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Astonishing performance and premium quality in a family SUV, albeit with one conspicuous niggle.
First drive review: Greg Hill
Outstanding athletic ability
Awesome exhaust note (selectable)
Excellent safety features
Let down by tyre skip issues
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ is one of a unique species of sports-focused luxury SUVs that put a different interpretation on the term “cross-over vehicle”. It seamlessly straddles the boundaries between a high-riding mid-size SUV, a luxury limousine and a serious performance vehicle.
Two AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ versions - an SUV wagon and a coupé - top Mercedes’ comprehensive range of GLC models, which comprises six SUV and five coupe body configurations. There’s also a massive price difference between the entry level 4-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol, rear-wheel-drive GLC 200 SUV at $61,990 plus on-road costs, through to the $171,900 plus ORC for the 4.0-litre V8 bi-turbo powered AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ Coupe.
Then you will find a range of extra cost option packs available to personalise the vehicle further. We drove the AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV, which starts at $164,900 plus ORC.
So, what do you get for the extra spend? The AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ SUV’s styling is distinctive, but not over the top. The striking “Panamericana” grille and massive 21-inch AMG alloy rim and tyre package, however, are clear pointers that this is not your average mid-size SUV wagon.
Press the starter button and the big V8 roars with an emotive-sounding deep exhaust note.
The crafted interior, with AMG performance seats and steering wheel, Nappa leather trim and an AMG instrument cluster, creates a special look and feel, while the long list of comfort, convenience and safety features add to the driving pleasure. The GLC’s ANCAP five-star rating is complemented by a comprehensive-suite of advanced safety technologies.
A major part of the expenditure, however, is beneath the surface – in the engine, transmission, driveline and suspension. The engine is a sophisticated, 4.0 litre V8 bi-turbo race-bred unit that’s well proven and used in other top-line, high-performance Mercedes-AMG models.
Each engine is individually assembled by one of AMG’s specialist engine builders. AMG also has its fingerprints on the Speedshift MCT nine-speed sports transmission, the 4Matic+ (AWD system) with fully variable torque distribution, the electronic rear axle limited-slip differential, sports suspension based on the Air Body Control (adaptive air suspension), and a high-performance composite braking system.
As a true medium-size SUV, the GLC wagon comfortably accommodates four adults but five can squeeze in, while there’s a respectably sized luggage compartment, which is slightly bigger in the wagon than the coupe. As you would expect in a vehicle of this type and price, the presentation is premium quality and has a familiar Mercedes layout with plenty of interesting features to appeal to those who love the latest technology.
We don’t like Mercedes’ positioning of the steering column stalks however, particularly having the gear selector where you would normally expect to find the indicators or wipers; but we know that some people love the idea.
It was disappointing to find a conspicuous shudder and clunking at times when turning on or near full lock at slow speeds.
Press the starter button and the big V8 roars with an emotive-sounding deep exhaust note that announces: this is a serious piece of equipment. Producing 375kW at 5500 to 6250rpm with maximum torque of 700Nm from 1750rpm through to 4500rpm, it’s an adrenalin-stirring beast. Even so, the AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ is quite civilised in stop/start city traffic and remains composed when hurrying along on winding country roads – two areas where many other performance-focused SUVs tend to fall short.
At the flick of a switch, the desired dynamic characteristics can easily be changed to suit the operating conditions and driver preferences, thanks to five selectable drive modes which regulate the operating parameters of the engine, transmission, steering, suspension, electronic stability program (ESP) and all-wheel-drive.
Each mode gives the GLC a distinctly different demeanour - from a strong-performing, comfortable-riding wagon, through to a racetrack-style, sharp-handling beast; with the in-between modes providing a good range of options. Cruising on the highway, our best fuel consumption figure was a respectable 10.0L/100km; but take advantage of the performance potential and the fuel use climbs rapidly. Overall our average was 11.5L/100km, which included a significant amount of highway driving.
While the AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ is a superb vehicle, it was disappointing to find a conspicuous shudder and clunking at times when turning on or near full lock at slow speeds – a phenomenon called tyre skip (see Mercedes’ official explanation below). Over the week we had the test vehicle, it didn’t always happen when making a tight turn but seemed to depend on a variety of factors, including coarseness of the road surface and temperature.
Our research found reports of tyre slip (here and overseas) in other GLCs, as well as big-wheeled AWD models from other manufacturers. Changing to different compound tyres may ease the problem, but could also reduce the excellent grip and handling of the vehicle in general driving.
Lengthy new car warranties that are now commonplace with many manufacturers have not found their way to the premium end of the market. Mercedes’ warranty is only three years, with unlimited kilometres.
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Tyre skip is a phenomenon that can occur when forces are placed on the outer front tyre of a vehicle, causing it to “skip” across the surface of the road by a small amount. This typically occurs when a vehicle is placed on or near full lock at low speed, when cold. It can present itself as a noise and/or a knocking sensation in the vehicle.
Is it a fault or defect?
No, tyre skip is not a fault or defect. It is a normal characteristic that occurs in many vehicle brands, not just Mercedes-Benz. The tyre skip phenomenon is more noticeable in sports and 4WD model variants due to the use of low-profile tyres and power delivery through the front wheels.
Why does it occur?
In addition to the above, there are many other factors that contribute to tyre skip. These include:
• Temperature – because this affects the rubber compound of the tyres and the road surface
• Properties of the tyres – because this determines their flexibility
• Properties of the road surface – because this determines the amount of friction
• The actions of the vehicle – because this generates the forces on the tyre.
The occurrence of tyre skip can be somewhat random due to the variable nature of the above factors; however, it is most noticeable when the tyres are cold (< 7°C). As the tyres warm up and become more flexible when driving, the occurrence of tyre skip will reduce accordingly.
Is it a safety issue?
No, tyre skip does not in any way affect the safety or performance of the vehicle.
Does it damage tyres and/or increase tyre wear?
As tyre skip only occurs at very low speeds the effect on the tyre is considered negligible.
Can anything be done to reduce it?
Based on average temperatures, Australia and New Zealand specification Mercedes-Benz vehicles are factory fitted with summer rated tyres as these provide the best overall performance in these conditions. On some model types, these tyres can be replaced with tyres that provide a greater level of flexibility when cold, which in turn reduces the occurrence of tyre skip. All-season tyres, for example, are designed to operate in lower ambient temperatures and provide more tyre flexibility when cold. However, when operating a vehicle fitted with all-season tyres in hot weather conditions, a higher rate of tyre wear can be expected.