The GLC63 S has the pace to ex­cite, but lacks the grace to in­volve

Wheels (Australia) - - First Drives - JOHN CAREY

a work­out at the in­ter­na­tional launch. The in­tro was staged in south-west Ger­many, on a day fea­tur­ing non-stop grey skies and wet roads.

The Amg-tuned per­ma­nent all­wheel-drive sys­tem is ef­fec­tive. De­spite the slip­pery bi­tu­men, the fe­ro­cious thrust of the V8 was read­ily ac­ces­si­ble. At least on straight roads. An elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled lim­ited-slip rear dif­fer­en­tial is stan­dard in the S model. It’s quicker and clev­erer than the me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip­per in the ba­sic GLC63.

Mercedes-amg pro­vided only very highly spec­i­fied S ver­sions for the drive pro­gram. These were equipped with 21-inch wheels and tyres, plus a Per­for­mance ex­haust sys­tem which al­lows the driver to open sound-quelling flaps in the muf­flers at any time, re­gard­less of which Dy­namic Se­lect driv­ing mode is in play. Both these are op­tional in Europe ( but the sit­u­a­tion could be dif­fer­ent in Aus­tralia).

With its muf­flers un­corked, the GLC63 S can sound like a visit to the zoo. The en­gine growls, roars, bel­lows, cack­les and spits. Mercedes-amg ob­vi­ously un­der­stands how to make the right noises to sat­isfy lovers of V8 ex­haust notes.

If there’s a weak­ness in the driv­e­train, it’s the trans­mis­sion. AMG re­places the torque con­verter of Mercedes’ stan­dard nine-speeder with a wet clutch to cre­ate the Speed­shift MCT. It’s a snappy shifter, es­pe­cially in Dy­namic Se­lect’s racier modes, but it can some­times be jerky and clumsy at low speeds on light throt­tle open­ings.

Three-cham­ber air springs and adap­tive dampers are stan­dard across the GLC63 range. The ride in Com­fort mode is, well, comfy. Sur­pris­ingly so, in fact. Sport, Sport+ and Race modes dial up sus­pen­sion stiff­ness in stages. At the same time the driv­e­train be­comes more and more ea­ger to please.

De­spite AMG’S care­fully grad­u­ated cal­i­bra­tion work, the GLC63 S feels heavy and high when it comes to corners. The sporty drive modes never man­age to erad­i­cate the im­pres­sion of pon­der­ous­ness that’s am­pli­fied by steer­ing that seems slow in com­par­i­son with the speed of re­sponse al­ways avail­able from the driv­e­train.

It’s no sports car, and was never go­ing to be. But the GLC63 does im­port some sports car glam­our that works, more or less. The SUV bor­rows the Panamer­i­cana grille pre­vi­ously re­served for the GT fam­ily. The toothy look of the ver­ti­cal chrome bars works bet­ter on the SUV than you would ex­pect, and the look-at-me bling makes the GLC63 S stand apart vis­ually from its lesser rel­a­tives.

In­te­rior up­grades in­clude sports front seats and steer­ing wheel, AMG in­stru­ment clus­ter and alu­minium cabin trim­mings. It’s a classy en­vi­ron­ment that is also use­fully spa­cious.

There can be lit­tle doubt that the GLC63 S will be a hit. Aus­tralia is a mar­ket that loves SUVS and likes AMGS – they cur­rently ac­count for around 20 per­cent of the lo­cal Mercedes-Benz model mix.

But for any­one who be­lieves driv­ing sat­is­fac­tion must be mea­sured by more than sim­ple speed, the GLC63 S will in­evitably dis­ap­point. Its height and heft dull the pre­ci­sion of its re­sponses to steer­ing in­puts and make the brak­ing sys­tem work hard. It has the pace to ex­cite, but lacks the grace to in­volve.

There’s an old song ti­tled ‘I Fought the Law’, mem­o­rably cov­ered by The Clash in 1979. The lyric con­tin­ues: “and the law won”. It al­ways does…

It’s of­fi­cial: in hi-po SUV land, 21-inch wheels are the new 19s. How­ever it seems likely Aus­tralian cars will roll on 20s, with 21s op­tional. The switch­able Per­for­mance ex­haust should be stan­dard. Fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tion of Aus­tralian cars has not yet been set, but carbonfibr­e trim will need to be se­lected from the op­tions list, while the premium Burmester au­dio, as fit­ted here, will be stan­dard. Any­one want a non-s ver­sion, with the puny 350kw/650nm tune of the 4.0-litre twin turbo V8? No, Mercedes-benz Aus­tralia didn’t think so, which is why power-hun­gry Aussies will only get the big bop­per.

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