The Mercedes-Benz GLC now has a black-sheep among its ranks. The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S is borderline ridiculous, but still cool.
I have quite a love-hate relationship with Mercedes-AMG. Over the years, I’ve gone from loving the AMG SLS, E 63 and SL 63 to being dismayed with the AMG GT, E 43 and now, I can add the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S to this list. Somewhere in the last five years, Mercedes and AMG mixed the wrong ends of their DNA but there seems to be a shift afoot.
As I write these lines, I’m reviewing what I think is bar-none the best-balanced Mercedes-AMG car you can buy, the C 43 wagon. While my review on this AMG will be glowing, for the most part, I can’t quite promise the same for the new 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S… This powerhouse of an SUV is too much.
The cost of managing the power
It’s strange to write “too much” as I find one aspect to be not enough. Let’s get right into it. The GLC’s multi-clutch AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9-speed (and not the 9G-TRONIC as I mentioned in my video) is one-dimensioned. That is to say that under hard acceleration, it pounds away at gears with disconcerting speed and precision. Unfortunately, under normal traffic-laden driving conditions, it’s notchy, jerky and the clutch pack requires far too many instants to build up pressure under light throttle application. As well, there’s not Sport mode for the transmission, only Normal and Manual, which would normally “pre-load” the internal systems and negate the delays.
This is where the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S fails – it’s a barely passable ally for daily driving. While the transmission if far too eager to race, the chassis and attached suspension are also more interested in proving how good they are than chilling. The included AMG Sport Suspension with Air Body Control is dialled principally for all-out handling with little left for actual damping and comfort.
This is especially true over rough roads which seriously distresses the GLC. Some mild ruts actually caused the cowl and dashboard to make cracking noises, even the sunroof complained on a few occasions. This is what strikes me as most upsetting. This is a Mercedes product and it should not suffer these issues. I suspect that the oversized brakes, tires and wheels are in part responsible for this. When compressed and under load however, the suspension brilliantly copes with weight transfers, levelling the GLC 63 S for impressive and awe-inspiring grip. The 41mm wider front track makes the most of steering as well.
Then, there’s this hand-built 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 up front that wants nothing more than to break free from the confines of the engine and reach for the moon. With a whopping 503-horsepower (5,500-6,250 rpm) and 516 lb.-ft. or torque between 1,750-4,500 rpm, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S is skull-crushingly quick. It’ll reach 100 km/h in only 3.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of going-straight-to-jail-no-trial. Just before getting collared, the sweet melody of the optional AMG Performance Exhaust System (a must) will make you think you’re uncatchable.
The AMG Performance 4MATIC+ AWD system manages the tsunami of power without hesitation, or delay, unlike the transmission. Depending on drive modes with the Dynamic Select and driving conditions and demands, the system can send 100% of the power to the rear putting the AMG electronic limited-slip rear differential to very good use.
AMG attitude in droves
Physically, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S oozes AMG attitude. The AMG Panamericana grille certainly grabs attention and the remainder of the SUV, especially the wheels, holds it until the GLC is nothing more than a speck on the horizon. The cabin is very much GLC with a few touches, namely the steering wheel and in the case of my tester, the Burmester audio system, the silver belts and the AMG performance seats.
The GLC 63 S’ price also grabs attention. The “base” unit begins at $90,500 and with options such as the AMG Night Package, Performance seats, Premium package, trailer hitch and more, my tester topped out at just over $111,000. I get it that if you can afford it, this is essentially the ultimate performance SUV, but it’s both too much and too little. All this power cannot be really put to good use unless the GLC is put on a track and too little comfort, in most respects.
The AMG GLC 43 is perfect
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, on the other hand, provides a perfect blend of speed, styling, content and refinement. With a starting price of $62,500, with a few choice options, under $73,000, it has all the prestige, most of the power and plenty of comfort. If you’re in the segment, make sure to look at the Porsche Macan S and the BMW X3 M40i. Both are impressive.