In a world where the very notion of shoving a supercar derived V8 into a compact CUV would typically cause the politically correct to throw their hands up in protest, we are glad that there are a few outliers in the industry that are willing to throw a wrench into this thinking. One of them is Mercedes-Benz and the AMG performance sub-brand which has been on a roll over the last few years thanks to its impressive lineup of performance focused offerings. Our first taste was the flagship G63 AMG SUV which was out to show the world that the iconic moniker still had the goods when it came to both performance and luxury thanks in no small part to the 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 lurking under the hood. But all of this performance and style comes with an equally massive price tag, and that helps keep it out of reach for some buyers. Thankfully, AMG has other performance SUVs in its stable of talent, and one of these is the 2020 GLC63 AMG. But can the GLC63 successfully marry some of the performance that we have come to love and enjoy in bigger offerings with a smaller package? We were eager to find out.
A Dynamic Canvas That Rejects Subtlety:
The 2020 model year brings a whole suite of updates to the GLC63 AMG that aim to improve things inside and out. The exterior for example features a number of improvements that help bring more cohesion and precision to the basic design. This includes a revised front fascia that features a reworked front grille, tweaked lower bumper, and standard LED headlights. Our black hued tester further enhances the sinister vibes that the canvas projects, and the whole presentation really shines when the GLC is driven at night. The side profile features tweaked lower sills as well as bigger wheels that greatly enhance the profile of the Benz when out and about. The lone weak spot here is the rear of the GLC63, and while the trapezoidal quad exhaust tips with AMG emblems on each tip are a nice touch. The taillights look a bit too plain, and the equally dull looking liftgate clashes with the rest of the look, at least in our eyes. That minor quirk aside, this is the meanest GLC that you can buy for the money, and it is also the only two-box version you can get too. Buyers looking to step up to the more powerful “S” variant can only get it in the four door coupe body style which sacrifices some functionality for the sake of slightly better aerodynamics and a sloping roofline. The standard body in our opinion is the more attractive and functional choice, and we hope the Benz will eventually bring the “S” package to this body style too to help balance things out.
When viewed against competitors, the rowdy Benz outshines the more conservative Audi SQ7 and the BMW X3 M in the styling department. Only the Porsche Macan manages to outplay it here in this regard, but this is still a very strong showing for the GLC, and we think that AMG buyers will happily agree with us in saying that it is perhaps one of the most versatile designs in AMG’s performance arsenal.
Sports Car Interior Wows The Senses:
When you slip inside the interior of the GLC63 AMG, you will be forgiven if you get confused for a moment, and think you slipped into the wrong car. That was exactly how we felt when we entered the cabin of our tester, which has a strong character and an equally purposeful design that makes you think of some of AMG’s sports car offerings. While it is a few notes short of matching the truly exotic environment found in the AMG GT coupe, it still does a pretty good impression of an E63, and that helps make the cabin a very welcoming place to spend time in. The GLC63 still has plenty of room for you and your friends, but the presentation is more car like, and it thankfully lacks some of the typical CUV cliches. The AMG sport seats for example are very supportive, and feature a tasteful mixture of MB-TEX and Alcantara to hold you firmly in place when it comes time to take the car through its paces. Material quality is top notch, and while the cabin is not the most modern space in the AMG model family, you would be hard pressed to spot its age after you have a moment to take a look around and fully appreciate your surroundings.
The flat bottomed AMG steering wheel feels great in the hands, and it is also slathered in the perfect balance of leather and Alcantara. The wheel itself also steals a few tricks from the GT, and comes with new digital infused controls for both the stability control system as well as the various driving modes. Each of the latter has a different color, and the GLC does a good job of distinctively altering its character for whatever mode you choose. Our tester featured the latest iteration of Mercedes Benz’s MBUX system, and the system itself was a mixed bag. On the one hand, we liked how little lag there was between inputs, and the newly control pad for the system is far more accurate and precise than ever before. It even features a handy drawing pad that lets you draw out letters to help you find locations or contacts in your phone book easier. On the other side of the coin, there were instances where we had to go through a few extra steps to make our way back to the home menu when leaving certain functions, and the voice command prompts would occasionally make unwanted visits when certain words were said, which would prematurely pause the tunes that we were listening to through the excellent Burmester premium surround sound system.
