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First drive: Merc-AMG GLC63 S sets new benchmark

Quit horsing around: The GLC63 S has more grip than its C63 S stablemate thanks to a 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system that helps the mid-size SUV accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 3.8 seconds.

Mercedes’ V8 GLC63 S SUV poised to steal AMG sales crown away from sedan siblings


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10 Nov 2017


MERCEDES-AMG’S new force-fed V8-powered GLC63 is in prime position to take advantage of shifting buyer preferences to SUVs and is a strong contender to take the top spot as the performance division’s best-selling model in Australia.

Speaking to Australian journalists at the GLC63’s international first drive, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said the latest AMG-fettled model could overtake the current top-selling C43 mid-size sedan and estate and second place C63 as customers move away from passenger cars and into SUVs.

“Looking at how GLC43 is selling,” he said. “I think over time when you look at how the trend is going in the market, GLC could potentially overtake C-Class.

“Sedans are – not so much declining – but they are not growing at the same rate.

“SUVs and pick-ups are really what a lot of people are buying.”

However, Mr McCarthy said the introduction of the GLC63 would not draw buyers away from the C63, instead the mid-size performance SUV would likely add incremental volume to AMG’s total.

“They’re very different cars, I mean GLC is all-wheel drive, the C63 is not,” he said.

“You’ve got a choice, you’ve got a sedan, you’ve got a coupe, you’ve got an estate, you’ve got a GLC Coupe and a GLC wagon, so you’ve actually got a very wide choice.

“Perhaps someone who is looking for an estate might consider an SUV or an SUV coupe, I don’t see a sedan buyer going to an SUV, they buy a sedan because that’s what they want.”

Although pricing was revealed in July at $164,900 before on-roads for the five-door wagon and $171,900 for the Coupe, Mr McCarthy said final pricing and specification is still to be locked in before its mid-2018 showroom debut.

“(Pricing is) probably going to change a little bit, not much,” he said. “We’re still finalising the equipment, (but) there won’t be much variance, if any.

“We just need to get the pricing re-approved as we include the extra kit.

“All the pricing we have to get it signed off by Stuttgart, we’ve given an indication but it’s really going to depend on what kit we put in and what else becomes available.”

In terms of availability of the flagship GLC, Mr McCarthy said stock is also expected to be readily available with pre-orders already “well into the double digits”.

“You try to have enough cars in stock to satisfy the initial demand,” he said.

“Quarter two is when we think we will have enough cars on the ground to satisfy initial demand and orders.

“We don’t want to get into a situation like we had with A45 (with low stock driving prices up past retail).

“Dealers will always have stock, that’s one of the reasons why you try and reduce the number of options packs, so what people have in stock, customers can order from that.

“It’s only if they want something quite different in terms of colour … that’s when you get into a wait.

“But I don’t expect there will be big delays.”

The split between standard GLCs and GLC Coupes are skewed heavily in favour of the wagon, with 75 per cent of customers opting for the former and only 25 per cent for the latter, but Mr McCarthy said he expects a richer mix between the two for AMG-fettled versions.

“Across the entire range, about 25 per cent Coupe, but that’s growing,” he said. “I think with AMG it will probably be a bit closer than that.

“GLE Coupe, for example, is doing quite well in AMG.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see it at 35, 40 per cent in the Coupe.”

Sampling a left-hand-drive GLC63 S Coupe on a wet morning through various German towns is not the ideal scenario to test Affalterbach’s latest bahn-storming bruiser, but from what little behind-the-wheel time we were afforded, our initial impressions are resoundingly positive.

AMG’s ubiquitous 4.0-litre twin-turbo bent-eight engine continues to delight, even shoehorned under the bonnet of Mercedes’ mid-size SUV, delivering 375kW/700Nm for more than ample performance.

While international markets will offer a base engine developing 350kW/650Nm, Australia will forgo the introduction of the lower output version as the brand says most buyers opt for the flagship S powertrain.

Peak power in the higher-grade S versions comes in from 5500 to 6250rpm, while maximum torque is available from as low as 1750 up until 4500rpm.

Engine outputs match the rear-drive C63 S family of sedan, coupe and cabriolet, while performance is directed through a nine-speed automatic transmission (up from seven in the C-Class-based vehicles) through to Mercedes’ 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive (AWD) system that can send torque from the permanently driven rear axle to the front.

