2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S First Drive

The shape says compact crossover, but AMG'S GLC63 is all car behind the wheel

Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 is as intoxicating to drive and intimidating to behold as the C63.
Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 is as intoxicating to drive and intimidating to behold as the C63.
Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 is as intoxicating to drive and intimidating to behold as the C63.

Highs

  • Sinister exhaust note
  • Cornering stability and agility
  • Tremendous acceleration and braking
  • Sublime ride quality

Lows

  • Only the S Coupe is coming to U.S.
  • We don’t love the Coupe’s rear end styling

When you’ve created something truly special, you can’t help but share it. That, presumably, is the logic behind Mercedes-AMG’s hand-built 4.0-liter Biturbo V8 engine. Now that its mega motor has been mated to the AMG GT, C63 Coupe, and C63 sedan, the German performance tuner is ready to spread the love to new and different vehicle types.

A compact SUV may not seem like the logical candidate for 500-plus horsepower and eight cylinders, but two factors make the GLC and GLC Coupe ideal: 1) consumers can’t get enough luxury CUVs, and 2) the GLC rides on the C-Class platform (which has already been engineered to handle the Biturbo V8). So, with data in support, Mercedes-AMG gives us the range-topping GLC63 SUV and Coupe – the only V8-powered models in their class.

There are still unanswered questions about the GLC63, including sale date and pricing, but that didn’t keep us from getting behind the wheel near Mercedes-Benz’s Stuttgart headquarters. Read on for our 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 First Drive Review.

What’s new

With the GLC43 SUV and Coupe already on the market, most of the “newness” of the GLC63 duo centers on performance upgrades — but not all of it. The two range-topping GLC models are the first AMGs to adopt the wider, “Panamericana” grille and lower front fascia from the AMG GT sports car.

Both utes are lower and wider than any other GLC models, with more standard features. All GLC63 model features an AMG-tuned performance exhaust and AMG-specific air suspension, while range-topping S models trade a mechanical limited-slip differential for an electronically controlled unit.

Trim levels and features

For some inexplicable reason, people seem to love the look of a high-riding fastback. Where we see an oversized rump and a decrease in usable cargo/passenger volume, consumers, evidently, see “style.” Whatever your opinion of the coupe-all-the-things craze, German luxury manufacturers are happy to sell you just about any SUV with a sloping rear end — including the GLC63.

The SUV’s aggressive aesthetic works every angle, but the Coupe can’t hide its blemishes.

From the front, the GLC63 SUV and Coupe are indistinguishable in their menace. Both vehicles feature large air intakes, wide grilles, thin LED daytime running lights, and creased hoods. In profile, the two rock a high belt line, snazzy wheel designs (19-inch on GLC63 and 20-inch on GLC63 S models), short overhangs, and V8 Biturbo badging on the front quarter panels. In contrast to the GLC SUV’s steeply raked roofline and integrated spoiler, the Coupe’s slowly tapering roof ends where a black painted wing begins.

From the rear, both models sport a prominent diffuser and four trapezoidal exhaust ports, but while the LED taillights blend nicely into the SUV’s tailgate, they consume too much attention on the Coupe. In short, we adore every angle of the SUV’s aggressive aesthetic, but only some angles of the fastback variant.

Both Coupe and SUV body styles will be offered stateside, however only the fastback will be available in hotter S trim. Standard on each GLC63 is Mercedes-AMG’s Dynamic Select system with multiple drive modes, 4Matic+ variable all-wheel drive, a limited slip differential, three-stage AMG air ride suspension, AMG steering wheel, AMG Speedshift nine-speed automatic transmission, AMG performance exhaust, MB-Tex leather sport seats, MB-Tex wrapped dashboard, keyless ignition, LED headlights and DRLs, Comand infotainment, a power lift-gate, rearview camera, and Mercedes-Benz’s PreSafe active safety system.

Options exclusive to the AMG 63 models include an active exhaust system, an AMG Night Package with high gloss black exterior and interior trim pieces, a Carbon Fiber Package, 20- or 21-inch light alloy wheel designs, and AMG’s Performance Studio Interior with more aggressive sport seats and a Nappa leather interior.

