I've long been a fan of AMG's desire to shove powerful engines into every vehicle Mercedes-Benz can devise. I'm also a big fan of the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, a compact luxury crossover that has risen to capture the automaker's sales crown. Combine those two things, and everything should be gravy, right?
Earlier this year, I had a chance to test the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe -- the most powerful GLC variant on the market -- on fresh roads in the wild forests of Germany, and I walked away impressed and intrigued. Now, though, after a week on my home turf, it's clear that I may have missed the forest for the trees.
Call me a skeptic, but I highly doubt that many GLC63 S Coupe owners will take their vehicles to the racetrack. Should they? Absolutely -- most of this car's performance can only be utilized when pesky laws and regulations are cast aside in favor of striped curbing and long straightaways. With a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 pumping 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels, it's hard not to look at my lack of autobahns in Michigan and pine for a place to meld throttle and firewall.
The GLC63 S Coupe feels ready to rumble at all times. Engage the start button, and that eight-cylinder engine roars to life in a way usually reserved for small, agile sports cars. That basso profundo grumble breaks into a proper howl at higher revs, and the body stays surprisingly flat when thrown into a corner just a bit faster than might be suggested. It wants to dance, and it practically begs the driver to lead, even on a quick trip to the grocery store.
That's all well and good, but there are times when I just don't want to do the Watusi. That's when the GLC63 S Coupe looks at me like a confused dog. This car doesn't understand the concept of sedation, or any state of being that doesn't resemble the 💯 emoji, for that matter.
I'll walk you through some examples of how that can be annoying, or downright undesired. As far as I've experienced, I can pull away from a stop sign at either a crawl or a sprint, nothing in between. Try to find a middle ground, and the car will lurch and stutter as the nine-speed automatic transmission's multiplate clutch prefers to shift at either 1,500 or 4,500 rpm. Changing vehicle modes doesn't help much, especially when sportier modes tell the gas pedal to be touchier. Using manual shifting does alleviate some of this, but launches are almost always herky-jerky and nobody should be forced to handle their own shifts at all times.
And heaven forbid you realize you need more forward motion once the shifting has already started, at which point the vehicle feels just about as confused as I do. Does the transmission shift quickly? Yes, and it feels just as sharp as some of the best dual-clutch units on the market, but it has absolutely zero chill. It's a little jarring on the way back down to a stop, as well, especially when sliding into second and first gears. Thankfully, the brakes have at least some calmness to them, stopping firmly when required but with a smooth progression.
There's also the matter of the suspension. The adaptive air suspension on all four corners is impressive at speed, keeping the body nice and steady when the going gets twisty, even in its base Comfort mode. That feeling, however, comes with the tradeoff of being just a bit too harsh for daily driving, transferring more motion into the cabin than I'd like. Some of that undoubtedly comes from my tester's optional 21-inch wheels ($2,250). Knowing just how supple other iterations of Mercedes' air suspension can be, I'm left wanting for some semblance of comfort.
The EPA has, at the time of writing, not published fuel economy estimates for the 2020 GLC63 S Coupe. I see a combined figure of about 16 miles per gallon, which is lower than the pre-refresh 2019 model's EPA-estimated 18 mpg combined and not at all surprising.
The GLC63 S, then, is that one guy who doesn't realize when the party is winding down. Yeah, dude, we all had a real fun time tonight, but I don't want to do shots at sunrise -- I wanted to go to bed three hours ago.
Aesthetics are subjective, and rarely do I levy invective at an automaker for questionable styling decisions, but I need to pause here and address what might be the most absurd body piece I've ever seen on a car. The GLC63 S Coupe has a mandatory spoiler on the back that couldn't look more like a flat-brim cap if it had a New Era sticker slapped on it. It's hard to roll up anywhere classy and not feel a little out of place, even though I'm arriving in a near-six-figure Mercedes. At least make it optional.
The rest of the GLC63 S Coupe's aesthetics are actually pretty great. The automaker's "Panamericana" grille looks lovely, displaying its vertical chromed slats prominently above an equally sporty front bumper. The rakish roofline works well with the rest of the body, leading to an aesthetically pleasing rear end that's capped off with four trapezoidal cannon-lookin' tailpipes. Even without my tester's upsized wheels, I'd say the GLC63 S Coupe's look is cohesive and stylish.
