► Twin-turbo AMG V8 SUV
► Available as SUV or Coupe
► Standard 470bhp or 503bhp
Just a few months ago, I enjoyed a loud and stupid few days in the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe.
It was unreasonably quick for a 4x4, with a 0-62mph time of 4.9sec that actually felt faster because it was accompanied by a lot of cheering from the delighted kids in the back and a great deal of exhaust flap opening by me. It wasn’t terribly comfortable and didn’t seem like it would make a remotely sensible purchase, but it was certainly fun.
It attracted a lot of attention and comment, some of it in the form of sign language, but the one thing nobody said was that it needed a bigger engine with a lot more power.
And yet here’s the 63 version, with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8. Why? Because they could; AMG have essentially put a familiar engine in a familiar body and come up with a set of underpinnings capable of holding it all together.
Why now? Because high-powered SUVs of all sizes – from Porsche, Audi, Jaguar and many more – are selling much better than expected.
And the remarkable thing is, the 63 actually makes more sense that the 43. Perhaps not financially, but on the road it’s a much better and more rounded car.
What’s behind the badge?
There are six versions of the GLC63. That’s two shapes, SUV and Coupe, and two power levels for each of those, the regular 470bhp and the S-badged 503bhp.
There are also – for now at least – Edition 1 versions of the SUV and Coupe, which gain various items from the options list: ceramic brakes, bigger wheels, a different exhaust, an audio upgrade and a bunch of questionable visual changes.
What’s under the skin?
The engine is essentially the same twin-turbo V8 used in many AMGs, from C-Class to the GT.
The only available transmission is another AMG staple, the nine-speed Speedshift automatic, with paddles if you want to make changes yourself.
All GLC63s are all-wheel drive, with the rears permanently engaged and a 4Matic+ system that shifts torque between front and rear axles automatically. There’s a limited-slip differential lock for good control during fast cornering; it’s electronic on the S variants, mechanical otherwise.
Suspension is independent at the front and multilink rear, with three-chamber air springing and adaptive adjustable damping; straight from the E63 4Matic+. The ESP stability control is three-way adjustable.
The Panamericana grille, previously reserved for the GT family, is employed here to transform the nose, deliberately revealing some of the cooling hardware lurking behind.
Inside, the cabin is good but unexceptional by Mercedes standards. It doesn’t have the latest infotainment from the E-Class and S-Class, although it’s still way ahead of the pack in terms of seamlessly integrated electronic aids.
What’s it like to drive?
Like the 43, the 63 is thrillingly quick when you put your right foot to the floor. But what’s new is the sheer quantity of power it has in reserve. Whatever speed you’re doing, it can do a lot more, and it can get there very quickly, with your boot barely brushing the pedal. This gives you the option of treating the GLC as a calm, sophisticated, high-speed cruiser, as well as a bonkers ring-road racer.
The brakes are suitably powerful and easy to control, while the steering is precise and predictable, and just about weighty enough to be satisfying.
You have a choice of modes to tweak the sportiness of the car’s response to the driver’s steering, braking and throttle inputs. The damping can be adjusted independently. The driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport+, the personalisable Individual, plus Race on the S models) do make a difference, but when you have 500-odd lb ft of torque at your command that’s still pretty formidable whatever mode you’re in, even Comfort with its toned-down responses.
Our test drive was on smooth German roads, which may have exaggerated how good the air-sprung suspension is, but it did seem to make a very good job of simultaneously keeping the occupants comfortable and keeping the wheels glued to the road. It’s firmer than a limo but not crashy or raw like a sports car, and remarkably level through bends.
Could you live with it?
Being a modern Mercedes SUV, the GLC63 is comfortable, well made, cleverly laid out, and well suited to adult passengers and luggage. The boot space in the Coupe is less than the SUV (500 litres versus 550 with the rear seats up; 1400 vs 1600 with them down). The Coupe is also heavier, and the view out of the rear window is far more restricted.
Whichever version you’re in, the running costs won’t be cheap. The official combined fuel economy figures are all around 27mpg, and the CO2 output is as high as you’d fear from a V8 (234g/km, or 244 for the more powerful versions), putting road tax for the first year at £1700.
On-the-road prices are comparable to the Porsche Macan, starting at £69,320 for the regular GLC63 SUV and rising to £93,619 for the GLC63 S Edition 1 Coupe.
And you can cause a lot more damage to your kids’ inheritance by exploring the options list: there’s a choice of wheel sizes and styles up to 21 inches, a different exhaust system with extra sound-permitting flaps, and a great many different seating and upholstery possibilities.
Like booze hounds who drink themselves sober, Mercedes has flung an extra couple of barrels of Special Brew at the GLC and ended up with a car that’s a lot better. That doesn’t make it sensible, or particularly good value, but it’s a very well executed car. It really could be both year-round family transport and weekend funmobile.
There are compromises to comfort and luxury compared to some other mid-size SUVs, and it’s going to drain your wallet as greedily as it slurps petrol. There’s a strong sense of AMG filling as many sub-niches – 500 horsepower 4x4s with no off-road ability, in this case – before such self-indulgence becomes a thing of the past.
Enjoy it while you can.
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