Stuffing a turbo V8 into Mercedes Benz’s smallest SUV > All other performance SUVs
Words by: Adam Allen
Is that a ‘greater than’ symbol in the title?
Good for you! Your 3rd grade math teacher would be proud. Yes, that’s the greater than sign all right, and we felt it appropriate because in our estimation the GLC 63 is just that when compared to any of its competitors who are heavy hitters in their own right. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Porsche Macan Turbo are universally accepted as excellent, but they can’t match the theatrics the AMG Benz brings to the proceedings every time it’s driven. The Audi SQ5? It does not even come close to competing in this league. The simple fact is that the GLC trumps them all. It is the fastest, handles the best and is by far the loudest.
Why is everyone always talking about AMG’s V8?
We’re gonna go big right out of the gates, kids- the M177 4.0 litre twin turbo V8- in case of our tester, hand built solely by the gifted Michael Klopfer (AMG’s ‘one engine-one man’ policy) is hands down among the best examples of a modern turbocharged powerplant you will find anywhere. That’s right folks- standing amongst such greats as BMW’s S55 inline six, the high-strung zinger in the Ferrari 488GTB and the venerable flat sixes found in the rear compartment of Porsche 911s the GLC’s engine is in good company. This eight-piston sonnet dedicated to internal combustion has many phases of personality depending on which settings you’ve employed, starting with docile and ending at Seriously Pissed Off. When you thumb the sports exhaust button on the console (something you ought to do every time you set off in the GLC) there’s an obvious change in the sound it makes and that’s just at idle. Once underway, bury the throttle and a deep, phlegmy, mechanical concerto blasts from the four tailpipes in high fidelity. Pulling a shift paddle or jumping out of the throttle quickly causes the exhaust to fart and pop ravenously, neither scenario ever getting tiresome. People often lament the departed 6.2 naturally aspirated mill- one heck of an engine in its own right- but this 4.0 litre is so good that you soon forget all about it. It manages the exceedingly rare feat of simultaneously gathering revs with conviction thanks to a whip crack throttle response (like it might be displacing 1,000cc’s less than it does) and at the same time feeling like a big block because of the towering low-end power and massive thrust throughout the operating range. Taking this engine from idle to redline repeatedly is something every gearhead must experience.
Settle down. Let’s talk about that interior.
Really? Because we could talk more about that engine. It was hard to concentrate on our surroundings because that incredible turbo V8 dominates the entire bandwidth of your attention span. Here’s what we recall- it’s nice inside. There are restrained appliques of carbon fibre. The build quality is terrific and Mercedes didn’t skimp on the materials. The Burmester stereo is worth the upcharge although it remained dormant most of the time because the M177 created all the music we needed. The seats and Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel exude a seriousness that come with a car with performance capabilities as lofty as the GLC’s. There is ample space for rear passengers in the back, and the cargo bay can hold various things.
OK, but how does all this play out on the road?
You can go ahead and take all the jabs in your arsenal pertaining to SUV’s and file them away- the GLC 63 will cause you to recalibrate your expectations of what you might expect of such a vehicle. Oversteer is but a pipe dream in most all-wheel drive SUVs but not in the GLC 63’s case- if you choose to embrace your hooligan side, the hotted-up Benz will gleefully wag its tail; this, without a Drift Mode like its E63 cousin. The exquisite engine relentlessly grabs your entire attention span, providing the same kind of urge usually reserved for dedicated sports cars. You often find yourself in a gear much lower than the situation dictates just to hear the V8 sing, a practice that never ceases to reward the driver. It’s a good thing the 9-speed transmission is an expertly matched dance partner, always finding the right gear without fail- although if you do decide to take matters into your own hands the paddle shifters are more than willing to play, always obliging with super quick gearchanges whether your moving up or down through the gearbox. As you cycle through the drive modes on offer- from Comfort all the way up to Race- the GLC 63 goes through a palpable transformation from easy going to feral, depending on your mood. As you might expect, all this fun does have an impact on fuel mileage, a bit of a sore spot since we attempt to report decent fuel consumption numbers upon concluding a road test, no matter if we’re driving a family sedan or a ridiculously overpowered SUV. On this occasion, our as tested consumption figure of 16.2 L/100km isn’t going to fulfil that mandate nor will it pique the interest of hyper milers. When confronted with this number, we’ll just shrug sheepishly and point out that it could have been much worse had we not indulged our primal urges to take the engine to redline at every possible opportunity, so we’re calling that figure a win. If you are able to exhibit greater willpower and not plumb the V8’s huge reserves of power and noise with regularity, please let us know.
What might go wrong?
We’re not even going to complain about the V8’s appetite for premium gas- if you want to enjoy a constant ear-to-ear grin while driving the GLC 63, there is a (worthwhile) price to pay. What we will gripe about is the low speed behaviour of the transmission- at times it feels discombobulated at low speeds and exhibits an uncouth lurching. The air springs, which do a commendable job of serving up grip levels almost unheard of for an SUV make for a harsh ride, but some of that blame must be shouldered by the 21” rolling stock shod with performance tires. And at this price point, where are the cooled seats and heated steering wheel? While these are legitimate complaints, its hard to stick to them with any conviction once you uncork that masterpiece of a turbo V8.
Should I buy a GLC 63 S 4MATIC+?
Live in the snowbelt and fancy a fast SUV? Whether you do or don’t, you owe it to yourself to take the GLC 63 for a drive if this review hasn’t convinced you to do so already. We never shy away from the disdain we feel towards an industry that is shunning performance sedans in favor of SUVs, but if this is where we are headed it becomes harder to complain. You should know that we truly relished our time with one the industry’s most interesting cars, and very seldom are we prompted to take out our weekly assignment for a drive with no particular destination in mind- we can tell you that the GLC 63 was one of those cars, because it is really that good.
2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4MATIC+ – Specifications
- Price as tested: $109,590
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 9-speed MCT automatic
- Engine: 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 503 @ 6,250 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 516 @ 1,750 rpm
- Curb weight: 2,078 kg (4,582 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 16.2L/100km (14 mpg)