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.
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.