BMW X3 M 2020 review: road test
BMW's X3 has never had a really quick version and now, in its third-generation, has two - the M Performance M40i the freshly-bonkers X3 M Competition
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It doesn't feel like that long ago I spent a day with the brand spanking new Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S when it first arrived in Australia. It's a car that stuck with me, the SpaceX-worthy thrust of AMG's 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 translating into that dirty V8 exhaust note.
Turns out it wasn't that long ago, but time waits for no car - the 2020 GLC 63 S has arrived, with some useful upgrades and a deep suspicion that someone, somewhere thought the car needed some changes.
So, under a scorching hot Bathurst sun, I examined the box-fresh GLC 63 S for signs of nefarious activity, hoping things have not changed for the worse just because there are a couple of challengers in town.
|Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class 2020: GLC63 S 4Matic+|
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
As before, we get two bodystyles and the high(er) performance version, the GLC 63 S (a 'base' GLC 63 is available in other markets). Mercedes followed everyone else's lead and realised nobody would buy the skim milk version.
That doesn't seem to hurt Mercedes too much with other cars in the range, but it's a significant difference. Incidentally, both prices are up by about $3000.
It's loaded, though - 21-inch wheels, multi-zone climate control, 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, but no spare tyre, just a repair kit.
A Burmester-branded 13-speaker sound system is powered by Mercedes' spangly MBUX system on a new 10-inch touchscreen, which is much nicer than the old software and hardware combo.
MBUX offers deeper integration with the car's systems. The 'Themes' function is like a series of shortcuts to set the car up for a particular mood, but let's face it, most GLC 63 S drivers are just going to find the 'Race' function and go for it.
MBUX also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but via USB only.
As before, the GLC 63 S comes in wagon and couple bodystyles. Little has changed, with just the usual tweaked front and rear bumpers and mildly redesigned headlights.
All the good bits have remained, like the 'Panamericana' grille from the AMG GT monsters, the jet wing-inspired front bumper and plenty of open space to feed the radiators and intercoolers.
Neither the wagon nor coupe is a pretty machine, but no mid-size SUV is much of an oil painting, with the exception of the Jaguar F-Pace.
The 'Night Package' is still a standard inclusion, blacking out various bits and pieces and looking good when allied with the dark alloys. They both look tough, though, which is classic AMG DNA.
Inside is pretty much the same as before, with just two obvious changes. The new Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, again from the AMG GT, and also on the C 63 S, joins the party with a more expensive look and feel.
And the new MBUX screen is wider and looks much more at home in a $165,000-plus car. It's still a bit old-feeling, but the digital dash adds a bit of techno-style while the garish speaker covers don't.
A family of four will love any GLC. The wagon's extra headroom over the coupe is useful if not life-changing, while the knee, leg and foot room are generous. Front seat passengers enjoy comfortable seating as long as you're not too keen on pudding.
Underneath, the upward sweep of the centre console is a pair of cupholders and a wireless charging Qi pad that will fit larger phones. Under the split armrest is a small but handy console bin, inside which you'll find USB-C ports.
Two more USB-C ports in the rear join a 12-volt socket and there are also climate controls for the rear seat passengers. The centre armrest pops open with a shallow, carpet-lined tray and two cupholders pop out the front. Each of the four doors has a bottle holder, too.
The boot space is unchanged for each bodystyle - 550/1600 litres for the wagon and 500/1400 litres for the coupe. Both have high loading lips, which is something to consider if you're hauling heavy things about or have trouble lifting items to a reasonable height.
An AMG 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 brings the thunder, with a massive 375kW and 700Nm of torque. That's plugged into a nine-speed MCT (multi-clutch as opposed to twin-clutch) transmission and Merc's '4Matic+' all-wheel drive system.
With all that power and grip, you'll crack the ton in a supercar-baiting 3.8 seconds. One little point to note is the engine has active mounts.
Should you fancy turning your tinny into a landspeedboat, you can tow up to 2000kg for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked.
