The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Review: Muscle For The Whole Family
Daddy, can we take Flugplatz flat out?
While we were busy arguing over splitter-guards, carmakers were turning compact SUVs into the most unlikely high-performance vehicles since Amos Johnson raced an AMC Gremlin. Today, five such family movers can launch from a standstill to 60 mph in a Peppa Pig's snort. Three of those can do it in around four seconds, and two can do it in under four. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 SUV is in that under-four club.
Why are compact crossovers carmakers’ latest tuner platform? It's a question for trend watchers and spreadsheet ninjas—our job is to shut up and drive AMG’s version of the modern, mondo-mini SUV, and report our findings to the proper authorities.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, By the Numbers
- Base Price (as tested): $73,750 ($87,445.00; includes $995 delivery)
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter biturbo V8 | 9-speed automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 469 hp @ 5,500-6,250 RPM
- Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 RPM
- 0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
- Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
- Curb Weight: 4,486 lbs (est.)
- Quick Take: A handsome, blazingly quick, and grippy compact SUV with a bulldog’s stance.
Aside from the typical visual cues, which are numerous, and the added track width, the GLC 63's story leads with its AMG engine. It's the familiar twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8. While unchanged for 2020, the four liter can still alter the position of matter with the best of its kind. Producing 469 horsepower and 479 pounds-feet of torque, it delivers the upright GLC 63 to 60 mph in a gut-punching 3.8 seconds with launch control. The squash-top GLC63 Coupe, with its slightly lower center of gravity and availability in AMG’s S trim—with 503 horsepower and a savage 516 pounds-feet—does it in 3.6 seconds. Of the GLC 63's family-moving competitors, only the Alfa’s 505-hp Stelvio Quadrifoglio gets from zero to 60 quicker, in 3.4 seconds.
That extra force gives the coupe more accelerative ferocity, which the SUV version pays back in rear headroom and cargo space. The two models do share a nine-speed transmission, AMG's latest Speedshift MCT 9G, which substitutes a wet clutch for the usual torque converter. It’s a proper, quick-shifting box when on blast—and even better, with a satisfying throttle blip, on downshifts—but can feel a bit haphazard and rough when poking around at school-zone speeds.
Not that you’d be appeased just poking around in the GLC 63 SUV. At full send, it’s supercar quick, sounds like a proper AMG with essential growl and bluster. It absolutely devours straight roads in a single bite. Its weighty steering makes the GLC feel brawny, and yet it’s quick to change direction, if reluctant to take a set and finish the job. Still, the GLC 63 produces acres more grip than a standard family truck would ever demand, and is still more agile than its larger counterparts. It’s a bantamweight autobahn bruiser that can step in as a corner carver if needed. The point of this exercise, after all, is poise, not lap times. That, plus adding a few shots of biker crank to the day-to-day compact SUV experience.
That doesn’t mean the GLC 63 SUV is short on casual thrills. Our recent wet-weather test on the B-roads that snake through the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York showed off how eagerly it clobbers the outer ‘burbs. Quick, precise steering adds a bit of sports-car theater to casual drives. Keeping its street composure falls to lots of chassis equipment. Air springs are standard, as are electronically adaptive dampers, which together coordinate body control via AMG’s Dynamic Select drive modes, which are so profuse that a single day's not enough to master them all.
Suffice to say, Slippery mode softens the rear setup for better initial traction and also cuts power and flattens the torque curve; Comfort, the softest suspension setting, short-shifts to smooth out acceleration; Sport, a dynamic suspension and steering setup, has quicker shifts and earlier downshifts (and double de-clutching gear shifts); and Sport+, the snappiest shifter and most aggressive throttle map, flattens the suspension to the max, sends the most torque to the rear, and sounds the best.
On the whole, the GLC 63’s ride quality is on the stiff side of comfortable, although we did notice an odd rebound damping effect in Comfort mode, in which the rear ride frequency would feel at times slightly out of sync with the front, causing a mild queasiness. Sport and Sport+ add body control but also increasingly bone-jarring rigidity. The coupe, in S model, comes with active engine-mount stiffness, which adds extra smoothness to heavy acceleration and braking.
The entire GLC line gets a number of updates, including the latest MBUX infotainment interface, with a 10.25-inch center screen that now responds to touch, alongside the 12.3-inch instrument display. On the center screen, MBUX can also display three functions at once, which is helpful for multitasking, and the nav system has a clever bit of tech that overlays directional arrows atop a video feed from the front camera.
Much like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa, MBUX's AI-driven voice recognition system responds to commands initiated by saying "Hey, Mercedes." It's a convenient feature, except for self-conscious drivers hyperaware of being seen talking to themselves, and also when occupants are having a heated discussion about a particular German car company and the system inserts itself into conversation like an annoying party guest. Other than that, such voice initiation is helpful for staying focused on the road, especially with so many new electronic distractions on board to mess with.
When optioned with the MBUX Interior Assistant, the system can respond to hand gestures as well, which takes some getting used to. And that's not all; the screens can also be controlled via finger-sized swipe pads on the new steering wheel, a clever addition to the cornucopia of human-machine interface points.
Naturally, at some point it will be time to end all discussions with the vehicle and just drive the thing. Indeed, the GLC 63, in both SUV and coupe forms, are true to the AMG ethos: Muscular, loads of grip, and just short of shouty (and don't forget pricey). It benefits from a very well turned-out C-Class platform, making the GLC63 an urban-sized thrill ride for adults and their strong-stomached offspring. Should child seats come with a HANS device? Does a juice box come with a straw?