Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S - still stormin'
One of Merc’s myriad SUV options is the five-seat GLC, and topping the facelifted range is the AMG 63 S.
Nothing really needed fixing in the power department so the 4.0-litre biturbo V8 returns unchanged with 375kW and 700Nm. The goods are still channelled via a nine-speed auto, dubbed the AMG Speedshift MCT with its wet start-off clutch instead of the usual torque converter to ‘optimise response to accelerator pedal commands’. It’s pretty rapid on the shifting too. The AWD set-up sees the rears permanently driven with the GLC’s dynamic brain telling the electromechanically controlled clutch in the centre diff to send drive forward when it’s needed. Aiding traction at the rear is an electronically controlled diff lock while the job of keeping the mass on the level falls to the adaptive air suspension. Dynamic engine mounts help too, stiffening in Sport mode to stop the engine throwing its weight around.
New for the 2020 model is AMG Dynamics, an electrical/software update that lords over the torque distribution, the locking diff and the ESP to effect individual wheel braking and influence the rate of yaw on the turns. It helps sharpen the response to steering by influencing the speed of the rear wheels when you’re hurling it through bends.
The stylists weren’t exactly taxed for the facelift, the GLC 63 with reworked LED headlamps, wider wheel arch claddings, and redesigned LED tail lamps. It’s more of a tech update this version, the GLC now equipped with the MBUX ‘Hey Mercedes’ infotainment system, and the console gaining a new touchpad controller. However, we tended to use a mix of voice control and fingers on the 10-inch touchscreen display to command the system. The instrument cluster has been digitised too, with a multitude of AMG-specific displays, including Supersport mode to give you the low-down on Gs generated, power made, turbo boost levels, drive mode set-up, you name it. There’s also a new menu to data log your race track experience.
Changing between the sextet of drive modes is made easier with the new AMG steering wheel and its dedicated buttons hanging off the spokes. Its contoured rim is lined with Dinamica microfibre which probably works well with racing gloves but can be rather slippery otherwise.
Better are the seats, a cunning mix of sport and luxury that are comfortable but supportive when generating Gs. And they are heated to warm cold buns in the morning.
It’s still the fastest SUV around the ‘Ring, and so there are some concessions to ultimate everyday refinement as a result. There’s the occasional binding of the diff during low speed turns, the turning circle is larger too thanks to the wider tracks and big rubber. We detected a few rattles and creaks in the cabin, the trim under more duress from the firmness of the suspension. In Comfort mode, it’s not harsh but you realise AMG has sharpened the suspension by replacing the cushy bushings and joints with motorsport-inspired connectors. These amplify the effect of joints and cats eyes, while there’s some road rumble on coarse chip too. There’s no Eco mode, (but there is an idle/stop system) so the throttle is always lively and the auto ready with a downchange should you give the gas pedal a prod, rather than pulling in-gear.
The AMG bits front and rear send the right message to onlookers, as do the wheels, bulging from under the arches. But sidesteps on something riding low like this just get in the way. The GLC is however a roomy mid-sized offering without an excess of bulk, making it easy to park and commute in.
It’s almighty quick when it needs to be. The top GLC is locked down and stable through the turns, and grips tenaciously. There can be some push understeer if you get too excitable, but add some finesse to your corner entry and it’ll adopt a neutral balance, especially in ESP Sport mode. There’s a determined drive off the curves too. It’s weighty but well controlled and you can flick between Sport and Sport plus modes depending on your tolerance for bumps on the day. The steering is well honed, the GLC responding quickly to the helm.
It’s a real speed merchant this, the eight sounding epic in the Powerful exhaust mode, and it revs like a loon to seven thousand if you let it. The gearbox is super quick in Sport plus mode, banging the shifts through up and down the nine ratios. And rounding out a rousing performance are the brakes, smacking the velocity off effectively.
This is still a weapons-grade SUV, one powered by a whopping V8 but it probably won’t be next time around. If you’re that way disposed, get in while the getting’s good.
Model Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Price $184,900
Engine 3982cc, V8, T/DI, 375kW/700Nm
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Vitals 3.75sec 0-100km/h, 10.7L/100km, 246g/km, 2067kg