First drive: The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S brings brutish V8 power to a practical, premium package
What is it?
The GLC is a mid-sized SUV and therefore you won’t be shocked to learn that it’s one of Mercedes-Benz’s most popular models in the UK. It’s just received a minor mid-life facelift, with a slightly different look and some new engines.
But we’ve been driving the hot version, in the form of the AMG GLC 63 S – the S denoting that this is the hotter of the two hot versions.
AMG: Those three letters generally mean lots of performance, lairy styling plus an addictive exhaust note, and despite being an SUV, the recipe is no different here. We got behind the ‘coupe’ version of the go-faster GLC to see how it stacks up in a competitive market.
It’s fairly standard facelift fare. On the outside, the changes are quite subtle, with minor changes to the headlights and redesigned bumpers and grille. Inside, the changes are a bit more noticeable, although still marginally so – the GLC gets a similar dashboard to the recently updated C-Class executive saloon on which it is based, with the most notable change being the new touchscreen running the latest MBUX infotainment system.
Other than that, it’s largely as you were, although there’s a new AMG steering wheel with touchpads built in to control menus.
What’s under the bonnet?
Again, nothing particularly revolutionary here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because this AMG staple is a delightful unit. It’s a 4.0-litre V8 with two turbos that makes 469bhp and 650Nm of torque in the ‘standard’ GLC 63, and 503bhp and 700Nm in S guise.
Unsurprisingly, given the performance figures on offer – and despite the relatively large SUV they relate to – acceleration is brisk. Zero to 60mph takes less than four seconds in both engine variants, with the four-wheel-drive system and fat, grippy tyres ensuring stomach-curdling pace with little effort or skill required from the driver. Just stamp on the right pedal and off you go.
What’s it like to drive?
The GLC 63 S manages to tread a contradictory line between being totally unremarkable and utterly mind-blowing. It’s difficult to explain how something that’s holding back such a stampede of horsepower can ever be anything other than intoxicating, but when you’re doing the boring stuff – school run, commute, weekly shop – it could be any other GLC. In many ways, that could be commended, but AMGs usually feel like they’re straining at the leash at all times. This… doesn’t.
However, when you do decide to give it some welly, boy does it come alive. Straight-line speed defies all logic – imagine even a decade ago telling someone a big, heavy SUV could get to 60mph in under four seconds. They’d laugh at you. The soundtrack that accompanies this blistering pace is pure AMG theatre, too.
Naturally, it feels a little unwieldy in corners – it feels quite large when you’re pressing on, and keeping it between the lines on a committed countryside blast takes genuine effort – but the GLC was really made for ludicrously quick motorway overtakes and slip road shenanigans. And at this it excels.
How does it look?
The looks of this ‘coupe’ version are probably most politely described as ‘divisive’. German manufacturers love to fill a niche, and that’s what’s happening here – it’s essentially an SUV at the front and middle, but with a drooping, coupe-like roofline to the back that infringes on rear headroom. It’s a curious look, but these styles sell well across the industry – buyers love them.
The AMG GLC is also available in more traditional SUV form, which will save you about £3,000 compared with the coupe, depending which specification you go for.
The AMG treatment goes further than the engine as well. To differentiate this model from the rest of the range, there is a redesigned front bumper with body-coloured fins inside the air intakes, a rear diffuser with integrated quad-exit tailpipes, and a fixed rear spoiler. It’s suitably aggressive.
What’s it like inside?
As you’d expect from a top-spec Mercedes, the interior is fantastically appointed and provides a real premium appeal. Much like the pre-facelift version, it has a sweeping centre console, now with a new trackpad between the seats to control the infotainment. It’s all very upmarket.
However, the old model felt long in the tooth, and while the update is welcome, it could probably have gone further. The new MBUX infotainment system is a nice step up, as is the digital instrument cluster. It’s about the minimum Mercedes could have got away with introducing, but it’s easy to imagine that it won’t take long to feel outdated once more.
What’s the spec like?
While the interior just about gets away with feeling like value for money, the specification certainly goes some way to justifying the eye-watering £77,089 starting price.
The aforementioned MBUX infotainment system brings a touchscreen display with voice and gesture control plus a number of AMG-specific features, from the flat-bottomed steering wheel to extra menus and settings.
To make the most of the performance on offer, there are also plenty of impressive technical features, such as air suspension with adjustable damping, an electronically controlled locking differential and dynamic engine mounts all included as standard.
With the likes of the utterly brilliant Range Rover Sport SVR and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio for company, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S has a tough fight on its hands. It carves a niche for itself in being unashamedly extroverted, with in-yer-face styling, brutal performance and a barking V8 soundtrack. Herein lies much of its appeal.
However, those who enjoy the way the Alfa belies its size to provide ultimate driving thrills from an unlikely package might find the German’s abilities frustratingly superficial.