The added grip is certainly appreciated given the C63’s tail-happy tendencies and even offers plenty of feedback when approaching close to the limit, unlike other AWD set-ups.

The all-paw drivetrain in the GLC63 S also enables a zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 3.8 seconds, quicker than the C63 S (3.9s) and base GT (4.0s).

While we did not get a chance to properly test the claimed 0-100km/h time, from the driver’s seat the only way to describe the acceleration is savage – the GLC63 S Coupe can gather speed few cars, let alone SUVs, can match.

In fact, the only SUVs available in Australia that can keep pace with the AMG’s latest is the all-electric Tesla Model X P100D and the supercharged V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which can knock down 100km/h in 3.1s and 3.6s respectively.

Official fuel consumption figures put the GLC63 S pair at 10.7 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions is rated at 244 grams per kilometre in both the 1935kg five-door wagon and 1945kg sloped-roof SUV.

The eagerness and usability of the drivetrain is one of the best elements of the GLC63 S, which feels extraordinarily quick in all situations thanks to the sure-footedness of the AWD system and gargantuan amount of torque on offer.

While cruising down a German highway at a steady – and legal – 120km/h, a quick prod of the throttle rouses the V8 and ensures enough performance to overtake vehicles as if they were standing still.

Similarly, the generous torque band allows the GLC63 S to also easily cruise around town in higher gears at low speed without sacrificing responsiveness or driveability.

The transmission – carried over from the E63 – is also a standout thanks to its quick shifting nature, both when left to its own devices and when snapping back the steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Multiple drive modes that tweak engine, transmission, suspension, exhaust and stability settings are also standard on the GLC63 S, coming in five flavours including Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual and Race.

Comfort softens suspension and is designed to offer maximum fuel economy, while Sport, Sport+ and Race settings increasingly dial up performance in the GLC63 S.

Our preferred setting is Sport mode, which offers the perfect blend of on-road driveability and engaging dynamics without comprising on ride quality or usability.

While suspension settings are perceivable different across Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings, even at its softest, the GLC63 S tends to skew on the firmer side of things.

However, we found the V8 GLC a little more forgiving and compliant in ride comfort compared with its passenger car equivalent – possibly due to its higher ride height or smoother German roads.

We’ll wait for a local drive before passing final judgment on how the suspension stacks up.

Australian-spec cars are also expected to come standard with 21-inch wheels measuring 9.5 inches wide up front and 10 inches wide in the rear wrapped in 265/40 and 295/35 rubber respectively.

The V8 soundtrack is also another boon in the GLC63 S, and Mercedes has taken full advantage of the bent-eight symphony thanks to a variable exhaust system that can fully open at the press of a button.

With every aggressive downshift, the rear end pops and crackles enough to make a supercar embarrassed, but while the anti-social engine braking behaviour can be obnoxious to passers-by, it is undeniably addictive from the driver’s seat.

From the outside, the GLC63 is the first model to adopt the Panamericana grille from the GT two-seater, giving its front fascia a wide and aggressive appearance.

Prominent air intakes and a jutting splitter also characterise the front end, while lower side sills, a large rear diffuser and quad-exhaust tips give away its performance intentions from other angles.

Both GLC63 S body styles gain a roof-mounted rear spoiler to complete the look.

Inside, the AMG-fettled SUVs gain sports seats up front finished in a mix of leather and microfibre, Artico-trimmed dashboard with leather highlights and contrast stitching, aluminium accents, and chunky, leather and Dinamica microfibre steering wheel.

Options on Australian-delivered vehicles are still to be finalised, but a limited-run Edition 1 version will be made available for early adopters.

Similar to the C63 Edition 1 variants, the launch edition GLC63 S’ will be finished in a grey exterior colour and feature yellow highlights both inside and out.

Once the GLC63 touches down on Australian soil, it will compete directly against the Porsche Macan Turbo for German mid-size SUV bragging rights, at least until Audi reveals its rumoured RS Q5 and BMW confirms its full-blooded X3 M.

Although we were only give a taste of the full potential of the GLC63 S, there is no doubt that Mercedes-AMG has delivered one of the best all round vehicles on the market by combining the blistering performance of a sportscar with the practical space of a mid-size SUV.

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