Technology gremlins aside, our tester made up for it by showing just how versatile it could be as a people and cargo hauler. rear passengers have good amounts of legroom to stretch out and relax, and the rear cargo area offers 17.6 cubic feet of space with the seats up which is plenty of space for groceries and other cargo. For bulkier items, folding down the rear seat further expands this figure to 40.6 cubic feet, and that allows it to swallow some very bulky cargo (including a massive load of boxes that had to be dropped off during a visit to my parent’s house. Visibility is quite good, but as is the case with other performance SUVs we encountered, the thick rear pillars do create sizable blind spots, so some care is needed when undertaking passing maneuvers or parking the GLC63 in certain parking areas.
The Ultimate Insane-UV:
But while the ability to haul passengers and cargo are two key requirements for SUVs, anything that wears the iconic AMG badge must have the performance credentials to back up their high price tags. In the case of the GLC63 AMG that comes from a handcrafted twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 that also sees duty in the G63 AMG as well as a slew of other AMG offerings. Unlike the fore-mentioned G63, it is de-tuned slightly, but it still brings an impressive 469 horsepower to the fray, as well as 479 lb-ft fo torque. These figures allowed our tester to rocket its way to 60 mph in a brisk 3.8 seconds, and the engine is arguably the real gem in this package. This is due to its monstrous performance figures, as well as the sweet and delightfully evil sounds that burst out of the exhaust tips when the SUV is placed into Sport or Sport Plus modes. There is also a Race mode, but that mode is a bit too aggressive for everyday driving, so its best to leave that one for the track. Placing our tester in Comfort and Eco mode does rob it of some of its eagerness, but we recommend using comfort mode only in heavily pock marked sections of town to help avoid some of the back breaking punishment that the stiff suspension can bring when it is left in Sport or Sport Plus modes. A nine speed automatic is mated to the engine, and it does a good job of being a very compelling dance partner. Shifts are lighting quick, and it always knows what gear you need, with the transmission happily kicking down a gear or two when you need to squirt into a lane on the freeway, or catch an oncoming off-ramp, but settling down nicely into a higher gear for quiet interstate cruising.
Handling in our tester is also one of the best that we have ever experienced, with the stiff suspension and the fat winter tires on our example doing a great job of providing ample amounts of feedback and poise to the driver. The steering is perfectly weighted, and it really opens up when placed into Sport or Sport Plus mode which helps deliver agility that will blur the laws of physics. Our tester literally felt like a AMG GT that is wearing a very convincing pair of stilts, and that’s not a bad thing, considering the insane amount of cornering forces that it can produce when asked nicely. This playful demeanor also allows it to be within striking distance of others in its segment including the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifolglio, and even the long and elaborately named Land Rover Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic. Braking in our tester was also very strong, and stops were smooth and controlled from a wide variety of vehicle speeds.
Pricing for any AMG model will usually occupy areas surpassing $50,000, but in this rarified segment, the GLC63 AMG in non “S” guise is actually a very tempting bang for the buck candidate. Pricing for the base GLC63 starts at $73,350 which puts it squarely in the crosshairs of other super SUV entries especially those from BMW and Audi. Our moderately optioned tester had a final sticker of $79,705 which is just shy of the $80,000 barrier, and it also undercuts a few of its rivals. The BMW X3 Competition for example has a higher $76,900 base sticker with options easily pushing the price past $85,000. The BMW also does not have a V8, with all M grade X3s being equipped with a M tweaked 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline six. While it does make more power than our tester, it also lacks the soundtrack and some of the raw fury that only a V8 can deliver.
The Audi SQ7 also wields a twin-turbocharged V8, but matching cylinders with the Benz means a higher price tag for buyers, with base SQ7 models starting at $84,800. The SQ7 is also bigger than the GLC and this extra size might not jive well with buyers that need something a bit smaller for everyday commuting especially in small cities. As mentioned, buyers looking for more power can step up to the GLC63 AMG “S” model, but pricing here starts at just over $80,000 and you lose the traditional SUV shape in lieu of a more coupe-ish appearance.
With a snarling V8, sports car like driving manners, and a distinct personality all of its own, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC63 AMG SUV is certainly a jack of all trades. While not as outrageous as the G63 AMG, the smaller GLC manages to make far better use of its extra power, and its other-worldly handling behavior makes you come back for more when pushing it through the corners. It also is sufficient for the bulk of enthusiasts, and we are glad to know that the “S” is always around for those that want to add a pinch of something extra to the driving experience.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.