GLC63S & GLC63S COUPÉ
Mercedes-AMG is not unique in the art of sticking big V8s into sports sedans, but it is the only manufacturer who also dabbles with this format in the premium compact SUV segment. While everyone else is downsizing, the boys from Affalterbach are not, and BERNIE HELLBERG JR sampled some of the beefy magic at Zwartkops Raceway recently.
Although Mercedes-AMG no longer just transplants bits of tech and homegrown engines into Merc products – they now develop their own cars too – they arguably do some of their best work in this way. Super sedans like the C63 and E63 families are class-leading vehicles in their own right, and AMG has the right to be proud of these creations.
But, when they start fettling with Merc’s SUVs and crossovers too, the lines between purpose and desire starts to blur, and a single misstep could cause them to lose valuable princess points in the eyes of their admiring, power-obsessed fans.
Since AMG is not used to making flops, they’ve definitely not done so with the new GLC63S and its coupe variant, with their E63-borrowed 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8s, ninespeed automatic, and 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. With 375 kW and 700 Nm of torque on tap, the latter in a plateau from 1,750 to 4,500 r/min, the Esses rise to challenge every other hotrod SUV around, and beats (most of) them to a pulp.
Competition comes from the likes of Audi, BMW, Porsche and Jaguar, with all of the above, bar the Macan Turbo struggling to keep pace with the heated German.
And who can blame them? Anything with a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 3.8-seconds is fierce, and when that ‘thing’ happens to be a 1,850 kg SUV, it is all the more impressive.
In a straight line, the GLC63S (both of them) are very good. Biting down on the tarmac with massive 20” 265/40 tyres at the front and 295/40s at the rear (21” alloys are optional), the GLC63S instantly gets down to business when the driver sinks the loud pedal – as we discovered during the local media launch at Zwartkops Raceway. The venue also granted us the opportunity to get acquainted with the powerful GLC’s darker magic – its ability to tackle the twisties with ease too.
Fitted with the same multi-plate clutch pack from the E63S – that takes the place and role of a torque converter to minimise shift times and powertrain losses – that delivers as much as 60% of available torque to the front wheels. In most scenarios, though, the GLC63 is biased toward rearwheel drive, which could translate into some tail wagging under load in wet conditions. But that’s not unique to this AMG alone.
Collecting some of the best bits from other cars seems to be the GLC63S’s forte. Visually it collaborates with the AMG GT by nicking its vertical-slat Panamericana grille, and larger air intakes installed in the significantly more menacing front bumper are borrowed from every other contemporary AMG. The set-up infuses the GLC63S with a purposeful presence that, despite the vast rubber underfoot, isn’t obnoxiously loud. Small black fender flares affixed to the front wheel wells join similar ones in the rear borrowed from the GLC43.
Inside, the GLC63 is pretty standard for AMG, albeit that it feels more solid than some other Merc products of late. A contrasting mark distinguishes the S model at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel, but all versions get Alcantara seat inserts while carbon fibre trim is optional. There’s also a carbon fibre exterior package and optional AMG performance seats.
In case you have missed the fact that Mercedes vehicles are some of the safest ever built, all the advanced safety technology you can imagine for a car is available on the GLC63S. If you’re the kind of driver who expects to engage fully with a car as good as this one (and most AMG drivers likely are) you may agree with us that too many electronic aids, automatic-braking, and Big Brother intervention often just ends up spoiling the fun. But hey, the upside is that you have to mess up well to get it wrong in the AMG SUV.
As far as performance goes (and let’s face it, besides attracting attention and making a statement, this power monger does few things as well as going fast) the GLC63S can’t be beaten, yet. But as a poster child for practical family motoring, it doesn’t fare as well as some other, more pedestrian offerings from less celestial brands.
On the other hand, though, Mercedes-Benz has proven that there is massive demand for their uber-powerful AMG products in South Africa, and whether we want them as status symbols, or just enjoy driving them, it is all actually quite irrelevant.