Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 26, 2020
Chances are, the GLC 63 AMG is more SUV than you would ever need, but when it comes to automobiles, needs are wants are things that hardly ever intersect. You need an SUV for its family hauling capabilities, along with a higher seating position, ease of cargo loading, and spacious rear trunk. You want a V8 for the thrills, the way it engages a sense of desire, and the unmistakable noise that accompanies acceleration. In that sense, the GLC 63 AMG is the perfect center of that Venn diagram, the spousal compromise, and the car that does it all. To most, it doesn’t look any different than your run-of-the-mill GLC 300 either parked in front of Whole Foods. And it’s 500 horsepower output gives it legitimate sports car credentials. We sure wouldn’t mind one in our own garage, though the pricey fuel bills, hefty entrance fee, and annoyed neighbours might make others reconsider.
We’ve tested the GLC 63 S before, and declared it one of the most well-rounded performance compact SUVs when put up against the similarly spiced up Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Jaguar F-Pace SVR, BMW X3 M Competition, and Porsche Macan Turbo. 2020 continues with its proven formula and brings subtle changes and tweaks, most of them aesthetic. The new headlights and taillights are the most obvious traits, though are too soft on the eyes and no longer appear as muscular or as butch from the front end. That makes it easy to mistake it for a “lowly” GLC 43, especially when both AMGs now receive the vertical-slat Panamericana front grill, a good or bad thing depending on which camp you fall under: sleeper or shouter.
Pointers to differentiate them? Well, the -63 has meatier wheels, a lower stance, rectangular quad pipes rather than circular, the obvious badging, and the sound. By the heavens the sound. You will notice a GLC 43 as its V6 screeches beside you, but you will hear a 63 before you see it. This AMG is clearly louder and more feral than the Porsche, BMW, and Alfa, though I’d say it’s nearly as bombastic, perhaps a peg or two under, the chainsaw-revving orchestra from the SVR. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video below to hear it for yourself. Keep in mind that ours had the optional AMG Performance Exhaust as well. Also of note, most new -63 Series AMG models come with a feature called Emotion Start, whereby holding the left paddle while pressing the start button will let off a louder and more theatrical start-up roar from the exhaust. Works wonders if you prioritize animosity towards your neighbours, or if a parking lot flex is on the menu. Otherwise, the ignition follows with just a slight bark, a teaser as to what the raucous exhaust can truly offer when its flaps open.
The interior receives a minor update for 2020 as well with an optional digital instrument cluster that replaces the analog dials, a wider center touchscreen brought over from the C-Class, a new start button, and a beautiful three-spoke steering wheel ripped straight off the more expensive GT 63 AMG, replete with knurled metal touchpoints and plastic dials budding out for quick access to dynamic features. These dials feel sturdier and better built than the one in the GT 63 too, though they still squeak under heavy pressing, and are an awkwardly cheap contrast to the top-shelf materials found everywhere else in the interior. Still, you can’t deny that Mercedes makes some damn good looking wheels - have you seen the new design on the recently unveiled E-Class? A masterpiece, but I digress.
This wheel comes with a standard leather wrap, but you can have yours with Alcantara if you opt for the AMG Driver’s Package ($3,300). Carbon fibre is also an option, and that goes for the waterfall-esque center console too. Speaking of which, I’ve ranted about this layout before. It looks sleek when the center cup holder cover is closed, but when it’s open and retracted, which is pretty much all the time since it’s the only rational and accessible area to store your small items, the aesthetic appeal is lost. At least all of the switchgear feels exceedingly premium, decidedly more so than in the Alfa Romeo and Jaguar.
That lovely boombox of an engine is a hand-built 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 found in everything from the C 63 to the E 63. It’s an engine that we are familiar with, and are happy to once again exploit. Canada only receives the top-tier S model, and that means a healthy 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque that is then sent through a 9-speed multi-clutch automatic to all four wheels via its standard 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system. With four wheels clawing for grip, 0-100 km/h comes in a swift 3.8 seconds, credentials that encroach into supercar territory. To put these numbers into perspective, the GLC 63 S is only one-tenths off of the Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe and AMG’s own GT C.
That prodigious power and a massively flat torque curve gives you free reins to explore the powerband and accelerate hard in pretty much any gear. Turbo lag is virtually non-existent too. Found yourself in fifth gear at freeway speed but forgot to downshift? No problem. Floor the throttle and it will dig up enough torque to slingshot you past that pesky left-lane lurker. There’s enough propulsion to make the trees blur real quick. It’s smooth too and exempt from heavy vibrations, likely due to AMG’s use of dynamic engine mounts, exclusive to the 63.
Upshifts are quick, purposeful, and emit a distinctive bark from those signature AMG quad exhausts. In fact, the gearbox is decisive at any speed other than low-speed traffic creeps. We experienced minor lurches and wobbles when slowly accelerating in first gear, like when you’re creeping away after a stop sign. It did not matter which driving mode you were in, though we never really did expect a multi-clutch transmission to be more refined and polished than a standard torque converter. But when driven quickly, that 9-speed really comes alive, and is rewarding in both automatic and manual shifting, a wonderful pairing that maximizes the powertrain’s overwhelming torque and gearbox’s quick reactions.
Gone is the brake-based torque vectoring system in 2020 models and in its place is a new electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. This aids in corner-exit traction, and along with its adaptive and adjustable air suspension, the GLC 63 feels sure-footed regardless of how hard you swing the wheel. No, you’ll never feel like you’re in a C 63 Coupe with the GLC’s elevated center of gravity, but it’s sure as hell close, and every part of the drivetrain and chassis will make you feel just as engaged. Furthermore, the driving position is spot-on for a low-slung SUV, and the sightlines are excellent. And to make the drive even more customizable (or confusing), AMG now offers four new driving modes: Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master, all of which tinker with the stability control, engine-mount stiffness, rear-differential, and torque distribution. You would be hard pressed to notice the nuances between them when bounded by street limits but it’s a nice option to have, and makes for a party piece to show off to passengers.
The ride appears to be softer and slightly more compliant than the previous-gen GLC 63 S that we tested last winter. That could be due to the tires - ours are now rocking Pirelli P Zeros. Impacts are absorbed in an accepting and forgiving manner similar to the Stelvio, and in the GLC’s most comfortable setting, it’s more than usable on a daily basis, whether it's for errand duty or school drop offs. The ride is still stiff when compared to the GLC 300, but the adaptive air suspension and meaty tires means it loses no composure or road compliance just because of its AMG badge.
Whether it’s to fly under the radar or for spousal approval, the GLC 63 S AMG is a riot of an SUV, and possibly more SUV than you would ever need. It’s miles better looking than the hunchback Coupe in our eyes, it wears beautiful 21-inch shoes on all four corners, and an exquisitely hand-built V8 steals the show with a booming exhaust and relentless straight line pull. Those looking to make a splash without the fuss and thirst would be just as satisfied with the cheaper and more economical (if you can even call it that) GLC 43. Those that crave an unfiltered noise and sports car performance rendered in a desirable SUV body, add this to the list of vehicles you never thought you would lust for.
Model: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4MATIC+ SUV
Paint Type: Polar White
Base Price: $93,000
Price as Tested: $112,350
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,679 / 2,096 / 1,625
Curb weight (kg): 2,024
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Horsepower: 503 hp @ 5,500 - 6,250 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 1,750 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 15.7
Tires: Pirelli P Zero