Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S review: 503bhp uber-crossover driven

By topgear, 10 November 2017

I thought there was already a Mercedes-AMG version of the GLC?
You’re quite correct. Only now, there’s a better one. A V8 one.

Last year Mercedes rolled out the GLC43 in SUV and four-door ‘coupe’ form, with bi-turbo V6 power. But AMG isn’t really known for its restraint, so why stop there? Why indeed, when there’s room in the GLC’s stubby nose for another pair of cylinders, and another 150 horsepower…

So is the GLC63 a jacked-up C63, or a scrunched up E63?
A bit of both, actually. Power outputs mirror the C63’s: the ‘S’ version we’re driving here develops 503bhp and 700Nm, but you can spend a little less on a regular GLC63 with a detuned 469bhp, 650Nm 4.0-litre V8.

This is where things get more complicated. Forget the C63’s seven-speed automatic gearbox and (in the UK) rear-wheel drive. The GLC63 instead plumps for the E63’s nine-gear ‘Speedshift auto box, and employs four-wheel drive. 

Mercedes badges it ‘4Matic+’, as per the E63 supersaloon’s system, but before you backflip with excitement, there is no Drift Mode here. Instead, it’s a rear-wheel biased all-wheel drive situation, much like the E63 when it isn’t in Instagram Infamy setting. Later on, you’ll see why Drift Mode isn’t missed one teeny bit.

This is the part where you tell me how fast it goes.
Cramming 503bhp into a not-very-large family SUV has dramatic consequences. The first is arriving at 100kph 3.8 seconds after setting off. Three point eight. In a 2,010kg crossover. Three. Point. Eight. 

As usual, a limiter calls time at 250kph. Don’t you think it’s interesting that even AMG has had an attack of the sensibles here? There’s no ‘would sir/madam like to raise that to 290-odd for a few grand’ option. Yet.

So, the GLC63 is every bit as quick as a C63 on paper, and with its loftier driver site-lines and 4x4 ego boost, surely it’s going to be even more rapid point-to-point. Which is a mildly frightening notion. 

It sounds it too. AMG’s hot vee motor is probably the best downsized turbo’d engine this side of the Ferrari 488’s, and it’s on thunderous, cackling form here. Even with the sports exhaust in librarian mode, the baffles are at a loss to stifle the rumbling barrage that erupts from the tailpipes when you clog it. Sad to say, the tailpipes themselves are a phoney. A big fat phoney. Behind the quad oblong finishers, piddly little single-exit pipes are painfully obvious. 

The rest of it’s hardly lacking swagger though. That grille belongs in The Silence of the Lambs.
Noticed that, did you? Yep, the AMG GT R’s Panamericana grille is just the first body mod that elbows its way into your rear-view mirror and asks if ‘you want some, sunshine’. The jowly front bumper, the outrageously flared wheelarches, wider tracks and gigantic tyres give the ’63 a properly squat, hunkered-down, come-at-me-bro stance. Even if the ultra-faux rear diffuser and pipes are a let-down.


Does it feel £75,670-worth inside?
Well it’s basically a C-Class dashboard, with the usual perfectly sized AMG steering wheel, delectable alloy paddles and some slightly unsupportive seats. This cabin slightly suffers from looking more expensive than it actually is when you start prodding at it, but the infotainment is a doddle, the driving position is spot on whether you want to feel cocooned or ride in the heavens like the Pope, and there’s room for adults in the rear seats. 

But since we’re talking price, £68,920 (RM360,000) is what you pay for the base GLC63. Want the S? Add need another £6,750 for the ’63S. There’s an easy decision…

Or, you could throw £90,820 (RM474,000) at AMG, and when they’ve finished chortling in a polite Germanic chuckle they’ll send you back a kitted out, dubiously striped ‘Edition 1’ version.

Either way, this definitely feels posher and more professional inside than the imminent Jaguar F-Pace SVR and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio will do, on their makers’ current form. If Audi decides to RS the Q5, or when BMW M’s up the new X3, that’ll cause Mercedes a few headaches.

A juicy list of rivals coming up…
But they’re not here yet. Not to worry. We need to discuss driving the GLC63, because this car doesn’t halt or slow AMG’s cracking form of late. It doesn’t change the game either, but it’s more than good enough to make AMG a serious contender for the Porsche Macan Turbo and any other uber-tank you care to pitch at it. Here’s why.

Obviously, the engine dominates it. This is a two-tonne machine but dearie me, it’s fast. And it’s fast everywhere, such is the quantity of torque and the shortness of the first few gears. It’s fast off the line, fast out of low-speed turns, and barrels down sliproads then along autobahns like it’s in a vacuum. Madness. The gearbox, as usual for AMG whether it’s a seven- or nine-speed, isn’t a fan of multiple downshifts, but the throttle blips when you just need one are spot-on, and upshifts are brilliantly crisp and seamless.

Now in the old days, that’d have been good enough for AMG. Make loads of power first, ask questions about the handling (much) later. But nowadays, AMG’s building properly sorted driver’s cars. So it needed to give the GLC more than just a tactical nuke under the bonnet.

Agreed. Does it handle?
It takes some calibrating to, first off. The electric power steering has natural weight and reassuring meatiness to it, but it’s razor-sharp for an SUV. Like an Alfa Stelvio, it’s got ultra-fast reactions to give that sense of intent and agility, but for the first few miles, you’ll be steering like an actor in a 1960s super-imposed car chase, sawing at the wheel haphazardly, trying to manage its sensitivity. 

Get over that, and the next thing you notice is the ride. Like the E63, it’s firm. Not much wheel travel here, and quite a lot of shake’n’rattle if the road’s not porcelain-smooth. No roll though. Wow, this thing corners flat. There’s no 48-volt electrical anti-roll damping going on underneath, but the GLC63 corners as stably as the Audi SQ7 and Bentley Bentayga, which both lean hard on super-techy suspension. This just does with air springs. Great for tied-down body control, but it’s going to be a touch jiggly back in Britain, I’d wager. And that’s in the ‘Comfort’ setting, FYI. Wouldn’t bother with Sport or Sport Plus if I were you.


Can it misbehave?
Yes, thanks to the hardware we know and adore from the E63. We’re driving the ’63 S, which swaps the standard car’s limited slip rear differential for an electrically controlled diff, while both versions gets a specially set-up rear axle to account for the fact a chunky crossover isn’t the natural start-point for a hot-rod project.

So, if you switch the stability control into its halfway off Sport setting, and summon the V8’s substantial muscle, you can provoke the GLC into some incredibly anti-social and un-SUV-like behaviour. Why you’d want to powerslide one, we’ll never know. But should you like to have that ability in your locker, the AMG’s got you covered. It’s approachable, friendly, and frankly infectious good fun. 

Very much a SPORTS utility vehicle, then, yes?
Absolutely. We didn’t have very long at all in the car, so this is a first impression that we’ll revisit soon, but it seems the GLC63 is the sporty crossover that’ll bowl you over in half an hour but be a little more intrusive to live with, while say, a Porsche Macan Turbo is less effervescent and silly, but rides more comfortably. And has more off-road nous, if that matters to you.

And sure, in 2018, there’ll be a whole posse of new rivals for the GLC63 to fight off. Wouldn’t bet against it flattening a few of them, though, because in true AMG fashion, you’ve never met a little battletank as fighty as this one.

- Ollie Kew