Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Driven
A mid-sized family orientated SUV with 375kW and 700Nm may sound quite preposterous, in fact, it can be likened to those superhuman toddler gymnasts you see on YouTube. At the age of four, their biceps are bigger than their little heads, causing you to ask, “why?”
Many may ask the same question when it comes to the new Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S. Personally, I didn’t ask why when learning about this car, because I’m a fan of speed and power in any shape or size. I can imagine many motorists share the same sentiments as me as well. What may seem like just a statement from Merc, is actually more than that, it’s a shift based on consumer behaviour. The reality is that many consumers who drive sedans are now changing their buying behaviour toward SUV’s, such as the GLC. Reasons such as safety, size and presence are all factors leading to this change. Then there are those who drive the performance variants of popular sedans, such as the burbling Mercedes AMG C63 or BMW’s M3. These guys need a replacement for the performance they’re used to, if they decide to do the SUV jump. The new GLC 63 S seems to be an answer, but can it provide the same thrills? Can an SUV provide as much fun, performance and driving experience as a sedan AMG, such as the C63 S? Let’s find out…
An early flight navigated me from Durban to Lanseria, where we jumped into a van and arrived at Zwartkops Raceway, which would be the base for our testing. The first few hours including a high speed “brake and steer” test, a slalom and drag races. While all this is was fun, it also showed us what we could expect from the GLC 63 S, when we would begin our full laps. Not only that, it showed us how much confidence Mercedes-Benz has in their vehicle. For example, our slalom runs started with ESP on, as we progressed we eventually were encouraged to switch of the car’s ESP system, allowing us to feel how the limited slip differential works when the vehicle is unencumbered by the safety systems.
It’s worth noting, the ESP system on the GLC 63 S is very sensitive, with good reason too – it’s still a family car. One with a lot of power. This vehicle also carries quite a bit of weight. In the wrong hands, it could lead to some not so desirable outcomes should an overenthusiastic overcook it. Back to the story.
So here we are, on the track and ready for some laps. We started with ESP on and gradually went through the modes until everything was off. Not half off, but “off off off” as we call it in the office. As you can imagine, with ESP in full force, throttle output is easily hampered coming out of corners, especially when power was applied sharply. From a safety perspective, it made sense but on a track, it can be annoying. Which sounds like a pointless statement because a track day in a GLC 63 S is more a treat for journalists, as opposed to a reality for an owner. Sport, Sport + and Race modes were also tested, which give you more freedom, more slip and more AMG noise on each mode – which by the way is fantastic. AMG have a whole division focused on exhaust sound – a great division if you ask me. I digress however…After a few laps toggling between various modes and even with ESP off, I became very frustrated with my track experience. I wasn’t getting what I expected out of the vehicle and quite frankly, I was unhappy with my laps. At each apex, when I wanted to power out of the corner, the car was cutting power quite abruptly – arrghh. This is not what I expected from a car that uses the 4Matic + system, the same one that is in the highly regarded Mercedes AMG E63 S, less the drift mode.
All is not lost.
On our slow down lap, I discussed with Francisco and the AMG Driving instructor. I explained that perhaps my driving style is wrong for this extremely powerful SUV. The instructor agreed and like a good coach during half time in a bag game, he gave me a few pointers to get the most out of a car of this size. So, after pumping myself up, we headed back onto the track. The aim? Turning in later, getting more steering into the corner before the apex, allowing me to unwind the lock before accelerating out of the corner. This would allow the GLC to not panic, causing the “fail safe” safety systems to activate even when they’re meant to be off off off. Again, a necessary measure for a family SUV.
The result? Pretty brilliant. The limited-slip diff worked well, sending power to the front when needed and pulling the GLC out of corners. After the little teething issues we began with, due to my driving style, the vehicle became the dynamic, fast and precise track weapon I wanted it to be. Not the words you expect to hear about an SUV – Merc is onto something with this setup.
So can an AMG SUV provide as much fun, performance and driving experience as a sedan variant, such as C63 S? Well, regarding performance, the head of the AMG driving academy told us that he could probably set similar laps times in the AMG GLC 63 S as he would in an AMG GT S, which is quite the statement to make. The question of fun and driving experience still needs to be answered however. I may be a young journalist, but over the past few years I’ve done my fair share of driving on and off the track. Honestly, driving the AMG GLC 63 S fast around a racetrack was one the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had to date. You may not be able to do tyre smoking drift sessions in the car, but the reality is even most who own C63 S’s can’t either – even though their vehicles can. So there’s not much to miss in that department. That being said, the GLC does allow for a fair bit of a movement, since it sends its power mostly to the rear tyres.
I probably enjoyed this track experience as much as I did, because I wasn’t really expecting the car to be as good as they say it is, it is an SUV after all. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I had to work harder for cleaner laps. Either way, it was exhilarating and a good glimpse of the future of smaller performance SUV’s.
Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Pricing in South Africa
Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S SUV: R1 572 602
Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe: R1 689 067
Also published on Medium.