Performance to be applauded...from a distance.
While other manufacturers have committed to electrifying their entire model ranges by 2020, it seems that Mercedes is on a relentless quest to create SUV versions of all its cars. You get high-riding versions of the familiar A-Class, C-Class and E-Class models in standard or coupe body forms. Who knows, we might yet see some convertible versions – although perhaps Land Rover got there first with the Evoque.
After the base ranges have been established, then it’s time to liven them up with a bit of AMG magic. It makes for baffling attempts to try and make sense of the German manufacturer’s range structure, but the company’s latest addition to the sales roster is the GLC 63 AMG.
The standard GLC is a fairly handsome-looking thing – it’s well-proportioned and it has presence, something which has only been added to with a suite of upgrades from the chaps at Affalterbach. The flared wheel arches lend menace, the rear spoiler is suitably forboding and even the so-called Panamericana grille works well. The GLC Coupe remains as unfathomably pointless as ever, with a louche tea tray rear wing that only serves to lessen already-miserable rear visibility and a sloping roof that not only makes the car look ugly but impacts on headroom in the rear of the cabin. We’re still not sure who buys these, but someone must be. Bizarrely, and somewhat in contradiction, the two wrongs of the GLC AMG Coupe make a right – if you’re going buy something obnoxious, you might as well go all-out.
The interior of both cars is decent and fitting with the general theme. You get swathes of carbonfibre and Mercedes’ now-trademark giant touchscreen that stretches across from the instrument panel all the way to the centre part of the dashboard. The day-to-day usability of the standard GLC is all present and correct – there's plenty of room in the second row of seats, which fold 40:20:40 for maximum practicality and decent access to a large boot. A nifty button you'll also find on the likes of the E-Class Estate drops the seats quickly and easily for a flat floor.
How does it drive?
The GLC 63 AMG is a raucous drive, just don’t look at the fuel consumption display on the digital dials. If you’re in the passenger seat and the driver pins the throttle, the breath catches briefly in your chest and your head flies back into the chair, it’s all really quite fun. You can feel the laws of physics not quite being broken, but bent enough to warrant a telling off from whoever polices such things.
The boffins at AMG headquarters in Affalterbach have worked some kind of magic on the handling too – the GLC 63 is about as good as it ever gets for hot SUVs of this ilk. The steering is direct and the nose follows straight through wherever you decide to point it, none of that barge-like ponderousness of big cars. Of course, you're never going to be able to match the feel of a proper low-to-the-ground performance saloon or estate, but AMG has shown an admirable dedication to its craft here. Likewise the ride – the GLC 63 rides on fancy air suspension with adaptive dampers that keep the car flat through corners and transmit just enough of the bumps that you feel engaged with the road.
There’s an active exhaust on the car that changes the sounds of the waste pipe from merely aggressive to a sort of furious flatulence. Drive at all enthusiastically and you herald your arrival several miles down the road with a rising crescendo that will have curtains twitching and heads shaking at village bus stops. The nine-speed automatic transmission is in on the action too, with all sorts of farts and whistle as the car changes down through the gears.
If it all gets too much you can calm things down and put the car into Comfort mode and it’s much more civilised, softening the ride and quietening the engine while still allowing a threatening rumble to remain so that you never forget the car's ultimate purpose. Overall, this medium-sized SUV makes much more sense as a mile-munching grand tourer with effortless overtaking credentials, but then that’s a waste of its potential, using a sledgehammer to open a packet of nuts.
Should I buy one?
If you have more money than sense, or particularly need the fuel points then yes. But a car like this isn’t a rational choice, and it hasn’t been created by rational people. We’re more than happy to applaud its existence, but we’d never encourage anyone to actually buy one. You want performance? Get a sports car – but don’t subject your family to being thrown around corners like crash-test dummies, those kids will be choosing your nursing home one day.