First Drive: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe
A sporty driving experience in a high-powered and practical package
The rise of the SUV machines has been a going on for quite a number of years. It is only recently we are seeing the true picture coming to light. In the US, 2017 sales of SUV's and trucks were up over 350,000 and 100,000 respectively, but sales of sedans were down around 500,000.
The future for SUVs certainly looks bright and there seems to be no going back. I had that in mind, as I looked at the shiny black 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe, patiently waiting for me outside our Nashville, TN hotel. I was about to embark on a route designed to end back in my home town of Bowling Green, KY.
Mercedes had not allocated a driving partner for me, which I did not take personally as they said I was the odd one out and nothing to do with my racing resume "scaring the straights" as it were. Truth be known, I drive like grandma most of the time on the street these days and enjoy nerding out on seeing real-world mpg numbers.
I have a weird taste in road vehicles. According to my editor and most other rational thinking people. I don't argue the point, I just live with the affliction. As if to make their case, I always liked the Pontiac Aztec—I honestly thought it was an awesome vehicle in its day.
In fact, back in 2001, I was actually considering whether to buy the Aztec or a Mercedes ML55. What choice you sneer? Have you seen that Aztec picnic table set up in the back? It's just mega!
At the risk of being excommunicated by my long-suffering friends and during a rare moment of clarity, I bought the ML55. At the time, the ML55 was the fastest accelerating SUV on the streets with a 6.2-second 0-60 mph time and a hefty 342 hp. I parted with the ML55 after about a year. I thought at the time we would probably see more and more performance SUVs like the ML, as long as the buyers were there.
Cue the GLS 63 S Coupe. I sat outside the hotel for about 15 minutes and adjusted everything before setting off. I'm not a fan of using infotainment systems while driving, whether by voice or hand, but I know I need to try them out, so I do, initially while parked. That usually gives me a good idea what I'm comfortable dealing with while on the move.
The GLC 63 S Coupe has a base MSRP of $81,745 (as tested: $97,330). I think the Coupe has a stocky muscular look, with purpose and plenty of bad intent. It has the grunt t back it up, too, its hand-crafted 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 kicking out 503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 and 516 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500.
Mercedes claims a 3.7-second 0-60 mph time for the GLC 63 S Coupe. I say that's conservative, especially when using the "RACESTART" launch feature. Having recently tested the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, I'm thinking this Merc would be nipping its heels in a drag race. We are talking about sub-4 second zero to sixty times! Seeing these numbers in a family hauler somehow seems to make the world feel right.
There are several options when setting up drivability for the GLC. The sound of the sport exhaust (Must have $1,250 option!) has a nice racy grumble in the Sport+ driving mode. Off throttle the GLC pops just like the heroically anti-social AMG GT R.
These days some manufacturers pipe in additional sound to the occupant cabin to enhance the exhaust note and I've read a lot of negative comments about it. I don't care about the "enhancement" if it sounds good—and the GLC sounds good.
The difference between Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ plus driving modes can be felt in transmission shift speeds, steering weight/feel and ride stiffness. Don't worry, none of the sporty modes knock your fillings out. I used Comfort and Sport mode most of the time on the road for more suspension compliance, as it gives me a better feel for the chassis. I suspect sporting-minded owners will always have Sport+ programmed into their Individual driver settings.
There is one particular option I came across that needs a mention. It's called Collision Prevention Assist Plus. It's um, how shall I say this, rather eager to get involved. Kind of like that friend who is always ready to control a situation that doesn't actually exist. It is a safety device and is there to help drivers. It applies braking when it thinks braking is needed. The Assist and I agreed to disagree and I switched it off. Most people will probably never notice it until they need it.
The AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT (Multi Clutch Transmission) nine-speed automatic is superb. Changing to Sport+ mode provides lightning fast shifts with accompanying little pops on the upshifts. It rips shifts as fast as some current GT race cars.
Mercedes also fits the GLC 63 S with the AMG Performance 4MATIC+ drive train. This updated system can adjust itself to move torque to different drive wheels, depending on the situation. It used to be very rear biased, but on these models is upgraded to fully variable and can go from all front drive to all rear drive and anything in between; enabling optimum traction in all driving conditions. I could feel it working hard in spirited driving, as it tried to understand why I was using the rear tires to turn the car instead of the front tires.
AMG has certainly been busy developing and refining. The Dynamic Engine Mounts and the AIR BODY CONTROL work well together, giving a more compliant feel in comfort mode and firming things up for performance driving. These two pieces of technology add nicely to the Jekyll and Hyde personality of the GLC 63.
If it smells like leather and looks like leather then it must be leather right? You never know these days as manufacturer's get much better at faking us out with interior fabrics. That is not the case with the GLC. The interior was indeed real leather, expensive to look at, providing a very comfortable driving office.
I'm going to also credit the AIR BALANCE Cabin Filtration & Fragrance System for the olfactory feast. I'm thinking I could have had a box of wet badgers in the back seat and still been smelling the roses.
The steering was very direct. Wherever I pointed the GLC, it was happy to go. There was certainly more body roll in Comfort mode than Sport, but no more than I expected. Also, the nannies were on full alert in Comfort mode, especially if I started getting quick with steering input's, which again, is to be expected.
If you want a spirited drive put the GLC in Sport+ mode. The feel is very sporty and connected, but it is still an SUV. SUVs have a higher center of gravity than a sedan and usually weigh more. The heaviest super quick street cars come in around 3,800 pounds, with a Porsche 911 GTS down close to 3,100 pounds; the GLC 63 S Coupe is 4,511 pounds.
Even though it is a bit unrealistic for anyone to expect serious sports car handling in an SUV, the folks at Mercedes have done a great job in giving the GLC a solid sports car "feel". The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires certainly with some excellent grip and feel, pulling almost 1g in cornering (Front: 265/40ZR-21, Rear: 295/35ZR-21).
Big power can come with a price as far as gas mileage but I suspect most GLC 63 buyers don't look at this. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined. On one 70-mile 25% city/75% highway trip, I got 23.2 mpg, which was not too bad.
Way back when, I used to look at SUVs as totally boring. I bought the ML55 in 2001 because it was "not boring". I would probably look at buying a minivan today if they put the 503-hp GLC 63 S engine in it.
There are so many reasons why people say they buy SUVs. They're practical, easier to get the kids in and out, better visibility, they feel safer, etc. All those reasons apply to minivans and the Honda Civic Type R has nearly the same amount of storage room as the GLC Coupe. But, logic be damned, SUV sales are rocketing upward.
As a motorhead, I love the fact more and more performance SUVs are coming to market. The new GLC 63 S Coupe is an excellent vehicle, giving a sporty driving experience in a high-powered and practical package.
I'm still thinking the genesis of GLC 63 came from a Mercedes internal memo directing their engineers to come up with a way for parents to always get the kids to school on time. The GLC certainly fills that role. Keep the memos coming, Mercedes.