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