SUV sales in Australia are flourishing but so is the uptake of performance cars. The two markets might be diametrically opposed to each other but Mercedes-Benz thinks combining them will result in a car that will top AMG’s sales charts here.
Its assault on the segment has already begun with the V6-powered GLC43 but the introduction of the even beefier GLC63 S, which gets the same 375kW and 700Nm V8 engine from the C63 S sedan, will begin around the middle of next year.
Vehicle Style: Premium performance mid-size SUV
Price: From $165,000 plus on-road costs (estimated)
Engine/trans: 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre 8cyl turbo petrol 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 10.7 l/100km
The GLC63 is the only V8 turbo powered SUV in its class but it isn’t without competition. The upcoming BMW X3 M40i and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio as well as the current Porsche Macan S Turbo all offer hot six-cylinder rivals, though only the Italian matches its belting 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds.
But the blistering German also offers a well-executed blend of performance and luxury bundled into one package which is equally well equipped to play the part of family car as it is a performance machine.
Like the GLC43 the 63 will arrive in either coupe or wagon bodystyles and in only the more powerful S variant. There’s not much differentiating the two body styles in any spec, except for taste, and unlike the GLC43 that only offers a rear spoiler on the coupe the 63 wagon doesn’t miss out.
A widened track, 4Matic+ all-wheel drive and the latest nine-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission borrowed from the E63 feature in AMG’s SUV flagship and design enhancements for the GLC63 include wider wheel arches, a large front splitter and, for the first time since appearing on the GT, the hallmark Panamericana grille.
Silver accents, lower sills, rear spoiler and a black diffuser housing two black double-tipped exhausts round out the tough look on the brawny SUV.
Optional kit includes 21-inch alloys over the standard 20-inch items, carbon ceramic brakes and an AMG performance exhaust to turn the thunder up to eleven. A Night Package comes with gloss black exterior inserts and roof rails and an AMG exterior pack adds carbon fibre body parts.
Locally the finally specifcations have not been finalised but we can at least expect the larger 21-inch alloys as standard. Pricing isn’t expected to change much from the original announcement of $164,900 for wagon and $171,900 for coupe variants, which sees the V8 pair add around $60,000 over the V6 powered GLC43.
Finally, a limited Edition 1 package will also be available for around $10,000 more which adds the Night Package, yellow or grey sports stripes, 21-inch matt black alloys and black leather with yellow stitching.
The GLC63 retains the premium features, practicality and 550-litre boot found in non-AMG variants but brings some performance feel with flourishes of carbon fibre, aluminium and Alcantara.
Upfront are leather/microfibre sports seats with AMG badging and extra bolstering that retain a good level of comfort. The front electrically adjustable seats offer a high but good driving position too and the tilt-and-reach adjustable Alcantara sports steering wheel is the perfect accompaniment to a bit of sharp driving.
The Mercedes infotainment system is displayed on a high-resolution screen and easy to navigate and comes with Bluetooth connectivity but lacks mirroring technology like CarPlay. The infotainment’s ‘Comand’ control sits in a carbon fibre centre console next to buttons for changing driving mode and the ever important bi-modal exhaust button.
The rest of the dash contrasts black leather with aluminium ascents and completes a first-rate cabin with the premium fit and finish expected.
ON THE ROAD
The hand-crafted 4.0-litre V8 centrepiece is not short of theatrical entertainment and when kicked into life it erupts with AMG’s latest trademark crackle. But despite the 4.0-litre V8 turbocharged petrol engine producing a whopping 375kW and 700Nm it’s easily tamed when needed.
Driving modes consist of comfort, sport, sport plus and race which provide different engine, steering, transmission and chassis settings but wet slippery German mountain passes were not a good match for race mode which dials down traction control and is best used at the track.
Comfort and sport offer more than enough variation for everyday driving and an individual setting allows full customisation of every dynamic attribute. It also helps increase fuel efficiency by decoupling the nine-speed automatic when coasting between speeds of 60 and 160km/h which lets the engine idle. While petrol is saved the combined fuel consumption remains a relatively thirsty 10.7L/100km.
Other changes in comfort are lighter steering feel and a softer ride from the three-way adjustable air suspension which adds some compliance but is still firm on bumps, exacerbated by the test vehicles larger 21-inch rims. However, road roar from the big tyres wasn’t intrusive and the cabin is well damped from exterior noise.
Sport and sport plus let the GLC stretch its legs and the drivetrain feels more cohesive, opening up the engine’s crackling note which reverberates to redline. Throttle and steering input becomes more focused and there’s no doubt the GLC63 S delivers some of the hardest hitting power in its segment.
Despite being 1945kg heavy, the Bavarian beast is well tamed by the standard brakes and does well to turn-in quickly and predictably. It also runs through corners flatter thanks to firmer suspension settings that won’t fare so well for driving on rough roads, but an individual mode allows for customisation of each attribute.
The steering is communicative and accurate with nice weight in sports modes but misses some of the finer details transmitted by its rival the Macan Turbo S, which is swifter but less brutal when pushing on.
The all-wheel drive plays a big role in taming the beast and unlike the tail happy C63, the SUV keeps composure when powering out of corners, even in wet conditions. The GLC gets an electronic instead of mechanical rear-axle differential but it is impressive in reducing slip. Unlike the cogged version it also changes attitude with the three-stage electronic stability control settings.
The new nine-speed ‘box is also quick on up and downshifts when in sport mode but slackens off in comfort, being a little more hesitant to jump in the next cog and more compliant when cruising.
There’s no missing the huge power on tap behind the GLC63’s firewall but the refined cabin and play-nice comfort mode will appease the one-car family.
The addition of all-wheel drive to the thundering V8 provides noticeable grip and, for a luxe mid-size family car, its outright performance pulls away from rivals for now.