Mercedes-AMG's GLC 63 S is a performance SUV king
Mercedes-AMG has thrown down the gauntlet with its GLC 63 S for the rest of the pack to follow
The world of cars has gone barking mad. What you see before you is the most compact Mercedes-AMG SUV with a V8 shoehorned into its snout.
Meet the GLC63 S, AMG’s latest offering, which is here to take the fight to the forthcoming Alfa Romeo QV (Quadrifoglio Verde) and the BMW X3M in the tug-of-war bruising contest.
We have driven a number of performance SUVs over the years, but none has been this rapid in this segment, nor as playful. Based on the C-Class platform, the GLC63 S is to the GLC range what the C63 S is to the C-Class line-up — both flagship models of their respective range.
A great looking model in its own right, particularly with the AMG package, the GLC63 S builds on to that solid platform and beefs things up with the Panamericana grille and slightly flared wheel arches that are home to 21-inch AMG wheels, while the rear has the obligatory quad exhausts which, to be honest, are just a single exhaust on either side of the rear valance masquerading as four. Nonetheless, there is enough visual venom to elicit interest from motorists and bystanders.
The cabin is a blend of sporty meets comfortable, underscored in our Edition 1 model by quilted black leather seats with yellow contrasting stitching. The cabin’s roof is swathed in plush Alcantara, ditto the steering wheel with its yellow straight-ahead marker, while carbon fibre inlays can be found on the door panels and centre tunnel.
There are also yellow AMG lit door sills to remind you that you are driving something quite special. But it is the guttural roar of the 4.0l twin-turbo V8 being woken up from slumber that will certainly leave you under no illusions of what you’re piloting.
Right off the bat you need to understand that this thing will easily decimate any SUV currently on the market in the 0-100km/h sprint and its furious acceleration doesn’t abate until it hits its 280km/h top speed.
While its straight line performance is impressive, it is the aforementioned playfulness and the handling where the model truly shines. Flick the car into Race mode and the air suspension stiffens, the throttle sharpens and the gearbox up-shifts become delayed, while the stability control is neutered slightly, which is key to its playfulness.
Boot the vehicle out of a corner and the 4Matic four-wheel drive shuffles torque to the rear axle, sending the vehicle sideways, much to the driver’s delight. I have driven a lot of performance SUVs, but none has displayed this sort of rear-wheel drive antics.
Initially it is rather eerie, to be honest, as you do not expect it to behave in this manner.
Turn off the traction control and stability control altogether and the vehicle behaves much like the C63 without the unpredictable factor exuded by that car on the limit, thanks to the GLC’s four-wheel drive system, which works as a catch net should you get a little too overzealous with the throttle.
Then there is the noise that the engine emits, which is addictive for the most part and eggs you to boot the throttle at every opportune moment. Mind you, the effects of this are rather high consumption fuel figures with 20l/100km being our worst during the test tenure, but you can expect around 14l/100km under normal driving conditions with our best figure being 9.4l/100km when we tried our damned hardest to increase our fuel range.
Weighing a rather portly 1,935kg, the GLC63 S is in fact heavier (by some 81kg) than the latest BMW M5 for context and only 19kg lighter than the Mercedes-AMG E63 S. Even so, it remains an absolute hoot to drive, has a layer of driver enjoyment I am yet to experience in a compact performance SUV and has the battle cry — courtesy of its V8 engine.
Convexly, in Comfort mode, the GLC 63 goes about things in a nondescript, nonchalant way that defies its searing performance abilities. In my humble view, it almost renders the GLE63 obsolete save for the additional space it brings to the table. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you were looking at a C63 S sedan, then you ought to give the GLC63 S a look first before taking the plunge as it also brings a quotient of practicality into the mix.
While we await salvos from both Alfa Romeo and BMW, the GLC63 S has decidedly thrown down the gauntlet and set the tone for its competitors to respond. From where I stand, it will be quite a feat to achieve, because the GLC63 S will be quite a tough act to follow and its rivals had better not only be barking mad, but also be frothing at the mouth and willing to fight tooth and nail to depose this AMG.