Snap quiz: If I ask you what vehicle has a 503 hp V8 engine capable of 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds with a maximum speed limited at 280 km/h (meaning it could go faster), is your answer a Mercedes-AMG GLC AMG S? Probably not. And yet this two-ton SUV is able to do exactly that. Impressive.
Shaped like an athlete
AMG products literally sweat testosterone, almost. At the last Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes presented a retouched GLC that fits with the current philosophy of giving the brand’s models more homogeneous styling.
The GLC is the first AMG SUV to feature the AMG Panamericana grille, previously seen on the AMG GT family of sports cars and an element that adds a lot of dynamism. Inspired by the design of the plane’s wing, the large front apron with a large air splitter embodies the power of the automaker’s new performance models. By eliminating the fine mesh grid, it makes their cooling technology visible, like F1 cars. At the front and at the back, the wider wheel arches accentuate the muscular styling of the SUV.
New door sill plates lengthen the silhouette and make it feel closer to the road, while matte iridium silver trim adds a distinctive look. The muscular rear is dominated by a wide rear apron and a matte silver iridium diffuser, and the exhaust system ends with two ultra-shiny chrome-plated double end pieces. For the first time, the SUV has a roof spoiler.
It's not only the exterior appearance that is aggressive; the interior follows closely. Front passengers sit in sports seats with a combination of Artico leatherette and Dinamica microfibre. These seats are very snug and also very firm, in the style of a racing seat. Downright excellent for short trips, this AMG model will likely inflict back pain over the course of a day at the wheel.
The dashboard is trimmed in black leatherette with contrasting stitching and a touch of aluminum that add to the sportiness of the environment. The touchpad is framed by AMG's Dynamic Select switch and many AMG-specific controls, for example the three-stage Ride Control suspension button, the three-stage ESP button, and the optional AMG Performance exhaust system.
This year Mercedes has also added the MBUX multimedia system first introduced in the A-Class. All information is available via a 10.25-inch screen.
What an engine
That MBUX and its screen are impressive in their own right, but the centerpiece of the AMG 63 S sits under the hood. The 4.0L twin-turbo 8-cylinder is already in use powering many AMG high-performance vehicles. A technician assembles each engine in the Affalterbach engine factory according to the "one man, one engine" principle. In the S version of the AMG model, it develops 503 horses.
The engine is paired with a 9-speed speedshift transmission specific to AMG models. The driver has faster transition times and improved reaction times. Fast multiple downshifts and dual-clutch function ensure gear shifts that provide a thrilling experience.
The powertrain is so dynamic, it takes a serious dose of courage to crush the accelerator. Fortunately the AWD system keeps you firmly on the ground.
You have the choice of four driving programs - "Comfort", "Sport", "Sport+" and "Individual" - that allow the driver to modify parameters such as engine, transmission, suspension, steering, ESP and AWD. Whichever driving mode is selected, the driver can activate the manual mode by pressing the "M" button to shift gear using only the gearshift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. The suspension settings can also be specially selected as needed.
A race truck
You will not be able to exploit the full potential of a GLC 63 AMG S on a public road unless you are in Germany. However, we can tell you that ramping onto a highway can be done at unbelievable speeds and that passing is a breeze.
It would take a long time to list all the features that keep this vehicle on the road. There’s the three-chamber air suspension that combines dynamism and firmness, but especially the latter. And actually, this is one of the weak point of this SUV. To be able to hold such a beast on the road in the manner of a sports car, Mercedes had to stiffen the settings to the maximum and the ride quality suffers as a result. Even in comfort mode, the slightest hole resonates in your spinal cord. Somehow AMG engineers need to find a way to make the suspension a bit more flexible without sacrificing handling. On our rough roads, the suspension is much too stiff.
It should be said the tires don’t help much. The standard tires are 265/45 R 20 (front) and 295/40 R 20 (rear), mounted on 5-link light-alloy wheels, painted in titanium grey and finished in high gloss. Our test model had forged lighter wheels in sizes 265/40 R 21 at the front and 295/35 R 21 at the rear, reducing comfort even more.
When the road surface is pristine, however, the GLC 63 S behaves like a race car; you can put the throttle all the way coming out of a curve and brake late going into the next one. The engine keeps pace, whatever you do. You never feel like you’re getting anywhere close to the upper limit of this unit, which seems to work almost as if it’s half-asleep, no matter how hard you’re accelerating.
To help keep this beast on the road, there’s the 4Matic all-wheel drive, which also works differently from regular models. Here it’s fully variable, ranging between 100% on the rear wheels to a 50/50 split when road conditions require it. It operates with an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, and it prevents the rear wheel from “turning off”. On the road, the combination proved to be very effective for an optimal use of power.
To be completely honest with you, no one needs to have such a vehicle as this to get around in on our roads. In fact you’ll be constantly frustrated by being able to use only 30% of the potential of the engine; at 120 km/h, you feel like the vehicle is barely moving. But when you catch a freeway ramp or overtake another car by opening the exhaust control valve (optional), you have a sudden infusion of euphoria, and all you want is more. Addictive like a hard drug, this machine is.
As you can see in the photos, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S is available in standard format as well as in four-door-coupe form.
Mad amount of power
Inspiring road grip
We like less
Gluttonous fuel consumption
Sport seats too firm