excellent take on luxury, and makes a noise that will scare your grandmother. And remember, that 3.8-second 0-100km/h claim makes this, an SUV mind you, the third fastest AMG in the range behind only the GT coupe and the E63. That really, is quite remarkable.