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When Mercedes-AMG rolled out the GLC43 SUV last year with a 362-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6, we were amazed by its performance. It ripped down the German Autobahn and tackled back roads like a champ, but do you really think the mad scientists at AMG were satisfied with leaving it at that?
Of course not, which brings us to the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63. It follows the familiar formula of implementing subtle styling tweaks for a more menacing appearance, totally unnecessary amounts of power and even sharper handling.
The first part of the 63 equation is immediately noticeable on a cool, damp morning in a Stuttgart, Germany airport parking lot. The toothy Panamericana grille from the AMG GT sports cars sits prominently up front, making the GLC63 the first Mercedes-AMG outside of the GT to wear it. Toughening looks further are more aggressive bumpers, wider wheel arch claddings, beefier side sills, roof spoiler and optional 21-inch wheels. For a five-passenger SUV, it's not bad to look at.
Once behind the wheel, a press of the engine start button brings a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 howling to life, packing 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is capable of sending 100 percent of its power to the rear wheels or varying the torque split between the fore and aft axles for a max 50:50 split depending on conditions.
With all that, expect a 0-to-60 time of around 3.7 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 174 mph. Fuel economy numbers won't be available until closer to its mid-2018 on-sale date, but if you are really concerned about those figures, chances are you aren't in the market for a -63 AMG anyway.
For US customers who are salivating over the idea of a GLC SUV with north of 500 horsepower, they're out of luck, because Benz isn't bringing the S version of the SUV here. Instead, only the base GLC63 is coming, packing only 469 ponies, 479 pound-feet of twist and a 0-to-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds. However, the GLC63 Coupe will be offered in both base and S variants.
Airport traffic shuts down any ideas of opening things up immediately, but it provides the opportunity to see how the GLC63 is in conditions it likely will see on a regular basis in consumer hands. Through stop-and-go motoring, it feels docile with the mode switch set to Comfort. Throttle response is swift, while the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission swaps gears with no hesitation when launching from standstills. A cushy ride from the softened adaptive shocks and air springs make it a pleasant daily driving stead.
An entrance ramp leading to an open expressway signals that it's time to drop the hammer. After toggling the mode switch to Sport Plus, firmly shoving the throttle fires the GLC onto the motorway. Speed builds effortlessly as the muscle car-like exhaust note serves as fitting background noise and crackles when you breathe off the right pedal. At speed, things are solid and quiet, requiring a vigilant eye on the speedometer since it's easy to obliterate speed limits without knowing.
Exiting the expressway gets me to more interesting sections of pavement to push the GLC63 harder, but not too hard in the wet conditions. Through gradual and tighter curves, the SUV is quick to turn in with hardly any body roll, and it claws around corners with lots of grip and composure. Reflexes are even more impressive considering the winter tires installed on the car.
Steering has a dead spot on-center in Sport Plus, but is firm and responsive everywhere else. For those who completely detest numb on-center steering, Race mode eliminates it, tuning in heavier steering weight and putting the drivetrain and suspension in max attack mode. For the street, Race is a tad too hyper, with jumpy throttle tip-in, high gearbox shift points and overly heavy steering. Sport is the ideal middle ground between performance and comfort for regular driving.
AMG sport seats keep front passengers comfortable and secure in a cabin lined with a generous amount of artificial leather and aluminum trim. Front and rear seating quarters are spacious, while the cargo area provides approximately 20 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and grows to 56.5 cubic feet with the seats down.
Standard infotainment centers around a 7-inch center display controlling a crisp-sounding Burmester surround sound audio system with satellite radio. There's also an optional 8.4-inch system with navigation and a touchpad controller that's easy to work through and quickly pages between menus. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities are also available at an additional cost with a smartphone integration package.
On the safety front, all GLC63s come with a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking. There are a number of optional features, too, like Benz's excellent Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera and a cross-traffic assist that engages max braking if it detects an impending collision with a vehicle approaching from the side.
When the GLC63 SUV hits dealers in the middle of next year to battle the Porsche Macan Turbo, Benz says the only V8-powered entry in the segment will start in the low $60,000 range. The swoopier GLC63 Coupe will carry a premium over its SUV brethren with a base price in the low-to-mid $70,000 area. If you sign up for the full-bore GLC63 S Coupe, expect to cough up about $80,000 to start.
The good news is that horsepower hungry consumers shopping the GLC model range now have a few options to consider. And for that we can thank AMG for not leaving good enough alone in the GLC43 and creating more 63 performance monsters.