Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 arrives with V8 va-va-voom
WHEN the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 arrives in Australia next year it will bring V8 va-va-voom to a class that lacks it. None of the competitors for this high-performance, medium-size, premium-price SUV packs this many cylinders.
Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Volvo have, or plan to soon produce, go-fast versions of their respective GLC-size SUVs, the Q5, X3, F-Pace and XC60. All but the Swede are sixes, the potent Volvo XC60 T8 hybrid pairing a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor.
Mercedes-AMG already has the competition pretty well covered with its GLC 43, powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6. The GLC 63 will deliver a hefty increase in performance, courtesy of AMG's thrusty and throaty twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8.
The same basic engine powers the fastest and most expensive versions of the C-Class sedan, Coupe and Cabriolet, the E-Class sedan and every AMG GT sports car.
The GLC 63 adopts the "Panamericana”-style grille so far only seen on the low and loud GT. The vaguely retro-looking array of vertical chrome bars is supposed to call to mind the look of the famed Mercedes road racers from the 1950s. It gives the 63 a face that's different from all other GLCs.
Inside, to set the fastest GLC apart from lesser models, there are sports front seats, aluminium trimmings and a performance steering wheel.
Mercedes-AMG will produce the GLC 63 with 350kW and 375kW versions of the V8, with only the high-output S set for Australia. Its launch is scheduled for about June.
The S engine will deliver searing acceleration - for equally eye-watering prices. Mercedes-AMG claims the GLC 63 S will go from standstill to 100km/h in a sports car-like 3.8 seconds, more than a second quicker than the GLC 43.
But this is precious time; the premium for the 63 S over the 43 will exceed $60,000.
Basic five-door SUV and ungainly and impractical Coupe versions of the GLC will be imported. The former will be priced close to the $164,900 announced by Mercedes-Benz Australia midyear. The Coupe, which looks like a design for a car-like computer mouse that was somehow turned into a full-size vehicle, will be about $171,900.
This price uncertainty exists because Mercedes-Benz Australia decided to make adjustments to standard equipment content. Spokesman David McCarthy promises any consequent increases will be small or negligible.
There's no question that AMG's V8 makes the GLC a damned fast SUV.
With someone in the driver's seat either version of the GLC 63 S weighs, in round figures, two tonnes.
This is a lot of weight but the twin-turbo V8 is an awful lot of engine.
The pair of turbochargers means there's peak torque - as in 700Nm - from quite low in the rev range. That translates to almost effortless hill climbing and easy overtaking with only a little pressure on the accelerator.
It's best to work up gradually to flooring it, because this unleashes acceleration that is truly ferocious. Even on a grey and rainy autumn day in southern Germany, where the GLC 63 S was presented to international media.
The car comes standard with Mercedes-AMG's fine full-time all-wheel drive. Slippery roads simply showed how effectively it works.
Less impressive is AMG's nine-speed automatic, which doesn't always shift as smoothly as it should.
Also standard is a valved exhaust that lets the engine really bellow and crackle when it's working hard in the racier of the vehicle's five driving modes.
But this is a high and heavy SUV, factors that limit its agility, and even Mercedes-size budgets can't rewrite the laws of physics. The GLC 63 S might have sports-car acceleration in a straight line but it's never going to handle like a sports car on a winding road.
The AMG upgrade brings three-chamber air springs all round, adaptive shock absorbers and big brakes.
Especially in soft Comfort driving mode, this SUV feels weighty and unwieldy. Sport, Sport+ and Race modes make the ride progressively firmer, reducing comfort along the way.
They also make the engine and auto feel more eager to please, while opening those exhaust valves to release more of the V8 sound that makes the GLC 63 S unique in its corner of the market.