Christopher Little

Brute: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe

With a stats sheet that reads like top shelf sports car, a cabin that comfortably seats four, and technology that breaks new ground for infotainment systems, there’s a lot packed into this small SUV. We spent a week with a GLC Coupe back in 2017 when it was new and came away questioning its curvy shape but admiring its balanced chassis. The GLC has been updated with visual changes, the new MBUX system, new engines, and a new digital cockpit. We were lucky enough to secure some time with the top-spec Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe for our second go-round.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe 4

The real star of the show is the hand-assembled AMG 4.0L twin-turbo V8. With its compact packaging, thanks to its hot-v configuration, the GLC is the only performance SUV in it’s class to boast eight cylinders. Output in this top-trim S spec is 503 hp and 516 lb-ft torque. But AMG hasn’t just developed a big motor to make this GLC quick, there’s a unique transmission, suspension setup, rear axles, all-wheel-drive system, and a specially tuned stability control system to make use of all that power. The GLC63 S even gets dynamic engine mounts to maximum performance. Not wanting to lose any torque like you would in a traditional automatic, the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9-speed transmission replaces the torque converter with a wet start-off clutch. This improves responsiveness once fully-engaged and allowed engineers to tune instant multi-gear downshifts. Power is routed to the permanently-driven rear axle, which has a wider track than the regular GLC. From there, an electronically controlled differential lock with a clutch modulates power to the front wheels. To keep the GLC63 balanced but riding like a true Mercedes, the AMG RIDE CONTROL+ air suspension system has three levels levels spring tuning and adaptive damping. The system automatically stiffens based on driving conditions and when it senses sudden load changes. But if you want to take charge of the setup, the AMG DYNAMICS drive program controls nearly every parameter; engine, transmission, steering and suspension, exhaust valves, torque distribution, locking differential, and stability control.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe 1

The results of all this AMG engineering speaks for itself. The AMG GLC63 S can sprint to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, a figure than puts six-figure sports cars to shame. There’s seemingly endless power from the V8 and a deep soundtrack from the valved AMG exhaust. The solid chassis and dynamic suspension deliver a blend of comfort and stability. The system delivers an astonishing amount of body control when you need it and a smooth ride when you don’t. There is one weakness – the GLC’s new 9-speed transmission. The transmission fumbles in slow starts, stop and go, and paring lot situations. Easily confused, it jolts, jitters, and often doesn’t provide a smooth pull-away. It feels dim-witted around town and belies the substantial price tag of this AMG model. The same can’t be said at speed, though. Once underway, the transmission is snappy and responsive with multi-gear downshifts helping to get the turbos spooling when called upon. Our tester arrived with optional 21″ AMG multispoke wheels shod in winter tires. That was the right call for our blustery late-winter test, providing maximum traction in the cold and wet conditions. They did, however, contribute to a bit of tire noise in the otherwise serene cabin.

2020 brings some updates to the exterior of the GLC. New LED headlamps and tail lamps and a reshaped front grille set the revised GLC apart. The Mercedes-AMG touches go even further, with a unique AMG vertical grille with chrome accents and additional brightwork on the window surrounds and front splitter. The AMG wears wider wheel arch cladding to help cover the beefy 21″ tires and wider rear track. There’s also more grille space to provide airflow to the radiators packed in the nose. Around back, a tall spoiler, rear diffuser, and AMG exhaust tips set off the rear end. The work definitely adds more aggression to the GLC, but our tester’s Graphite Gray color kept the burly Benz flying under the radar until we opened the exhaust and spooled up the turbos. As for the SUV-coupe look, we prefer the GLC to the bigger GLE, but seeing as you can’t get the S trim in the regular GLC SUV, we were plenty fine to compromise on rear storage for the extra power.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe 6

Inside, the GLC’s sloping roofline has surprisingly little impact to rear headroom. We easily fit four tall adults, something that the competitor’s coupe-like rooflines can’t quite accommodate. But as we explored the GLC’s cabin, we began to be let down. The red pepper/black two tone leather comes across as a bit “boy racer” in execution. We were also disappointing to find that the AMG sport seats were a pricey option, even on this top-trim GLC 63 S model. Looking around, this nearly-$90k SUV was missing some expected creature comforts. There are no heated rear seats, cooled front seats, no heads-up display, panoramic roof, or radar cruise control. Even further, quite a bit of the cabin materials felt hollow and flimsy, characteristics we were surprised to find in a Mercedes. There are some positive notes inside, though some of them are optional. The AMG Performance Steering Wheel with its galvanized shift paddles feels excellent. The new AMG DRIVE UNIT with integrated LCD display and toggle buttons is both unique and extremely functional. Without too much fuss, the driver can quickly change drive modes on one unit or scroll through and set toggle actions for things like the suspension or exhaust setting on the other.

Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system is all new, and it shows in the feature set and responsiveness. The 12.3″ instrument cluster and 10.25″ center touchscreen are bright, crisp, and generally a fantastic addition to the GLC. MBUX brings augmented reality to the automotive world, using forward looking cameras and it’s navigation system to overlay turn-by-turn directions into arrows and street names overlaid onto a real-time view ahead. A slightly more annoying, and Orwellian feature, is that the GLC is always listening. Simply saying the word “Mercedes” in the cabin will trigger the onboard voice control, meaning we politely had to tell the GLC’s computer to please stop interrupting when explaining this new Mercedes to friends and family. Our final frustration isn’t a fault of the GLC in general, but of Mercedes infotainment interface. It’s just too complicated. There are swipes, taps, menus, scrolling lists, and more. And almost any action you can perform by using the new touch display or bank of buttons on the center console can be done via a touch-sensitive pad on the steering wheel itself or the aforementioned AMG DRIVE UNITs. There’s two, sometimes three ways to perform the same action. Unfortunately, not a single one feels optimal. All the newest hardware and software can’t improve a bad UI.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe 10

Though there were some let-downs in the cabin, the augmented reality and voice activation hint at the next generation of automotive technologies. And if you can overlook a few creature comforts, there’s likely not a better SUV in this segment to drive. In fact, if there’s any coupe SUV that could convince naysayers, its the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe. Sleek lines and an aggressive posture give subtle hints to the performance and handling. Once you get behind the wheel, you’ll hardly believe you’re driving an SUV at all. The chassis is so composed that the GLC’s mass is rarely felt. Throw it into a corner and it stays level and composed, allowing the all-wheel-drive system to claw the big brute out of the corner. With over 500 horsepower unleashed onto the road surface below, the GLC63 S can be fun for the whole family.

-Christopher Little

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe $84,100
Graphite Grey Metallic $720
AMG Performance Steering Wheel $100
21″ AMG Multispoke Wheels $1,000
Inductive Wireless Charging and NFC Pairing $200
Wheel Locking Bolts $150
AMG LED Projectors $275
Park Assistance Package $1,290
Exterior Lighting Package $800
Destination Charges $995
As Tested MSRP $89,630

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