► Mild GLC facelift extends to AMG model
► Twin-turbo 4.0 V8 still ballistic
► Tested here in marmite ‘Coupe’ form
Much as enthusiasts will moan about it, the performance SUV is here to stay. Buyers can’t get enough of the intoxicating mixture of chunky looks, family-sized practicality and physics-cheating performance that manufacturers have managed to engineer in. The latest in the gang is this, the facelifted Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S. It’s definitely no Q-car; it makes a lot of noise, carries a lot of glitz and – in this divisive Coupe form especially – turns a lot of heads, for better or worse. But with a Nurburgring record under its belt and a twin-turbo V8 under its bonnet, can this former family-friendly machine convince CAR?
Tell me more about that record…
It’s the Nurburgring SUV record, and considering it beat the impressive Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio by almost two seconds, it’s worth a mention. The two cars have identical power figures – 503bhp, but in the Merc’s case it’s produced from the ubiquitous AMG 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8.
Obviously we’re familiar with this unit – it’s appeared in a multitude of AMGs, and it always impresses. It’s obscenely powerful, with an impressive 516lb ft of torque coming in at a healthy 1750rpm giving it serious cred as a relaxing cruiser.
It’s paired as standard to a 4Matic+ four-wheel drive system that shifts torque to the front axle when it’s needed. There’s an electronic LSD, and the transmission is AMG’s nine-speed auto. So far, so SUV.
What’s it like to drive?
The GLC 63’s engine won’t let you forget it’s a serious piece of machinery. It’s not intrusively loud, but the muted background burble never quite goes away.
Despite that, it’s perfectly pleasant to pilot in ‘Comfort’ mode. There’s a firm edge to the ride, but it’s well damped, and with gentle throttle movements you can make smooth and relaxed progress. It doesn’t feel as though it’s chomping at the bit at lower speeds, either.
Escape the clutches of a city, though, and you can slip the drive mode into Sport and put your foot down. Bury your right foot in the carpet and the sheer pace of this big brute will astonish you. 0-62mph reportedly takes just 3.8 seconds – that’s even faster than the C 63 S, thanks to the GLC’s four-wheel drive.
How all this pace feels depends on what kind of road you’re on. On the autobahn, the GLC 63 S felt as though 150mph was barely a challenge – effortlessly stable and even quite quiet. A third-lane chancer in a Fiat Punto also gave us the chance to test out the brakes – thankfully, they’re particularly strong, good news in a 1900kg+ package.
Let the GLC loose on a B-road though, and it will surprise you with its poise. It’s not as much fun as a C 63 S, of course it’s not – but weighty steering, linear responses and impressive grip levels mean cross-country progress is fast and even fairly fun.
Of course, there’s a whole suite of adjustable driving modes, allowing you to tailor the steering, braking, throttle, gearchanges and damping between Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race. The centre console also holds a button with an exhaust diagram on it – press it, and the exhaust will be put into ‘POWERFUL’ mode. The six-year-old in us recommends leaving this on at all times.
It doesn’t feel quite as dialled-in and natural as a Porsche Macan, nor as special as a Stelvio Quadrifoglio. But the difference is pretty minimal, and you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the GLC 63 S.
Not exactly a looker, is it?
It’s perhaps slightly unfair to judge the GLC’s looks on the gawky Coupe model we’re testing here. The regular GLC isn’t a bad-looking thing, and the addition of muscular bodywork, enormous alloys and the latest iteration of AMG’s Panamerica grille really don’t hurt matters.
Coupe models have a distinctive sweeping roofline, lose the centre rear seat (making this a strict four-seater) and also lose a bit of luggage capacity. Plenty will like the way it looks, but we can’t get on with the bulbous rear, cliff-face boot lid or tacked-on rear spoiler. Rear visibility is also pretty poor.
Business as usual inside?
The GLC facelift brings with it the interior from the latest C-Class, which is really no bad thing. There are still a few flimsy areas, like the cover for the central storage cubby, but the new infotainment screens and digital dials are a massive improvement. They’re slick, crystal-clear and a proper highlight.
Certain items, like the column shift for the autobox feel a little odd in a performance model, but we’re perfectly familiar with them from other AMGs. But more importantly, key elements including the seats, steering wheel and paddle shifters are spot-on. Other than the ride height, you may well be in a C 63 S.
Mercedes GLC AMG 63: verdict
The AMG GLC’s price and running costs won’t be news to anybody considering it, and they can hardly be considered negatives in this field. What’s more important is that the GLC 63 S feels like a properly well-sorted product, not just a taller C 63. It’s ballistically powerful but usable every day, and will tackle a B-road at eight-tenths as easily as a top-speed autobahn blitz.
We’d be more tempted by the non-Coupe GLC 63 S – it’s better-looking to our eyes, more practical and usefully cheaper. But if you want to stand out? Go for it.