Technology overview

Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 isn’t designed to break technological barriers like other Mercedes-Benz products, but it does come equipped with a solid roster of features. On board are the automaker’s Comand infotainment system, a 7.0-inch center display, a full-color TFT driver monitor, Sirius XM, two USB ports, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Navigating Comand’s climate control, audio, mapping, and vehicle settings is a breeze via the steering wheel-mounted buttons, voice commands, or the console controller. The lack of touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto functionality point to the system’s age, but the responsive, clear display still feels contemporary among competitors.

Interior fit and finish

Even before tabbing the ignition button, Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 clues riders into its performance intent via a sporty cabin design. Like the C63 coupe and sedan, the GLC63 features a thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel with Alcantara inserts, carbon fiber trim panels along the center stack, tightly bolstered MB-Tex leather seats, an available Burmeister sound system, brushed metal dashboard and door panel inserts, and available contrast stitching for the leather-trimmed dash and seats.

High quality cabin materials balance the GLC63’s sporty accents with a premium feel. Taller adults will be more comfortable in rear of the non-sloped SUV, but rear legroom is generous in both coupe and standard body styles. Assuming the driver is behaving him or herself, cabin noise is minimal and ride quality is excellent. When it’s time to play, you’ll want a seat in one of the front sport buckets, which hold driver and passenger in place without squeezing too tight.

Driving performance and MPG

Coupe, SUV, S, or non-S: every GLC63 uses Mercedes-AMG’s 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system, and Speedshift nine-speed automatic transmission. Standard GLC63 models produce 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque (increases of 107 hp and 97 lb-ft over the GLC43’s twin-turbo V6). Uprated S versions make a hardy 503hp and 516 lb-ft of torque: enough grunt to usher the 4,500-lb SUV to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 174 mph.

Each peg of the throttle shoves the GLC63 forward producing decidedly un-SUV sensations.

During our stint behind the wheel of the GLC63 S 4Matic+ Coupe, rain-soaked roads, 40-degree temperatures, and a set of winter tires attempt to curb the GLC63’s performance. Mercedes-AMG’s super ute isn’t having it, though. Each peg of the throttle shoves the SUV forward without hesitation, producing decidedly un-SUV sensations at the base of our spine. Meanwhile, the sometimes-snarling, sometimes-howling AMG Performance exhaust ripples into the crisp morning air.

When long stretches of highway become tight, serpentine passes, the GLC’s all-wheel drive system and electronic differential intelligently apply power for tremendous traction. Modulating the GLC63’s ride and handling, AMG’s three-chamber air springs and adaptive dampers adjust depending on driving behavior and road conditions. The GLC63’s Dynamic Select system can also tailor throttle mapping, shift timing, and steering feel for comfort or precision via pre-set and customizable drive modes.

2018 mercedes amg glc63 s pfv glc 63 4matic  metzingen november 2017 ptd
Mercedes-AMG
Mercedes-AMG

Though brief, our time in the driver’s seat is sufficient to validate the GLC63’s sporting credentials – far exceeding expectations.

Safety

Though the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 SUV and Coupe have not yet been rated by either the IIHS or NHTSA, the 2017 GLC SUV received a Top Safety Pick Plus from the IIHS. Standard safety features include a comprehensive airbag system, emergency braking assist, and Mercedes-Benz PreSafe. If the GLC detects an accident is about to occur, PreSafe will tighten the front seat belts, adjust the front head restraints and passenger seat, and close the windows. Optional safety systems include rear-end collision prevention, cross-traffic alerts, and blind spot monitoring.

Conclusion

Fastback roofline or not, an SUV will always face more obstacles to performance than a sedan or coupe. However, if life demands the added utility of an SUV, Mercedes-AMG’s GLC63 is every bit as intoxicating to drive and intimidating to behold and as the C63. No other automaker is crazy enough to cram 500 horsepower into a compact crossover — perhaps because no one can pull it off this skillfully.

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