Mercedes reckons you'll get 12.2L/100km on the combined cycle which seems laughable at first and then you see what it actually does. To be fair, the car I drove on the launch copped a hammering and was hovering around the 17.0L/100km, with the start-stop and coasting functions playing only cameo roles.
All GLCs have nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, traffic sign recognition, around-view cameras, reversing camera, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor, forward AEB, forward collision warning 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.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Mercedes Benz offers a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist which is not really up to scratch for a premium brand. Yes, the cars are complex but they're also expensive, so the investment should come with a commensurate warranty.
Service intervals are generous at 12 months/20,000km (as opposed to the 25,000km of other GLCs) and the capped price servicing means you'll know what you're paying.
Mercedes offers you the choice of an up-front payment or pay-as-you-go. Upfront ranges from $4050 for three services, $6100 for four, and $6850 for five.
If you go with PAYG, three services is a hefty $5000. Basically, each service is at least a grand when averaged out over time and that's pricey.
Service inclusions differ between your chosen method, but only slightly. The pricing includes filters, oil and, unusually, spark plugs and brake fluid, but that's small comfort.
Like any V8-powered AMG, the twin-turbo engine absolutely dominates the GLC 63 S. Even at walking speeds you can feel the serious firepower on offer, just a flex of your ankle away.
The figures are colossal - 375kW (over 500 horsepower) and 700Nm pushing around two tonnes of mid-sized SUV. Its famed bark is bettered only by Jaguar's completely unhinged, and surely borderline illegal, 5.0-litre supercharged V8.
You need to know you've got plenty of tech underneath you to make this stick to the road. The 21-inch alloys are wrapped in 265/40s at the front and 295/30s at the back, Continental Cross Contacts if you're interested.
They should - and would - ruin the ride, but the standard fitment of air suspension means that in normal driving, the GLC 63 S is firm but comfortable. A BMW X3 M is much harder, especially at the rear, going without the complex and heavier air set-up.
The air suspension is probably the pivotal piece of chassis tech that makes this car so versatile. While it's got driving modes up the wazoo - including the new 'Slippery' mode - it's a perfectly agreeable daily driver.
Leave it in comfort, accept that it has a firm ride and you're in good shape for the school run or the commute. You just sail along on a light throttle because there is virtually no turbo lag.
Whack it in Race and you can attack your favourite empty, bendy road with all the grip you could ever need.
The steering is remarkably light and direct for such a chunker and the optional carbon ceramic brakes were never bothered by what I could throw at them.
The V8 roars and spits and crackles, the gearbox shifting seamlessly up and down through the ratios. It's blissfully silly.
In a way, it's a velvet fist in an iron glove - comfortable inside but happy to headbutt the horizon with little provocation.
I'd prefer it if the transmission was a bit more decisive on slow speed shifts and you'll have to prepare yourself for a lot of wearying road noise on long trips. The latter is the price you pay for a ton of grip.
Obviously, I had nothing to worry about. The GLC 63 S is the same boisterous, silly car I drove 18 months ago, just with a few new bits to improve the package. As ever, the GLC 63 S is all about the experience - big noise, huge grip but all in comfort with plenty of gadgets.
The only real issues are price, service pricing and the length of the warranty. The first two probably won't bother most owners and one hopes the third won't be problem, but it would be nice if the length was reflected in the price.
If you care about badge, it has impeccable credentials, the AMG stripes and that plate on the engine with the builder's name. They're good credentials. The GLC 63 S has some very determined and capable competition, but none of them blend the speed, overall comfort and sheer sensory silliness of the AMG.
|GLC200||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$56,800 – 71,830||2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2020 GLC200 Pricing and Specs|
|GLC 200||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$58,000 – 73,370||2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2020 GLC 200 Pricing and Specs|
|GLC 200 Sport Edition||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$68,600 – 86,680||2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2020 GLC 200 Sport Edition Pricing and Specs|
|GLC 300 4Matic||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$77,100 – 97,460||2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2020 GLC 300 4Matic Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|