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Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.3
Australia's appetite for high-performance beasts from Mercedes-AMG continues to grow, and the latest update pitched at storming SUV lovers is the compact GLC 63 S, in wagon and swoopy 'Coupe form'.

I've driven a Mercedes-AMG GLC 43,  and I don't mind telling you it's indecently quick for a mid-size SUV. I sat back after the drive and thought it was a car that would keep Audi honest. It's a different car to the SQ5, if I'm to be brutally honest, but it's the closest thing the GLC has to a rival. At least until BMW's new X4 M40i arrives.

Perhaps Mercedes saw the looming threat of the new BMW and the established SQ5 and considered how it might put not just its nose in front, but put daylight between AMG and its rivals. And it came up with the GLC 63.

Mercedes-Benz GLC63 2018: S
Safety rating
Engine Type4.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$119,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The GLC 63 we'll get in Australia is the GLC 63 S, no namby-pamby mucking about with the standard version available elsewhere (see also: C63 S). Starting at $164,900 for the wagon and $171,900 for the coupe (before on roads), it's a pretty stiff starting point and straying dangerously close to BMW X5 M and Audi SQ7 territory (both slower to 100km/h). It's also a stout $60,000 more than the GLC 43 twins.

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)

Rolling on 21-inch wheels, you also get multi-zone climate control, a lengthy list of safety gear, air suspension with dynamic dampers, electric and heated front seats, active cruise control, head-up display, reversing camera, around-view cameras, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, electric tailgate, nappa leather and wood trim, active LED headlights, auto wipers, auto parking, roof rails, sunroof, DVD player and TV tuner.

The thumping 13-speaker sound system is powered by Mercedes still-cooking 'COMAND' system with the weird rotary-dial-covered-by-a-plastic-tongue arrangement. It's weird and needs a re-think, along with one or two other ergonomic missteps. As well as the usual AM/FM you get DAB, smartphone integration via USB (but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) and Bluetooth.

You'll be able to grab a $10,900 Edition 1 package at launch which paints big yellow stripes on the car, whacks on a new set of wheels, adds aero bits, and carbon ceramic brakes.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The GLC is a bruiser, no matter which body style you choose. The wagon is the more conventional SUV style and probably the more sensible choice. If you want to split hairs, it's lighter, so take the better handling and run. The coupe is an oddball, weirdly proportioned and a bit saggy at the back with that huge snowboard pinned to the rear acting as a wing.

From the front, there's a big vertically-straked Panamericana-style grille that looks like it was pinched from the AMG GT (because it is), along with a front splitter Mercedes says is inspired by a jet's wing. The word 'gaping' springs to mind but there's a lot of heat to clear under the bonnet and behind the mean looking alloys. Just to make sure, the brake calipers are bright red. You know it's an AMG.

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)

Also standard on Australian cars is the 'Night Package', which blacks out certain elements to add to the meanness.

The cabin design pre-dates the lovely interior of the newer E-Class so is reminiscent of the A and C interiors. There's little wrong with it, but it does look its age, and the multimedia screen still looks like an afterthought. The materials are mostly quite lovely apart from the overly shiny silver on the speakers and there are way too many buttons. The steering wheel is good, though - properly chunky.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Being a mid-size SUV aimed at families, the GLC is as roomy as you might expect. Four adults could easily slip into the cabin and hold on for dear life - a fifth might find things a little uncomfortable in the middle seat, straddling the transmission tunnel and sitting in the narrow space left for them by the 40/20/40 split fold.

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)

Front passengers have a pair of cupholders, a deep console bin and bottle holders in the doors. Rear passengers score another pair of cupholders, and again, the door will hold a bottle or two each. The back seat also has its own climate control setting.

The boot of the wagon starts at 550 litres and with the rear seats folded extends to 1600 litres. Coupe buyers can expect 500 litres and 1400 litres respectively.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The GLC 63 S is powered by AMG's 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. Making enough noise to put hairs on the chest of any living thing, it sends its power to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. Along for the ride (and part of the S spec) is an electronic limited slip-diff on the rear axle. 

The 0-100km/h sprint for the 2000kg GLC 63 S is over in a scorching 3.8 seconds, which is actually faster than a C63S.

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)

The towing capacity is rated at 2000kg for a braked trailer and 750kg without, and only the wagon is listed.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Official figures for the GLC 63 S say the V8 will drink premium at the rate of 10.9L/100km on the combined cycle. Try not to laugh. On our launch drive we saw the wrong side of 16.0L/100km, but that's a thoroughly thrashed figure.

The GLC63 can save a bit of fuel in 'Comfort' mode, with start-stop and a freewheel function which activates between 60km/h and 160km/h. Small mercies, sure, but it's available.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

As you might expect, the GLC 63 S arrives with nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB, reverse cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, around-view cameras and tyre pressure monitoring.

There are also three top-tether mounts and two ISOFIX points.

The GLC scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in January 2016.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

Mercedes Benz offers a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist

Service intervals are generous at 12 months/20,000km and the capped price servicing regime ensures you know how much you'll pay. And it's a fair bit - the first service is $580 (okay, not too bad), the third is $1330 (oof) and the middle one is, uh, $2660. That's $4570 for three years. Still, that's to maintain a hand-built engine. You can also prepay with a service plan up to five years/100,000km.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

First, it's worth going through a few things. Wrapped around the 21-inch wheels are a sticky set of tyres measuring 265/40 up front and 295/30 at the rear. Dynamically controlled air suspension keeps things level while all-wheel drive and an electronic LSD keeps things roughly on the straight and narrow. AMG calls the nine-speed auto 'Speedshift' and that seems reasonable. The brakes are composite (not carbon ceramic, they're optional) and gripped by six piston calipers up front.

You need all of this to keep two tonnes of sub-four second SUV from reaching orbit. The GLC 63 S is a serious piece of machinery. I'd go so far as to say it's one of the very few cars I've been ever-so-slightly intimidated by on approach. It even looks mean with those snarling air intakes.

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Wagon variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown) 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 S. (Coupe variant shown)

I needn't have worried. An AMG might be fast and furious, but these things are not out to kill us. That said, goodness me is this thing fast. Keeping a McLaren 540C honest in a straight line is not usually the work of a car this chunky, but there you are. 

Approaching corners rapidly, the big brakes wipe off speed and the air suspension settles the body for turn in. Obviously it runs quite a bit lower to the ground than a garden variety GLC, so the centre of gravity is more conducive to fast-moving silliness. The air suspension keeps the body mostly flat and soaks up the bumps and irregularities of Victoria's high country. 

On the straight and narrow it's a proper mile-crusher, comfortable and quiet. The Comfort setting keeps the V8 damped down to a distant burble. It's surprisingly easy going, too. Rolling around town, you just have to tickle the throttle to keep up with traffic, although the transmission sometimes needs a prod or manual intervention if you need things to heat up quickly. Overtaking is dispatched in the same way the Millennium Falcon covers the Kessel run.

Verdict

The GLC 63 S is tremendous fun and I daresay Mercedes will struggle to keep up with demand. Australians already buy 150 C63s a month, so these should fly out the door. The price gap to the GLC 43 is substantial but probably justified - no other mid-size SUV with a potent V8 will be as, uh, affordable as this.

Are fast SUVs ridiculous? Do you think that's a good thing or a bad thing?

EXPERT RATING
7.3
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership6
Driving8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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