REVIEW: This Mercedes SUV is very much a sports car

Big engine, big price tag for new AMG GLC 63S

The European automotive branding used to be simple: Mercedes stood for world-class luxury, BMW for high performance, Audi for understated elegance, and Volvo for safety.

But these days, the definitions and meanings behind these brands are no longer simple to categorize. In fact, nowadays BMW seems to have moved towards softer, luxury feel while Mercedes has successfully evolved into a performance player, changing forever the old meaning behind these marques. For that matter, other European brands like Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover are not even European owned any longer.

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Mercedes-Benz started its performance streak back in 1999 with the debut of the ML55 SUV, based on the ML. Combining the versatility of an SUV with a high-performance engine and chassis opened up a whole new market segment for Mercedes. While BMW and Audi have their performance-enhanced sub-brands too (BMW’s “M” and Audi’s “RS” nametags), Mercedes’ AMG brands have gone a step beyond these competitors.

The GLC 63S is the only vehicle in its segment to be run by an eight cylinder bi-turbo engine. This advanced and powerful engine is balanced by the practicality of an SUV: lots of safety features, excellent handling and traction in any weather and terrain, and ample and luxurious room for passengers and cargo. The GLC 63S, available in both the traditional SUV format and the slightly “curvy” Coupe version, blurs the distinction between a sports sedan and SUV simply because of its massive power, torque, and sports-car-like performance.

Design

At a starting price point of $90,500 MSRP for the “regular” GLC 63S and a few thousand dollars more for the Coupe, you can imagine how much upscale features are part of the GLC 63S. The cabin features all the accoutrements of the AMG name including AMG instrumentation and an AMG Racetimer, as well as optional Nappa leather performance steering wheel and red or silver seat belts. The cabin is performance-focused, but with an indulgent, luxury feel.

2019 Mercedes AMG Console03.JPG
The cabin of the GLC 63S is performance-focused but it also includes all the advanced features and indulgent touches you’d expect in a luxury SUV. photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

The exterior is described by Mercedes-Benz as “Aggressively Elegant” – whatever that means.  But honestly, this vehicle screams performance thanks to AMG vertical-bar Panamericana grille - which was previously only used for the AMG GT line of sports cars – and sporty profile flanked by the latest AMG-style wheels. The wide front bumper is inspired by the design of a powerful jet wing, and wider arches and the front and rear appear muscular and athletic.

Thanks in part to a panoramic sunroof and privacy glass, the cabin feels airy and safe. Also standard are power front seats with memory, illuminated front door sills and dual-zone automatic climate control, to name some of the extensive list of items.

Technology features inside the vehicle are impressive, including an advanced seven-inch colour display which is managed using a touchpad controller. Heads-Up Display, Burmester Surround Sound, Linguatronic voice control, and a Wi-Fi Hotspot are a few other interesting features.   There are almost two dozen standard safety features included in the base model, and another dozen if you add on the Lighting and Intelligent Drive package.

Performance

Under the hood of the GLC 63S is an imposing engine built under the AMG philosophy of “one man - one engine.” Because each engine is hand-crafted by a master technician, the 4.0-litre V-8 bi-turbo engine is able to produce a whopping 503 horsepower and impressive 516 foot-pounds of torque. The transmission is an AMG nine-speed Speedshift which is lightning quick. This vehicle can accelerate from 0-100 kilometres per hour in 3.8 seconds, surpassing the performance of many authentic sports cars and reaching the levels of Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

2019 Mercedes AMG11.JPG
Mercedes claims that each AMG engine is hand-crafted by a master technician. The engine in this SUV is a 503 h.p. beast. photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

The drive configuration is the AMG Performance 4MATIC+ AWD (full time all-wheel drive), and it runs on a four-link front and five-arm multilink rear adaptive air suspension setup. While there is an ECO Start/Stop system, there is also a Race Start Function – meaning that whatever your driving pleasure, you can easily choose.

Keep in mind that this beast is more like a sports car than an SUV, in either version. In comparison to its direct competitor, the Porsche Macan Turbo, the GLC 63S feels even tighter and faster, with no-holds-barred feel around corners and S-curves. The Mercedes is significantly sportier than the cheaper Audi SQ5 or BMW X3 M40i too, but for everyday driving the GLC 63S may be overkill. One thing that you might or might not like is its exhaust, which delivers an unmistakable, powerful sound that you can’t miss – but it could be considered too much and too loud for those looking for serene drives.

Another option is to go for the tamer and cheaper model called the GLC 43 because it perhaps delivers a more city-friendly driving feel. It produces less power and less performance, but it’s still an amazing vehicle and provide a better balance between everyday driving and total performance.

Summary

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63S starts from $90,500 MSRP for the standard SUV shape version and $92,300 for the sleeker Coupe model – both prices can go up significantly with more options. There are six add-on packages to make your GLC 63S even more rewarding – but also more expensive. One thing that is included free-of-cost is three years of “Mercedes me connect” and assist services. This includes remote start and lock/unlock, vehicle status, parked vehicle locator, software updates, accident recovery, remote diagnostics, etc.

If you always wanted a true German sports car but absolutely need space for family and work, the GLC 63S can fill both shoes with ease and elegance.

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