Some coupe-overs end up making large sacrifices in the name of comfort, but not this one. That sloped silhouette still leaves plenty of headroom for adults in the second row, and unless you're stocking the cargo area to the ceiling on the regular, you probably won't notice the reduced capacity over the long-roof GLC. Its only real negative is that it all but eliminates rearward visibility, but that's what cameras and sensors are for these days.
The latest iteration of Mercedes-Benz's corporate interior design is fabulous. The dashboard is low, offering excellent forward visibility alongside a smattering of physical switches for the infotainment and climate controls. The optional wireless device charger ($200) hangs out behind the cupholders, hinting that maybe phones are best left secured during the drive. The center console cubby is deep enough for plenty of junk storage, and the same goes for the door-panel cutouts. The "floating" infotainment screen might not be everyone's cup of tea but integrating it into the dash would require a higher beltline, eating into that forward visibility. The seats are supportive without being annoyingly tight.
Mercedes-Benz's latest in-car technology is among the best in the luxury segment, and considering the GLC-Class was refreshed for the 2020 model year, its latest and greatest is on display here.
The old Comand system has been ditched in favor of Mercedes-Benz's new MBUX system. Living on a 10.25-inch dashboard screen, it can be manipulated in three different ways -- touching the screen itself, the right thumbpad on the steering wheel or the flat touchpad on the center console. The graphics are sharp, the responsiveness is top-tier and MBUX blissfully reduces the menu-on-submenu density of the old system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are onboard, too. The embedded digital assistant is a nice touch, but it pipes into the cabin upon just about every utterance of the word "Mercedes," which is probably more annoying for reviewers than civilians.
Additional system flexibility comes by way of a standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Using the left thumbpad on the steering wheel, I can change just about every facet of this screen, replacing the tachometer with a full navigation map while simultaneously displaying additional vehicle information in the middle area. No matter how I like my data arranged, MBUX can make it happen, reducing distraction along the way. Throw in the optional head-up display ($1,100), and most of the time I don't even need to look at the main infotainment screen. When it comes time to charge, USB ports abound, but iPhone users might need to upgrade to a new cable, as all the front-row ports are the smaller USB-C variety.
On the safety front, standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, in addition to a federally mandated backup camera with some of the best fidelity in the industry. My tester heaps even more tech on the pile with the $1,700 Driver Assistance Package, which adds full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, route-based speed adaptation and lane-change assist. This hands-on system is mighty capable and great for reducing the tedium that comes with a work commute, especially in a car as sensitive to input as the GLC63 S Coupe. If you love driving more than anything else, it might be worth overlooking to save a few bucks, but it definitely comes in handy.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe starts at an eye-watering $84,100, and with a smattering of aesthetic and technical upgrades, my tester rings in at $96,425, which is a bitter pill to swallow for a compact SUV.
My ideal spec is... well, I'd love to tell you, but Mercedes-Benz has not launched its online configurator as of this writing, and there isn't a perfect translation between the 2019 and 2020 models. That said, I would ditch my tester's upgraded paint ($1,080), the carbon fiber interior ($975), the larger wheels ($2,250), microfiber steering wheel ($100) and the brushed aluminum running boards ($650). I would retain the head-up display, three-zone climate control ($760), wireless device charging, locking wheel bolts ($150), AMG puddle lamps ($275), as well as the driver assistance package, the surround-view camera system ($1,290) and the LED headlights with adaptive high beams ($800).
That brings my out-the-door price to $91,370 including destination, which is more palatable but still palatial.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC63 used to be in a class all its own, as its output was well above the Audi SQ5, while BMW had no hi-po compact crossover whatsoever. That's changed this year, though, with the introduction of the X3 M and X4 M, which are positioned to compete directly with the GLC63 lineup. Competition from American and Japanese vehicles remains nonexistent, but on the Italian front, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV is a worthy contender that could also stand to exercise some chill.
While I might be a little sour on the GLC63 S Coupe's daily drivability, I recognize its existence as a full-on performance crossover, and in that light alone, this utility vehicle is a monster. The GLC63 S Coupe is a no-holds-barred performer, offering up a whole bunch of fun in a small package that, thankfully, doesn't compromise much on interior space. So long as you're ready for Andrew W.K. levels of partying all the time, the GLC63 S Coupe will match that enthusiasm.