2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63

While other companies have dabbled in sticking big V-8s into their compact sports sedans, Mercedes-AMG was doing it years before—and it is the only brand that has hung on to the bent-eight in that segment. We shouldn’t be surprised, seeing as AMG made its bones putting eights into engine bays built for sixes and, more recently, V-12s in place of eights. Just as the rest of the industry has fully embraced downsizing, Mercedes-Benz’s in-house hot-rod shop is bucking trends by stuffing a V-8 into its second-from-smallest SUV family, which includes the GLC and the GLC coupe. Do what you know, right?

Top Power in the Turtleback

In the case of the GLC63 and its coupe variant, AMG brought powertrain parts from two other 63s into the body styles du jour. The twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 is a direct transplant from the C63 family of sedan, coupe, and convertible. In the standard GLC63, it churns up 469 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque, the latter in a friendly plateau from 1750 rpm to 4500 rpm. Step up to the S model and output rises to 503 horsepower and 516 lb-ft, a configuration limited on our shores to the coupe body style. We’re not sure why German manufacturers insist on labeling such four-door hatchback vehicles as coupes—SUVs like these (also see: BMW X4) look to us more like turtles than sleek two-door conveyances.

The other organ donor is the E63 S supersedan, which contributes its nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system. A multiplate clutch pack takes the place and role of a torque converter to minimize shift times and powertrain losses, while the clutch-pack front-axle coupler can deliver as much as 60 percent of available torque forward. In most scenarios, though, the GLC63 is strongly biased toward rear-wheel drive, and we definitely felt that on our rain-soaked drive through southern Germany—especially in the GLC63 S coupe, with its rear wheels breaking loose at even modest speed through a switchback, a slide further exaggerated by the country’s legal requirement mandating winter tires come October (such tires are notoriously lousy in the wet). GLC63 S buyers get an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, while non-S models make do with a standard LSD. Dynamic engine mounts also are standard fare.

The one thing that doesn’t carry over from the E63 is drift mode. If you can’t find a flavor you like among the Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual settings, then maybe you’d prefer the Race mode found only in the coupe, which pegs calibrations at maximum aggression for the engine, transmission, suspension, stability control, and all-wheel drive. Comfort mode seemed perfectly suited for the conditions during our drive. As we’ve found with the other GLC variants, particularly the twin-turbo V-6–powered GLC43 in both its coupe and standard configurations, there is more DNA from the C-class cars than the G-class utility. The GLC63 drives and behaves much like a car—and is basically the closest we will ever get in this country to a C63 wagon—and it should prove quite popular for that reason alone.

AMG-Ing All the Things

Suspending the ute’s roughly 4500 pounds (the S model is a little heavier) are multilink setups front and rear fitted with air springs and adaptive dampers. Germany’s near-perfect roads didn’t give us insight into the compliance of the suspension, but we can tell that the chassis is firm and the body stiff. The multi chamber air springs allow drive modes to adjust not only damping but also spring rates, which should keep roll in check.

Inside, the GLC63 is pretty standard for AMG. The S model is distinguished by a contrasting mark at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel, but all versions get faux-suede seat inserts. Carbon-fiber trim is optional inside. There also is a carbon-fiber exterior package and an AMG Night package with high-gloss black trim bits. AMG’s awesomely supportive performance seats are available as part of the AMG Performance Studio option, which also brings a full-leather interior.

Just How Rapid is this Transit?

What is clear is that the GLC63 S coupe is going to be megaquick. Mercedes acknowledges that the Porsche Macan Turbo is its only true competitor at the moment. The Audi SQ5 and the Jaguar F-Pace are outgunned—almost comically so—by more than 100 horses, although we don’t doubt both of those will soon visit the armory for an upgrade. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio should keep pace and may be on sale by the time we get the GLC63. AMG claims the GLC63 S coupe can hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, which is the same time we wrung out of the Macan Turbo with the Performance package. We regularly outperform Mercedes’s estimates by a few tenths, so we’re expecting the base GLC63 models to match the Porsche and the S coupe to blast to 60 in 3.6 seconds and gallop through a quarter-mile in less than 12 seconds. All of this is aided by launch control, of course.

In case you are wondering, all the advanced safety technology you can throw at a car will be available here, too. To us, until Level 5 autonomy and reading the Times on our morning commute becomes the norm, all this sometimes-hands-off, automatic-braking, steering-me-to-the-safest-route, electro-tomfoolery are mostly fancy parlor tricks. We’ll keep control of our cars as long as we can, thank you. Luckily, the GLC63 is one for people who actually like to drive.