2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Review: Muscle Utility Vehicle

The ultimate fast family hauler?

The ultimate AMG version of Mercedes’ compact GLC is straight-up ridiculous.

It takes no more than a few hundred feet for this muscle-bound Merc to elicit the first of many laughs from me. Mere weeks earlier I found myself in the GLC 43, and that SUV’s near-400 horses felt—at the time anyway—like more than enough. But another pair of cylinders, 118 more horsepower, and an exhaust note fit for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame makes a very convincing argument otherwise.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Review: Aufrecht Melcher Goldilocks

It’s tempting to call this fire-breathing compact SUV the ultimate family hauler. More power in Merc’s best-selling model sounds like a winning combination, after all. While I wouldn’t judge anybody for coming to that very conclusion, there are a few small issues that hold the 63 back from absolute greatness.

Eight-cylinder elation

The 4.0-liter “hot-vee” turbocharged V8 underhood here is in nearly everything Mercedes makes, from this GLC through to the Geländewagen. Here it produces 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, numbers that shade everything in the segment not called F-Pace. Both the Jaguar and the Merc are the only eight-pot competitors left; everyone else makes do with a sextet of cylinders organized in various ways.

This latest creation from Affalterbach is a special one. Right from startup, it produces a mean, guttural rumble that clears the mind and scares small canines. Blip the throttle and the note sharpens the higher the rev counter needle swings. You can practically spot the moment of surprise as passersby realize what they thought would be a low-slung two-door is actually an SUV.

Unfortunately, the nine-speed automatic transmission can’t always keep up with all that power. Slow rolling starts are fine, but stir in just a little extra speed away from a light and progress is jerky. That’s even in the chillest of the selectable drive modes: twisting the wheel-mounted dial around to Sport+ only sharpens throttle response, exacerbating the issue. Swap over to manual shifting and you can minimize the head-bobbing.

Faced with the normally unpredictable weather of the season, the GLC 63’s standard air suspension proves friendlier. In Comfort it’s still firm, but never crashy. Race is far too stiff for a road-driven SUV, but hey, what do you expect with that name? Regardless of setting, the 63’s D-shaped steering wheel has an appreciable heft to it, weighting up as the speeds rise. You can throw the GLC 63 around your favorite back road and trust what the tiller is telling you.

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Right-sized realness

What makes the GLC 63 such an appealing package is that it is, essentially, a hot rod compact wagon. Crossovers are already station wagons on stilts, so seeing this lowered over those pretty multi-spoke 21-inch wheels, the connection is clear.

That makes it plenty practical, either for those times you’re late heading to the kids’ ballet recital or taking the neighbors out for dinner. Head- and legroom are both adult-friendly in the back row, with a huge panoramic glass sun roof providing a sense of airiness. The sport seats hold the driver and front passenger firmly during hard cornering, but they also prove comfortable on longer hauls. The rear seat upper contouring may feel a little restrictive for the more broad-shouldered, but otherwise they’re pretty accommodating as well.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Honda Civic Type R vs 2020 Mercedes-AMG A 35 Comparison

Fold down the second row and according to Mercedes, you’ve got 40.6 cubic feet of storage (1,600 liters). It feels like far more though. Put ’em back up and there’s 17.6 cubes (550 liters). We stored a two-week grocery shop back there with room to spare.

The GLC’s low ride height and trim dimensions make it easy to place on the road, and the low belt-line keeps blind spots to a minimum. It’s an easy car to drive in the city … if you can resist the constant temptation of that engine.

MBUX is still money

It’s getting harder for us to reword our praise for Mercedes’ current MBUX infotainment system with each new review. The GLC doesn’t use the eye-catching single-pane setup of its little A-Class siblings, but the basic (digital) bones are the same. The instrument cluster and main touchscreen are both digital, and there are multiple input methods for the latter. This makes it easy for driver (and passenger) to get comfortable, which is good, because MBUX is deep. There’s the centrally-mounted touchpad, the voice activation (over-eager, but largely accurate), direct interaction, and tiny touchpads on the steering wheel. I prefer the latter, since it minimizes eyes-off-road time. And it keeps greasy fingerprints on that touchscreen to a minimum…

SEE ALSO: 2020 Porsche Macan Turbo Review

The touchscreen responds to all of these inputs with a quickness on pace with that V8 engine. The left-side touchpad on the wheel handles the instrument panel, which offers myriad configurations. Paired with the (optional) head-up display, it allows the driver to rarely ever have to move their eyes beyond what’s right in front of them.

Charging duties are handled by a wireless pad and USB-C slots up front.

Just as spendy as you expected: a lot

This sort of high-class living comes at a price. In the US, the GLC 63—no S—starts from $74,745, including destination. That’s a little bit more than the BMW X3 M, but a solid $10,000 less than the Porsche Macan Turbo. Our Canadian-spec tester adds that all-important S however, bumping up the power and price. That’s in addition to a healthy walk down the options list, including things like a Technology Package ($1,900 CAD for adaptive headlights and the digital instrument panel), and HUD ($1,100 / $1,500 CAD). Also present is the Intelligent Drive Package ($1,700 / $2,700 CAD), which bundles a raft of safety assists together. Our tester runs up to a yikes-inducing $112,350 CAD before destination—figure around $90,000 or so in greenbacks. Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of cash for a compact crossover, even one as inviting inside and bahn-storming as this.

But at least it beat its quoted fuel economy, scoring 19.3 mpg (12.2 L/100 km) over 400 miles with us. Little victories!

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Verdict: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Review

As wild as it is, the GLC 63 S makes perfect sense. Mercedes couldn’t have just sat this sub-genre out, after all: the number of competitors show that. It’s more powerful than the demure Macan Turbo, and more fun than the X3 M. The German muscle car treatment works alarmingly well on this little trucklet, and of those three, I’d wager this is the one to go for.

But staying in the family, it’s a case of diminishing returns. The price jump from the already very good GLC 43 is startling. If only the very best is good enough for you, then the 63 S is the only option in the GLC lineup. It does more of everything, and like I said in the intro, I wouldn’t begrudge anybody fortunate enough to be in the position of choosing. During everyday use though, you’d barely notice a difference, and as intoxicating as that exhaust note is, I’m not sure it’s worth the extra outlay. Pick the GLC 43 and pocket the savings, maybe for a sports car fund. I wonder where used AMG GT prices are at these days…

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