Into a wealth of high-end SUVs, Merc has just introduced two ultimate machines
While the model designation ‘63S’ applied to the bootlids of both GLC and GLC Coupe models may not carry former might, writes Iain Robertson, this pair of firecracker Mercedes-Benz models can still turn a cute high-performance ‘heel’.
Although I have a theory that niche-filling is something best left to cookie manufacturers, the motor industry and specifically that of the unified Germany seems to believe that there is a never-ending line-up of market cavities just waiting to be occupied (wartime references unintended). As a result, a sometime Small, Medium, Large and Extra-large designations have been supplemented by smaller-than-small, upright-but-still-small, lower-medium, left-of-centre-medium and upper-medium, as well as moderately-large, grossly-huge and any other combinations of adjectives and nouns that you might care to assemble at your leisure…just do not tell Merc, Audi, or BMW, because you can sure they will consider it their competitive duty to comply.
Of course, Mercedes-Benz possesses a phenomenal history, which happens to be among the oldest of them all. Seldom straying too far from its association with the most prestigious aspects of society, there are very few foreign potentates (good and evil) that will not be transported among their people, or on trips to airports, election cavalcades and just to the shops, with a ‘Three-Pointed-Star’ ahead of them. The brand infers a blend of bulldozer stoicism, ultra-luxury, inherent safety and security and judicious attention to minute detail. What Merc does not know about car building is scarcely worth knowing.
There was a time in Merc’s history, when the ‘63’ designation equated to a 6.3-litre V8 engine capacity of unrelenting potency. Its ‘Grosser-Mercedes’ limousines of the late-1960s all featured the big motor, with its phenomenal turn of performance and sophistication. In a more modern era, while the cubic capacity of the engine has been reduced to 4.0-litres, with turbocharging, up to a stratospheric 510bhp is now on tap (coupe; 476bhp estate), which is enough to zip a two-tonnes SUV from 0-60mph in a remarkable 3.5s and upwards to a restricted 174mph, all with a more cautious eye towards environmental protection and eking out a few extra MPGs.
Developed by the AMG tuning arm for its parent company, Merc has spent the customary amount of time circulating the Nurburgring Circuit to gift its new model line-up a supersports pedigree. There is no denial of its pinnacle achievements, even though most of the cars exported from Germany will be sold in markets with strict speed limits in force. As to the fuel economy…well, economy is hardly a term that can be applied to something as greedy as a ‘63’ model-designated Merc but when has that troubled the typical Merc customer at this end of the scale. There is no final price information, as yet, but slightly north of £70,000 would be a fair expectation.
It needs to be highlighted that these new models are not upgraded radically from the previous generation estate and coupe variants but they do include a number of enhancements, starting with revised head and tail-lamp units, revised tailpipes, the MBUX in-car entertainment system, a new ‘slippery’ mode for the driver-adjustable chassis settings and a fresh design of optional 21.0-inch diameter alloy road wheels. Enhancement of existing packages is a more honest descript.
Now typical of the rest of the Merc range, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is positioned ahead of the driver, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen at the top of the centre stack. The company has proved its point, having installed different versions of the same dashboard technology across much of the rest of its line-up. It has generated significant critical comment and is both liked and appreciated by users. Merc has spent a lot of time improving the speech recognition aspects of its MBUX system and it can now handle quite extreme regional variances and, using continuously revised artificial intelligence, it can make sense of muffled words and even odd pronunciations. While I am not a fan of speech-recognition, I can understand the potential safety benefits and the within-fingertip’s-reach button accessibility.
The cabin is clad in super luxurious leather and, as an option, inflatable airbags within the high-back seat bolsters and bases can fill and deflate automatically, to hold-in both driver and front passenger during more boisterous cornering manoeuvres, of which both variants of the car are eminently capable. The seats can also be heated (and chilled) for added comfort. A range of ‘behind the scenes’ chassis settings that ranges from Basic to Advanced and Pro to Master provides an additional string of command settings to enhance the overall driving and dynamic envelope. AMG will never let you forget that its racing expertise lies behind the prodigious capabilities of both estate and coupe versions of the GLC range.
With access to up-to-510bhp, these GLC models emit a serious V8 grumble from their tuned exhausts. Yet, despite the glamorous grunt, it is not particularly musical and the closely stacked gear ratios make it sound occasionally monotonous, which I am certain was not AMG’s intentions. However, as these cars need to meet drive-by noise regulations, perhaps some of the lack of character is understandable.
The 9-speed automatic transmission now features a wet-clutch for crisper and less-jarring start-offs and automatic throttle-blipping and even blockshifts are possible, accompanied by a driver selectable exhaust tone (apparently loud, or not-so-loud). The new GLC63S models are technological tour-de-forces and, of course, you do pay for the privilege, even though they seem like veritable bargains alongside equivalent cars from Bentley, or Rolls Royce, even though there is very little to choose between them in terms of status. It is the Merc’s irrefutable dynamic balance that will win the driver’s approval.
Conclusion: If you desire a high-end 4×4, a new Mercedes-Benz might fit the bill to perfection and the latest GLC63S offers surprisingly good value for money, with a choice of two different models, in a truly confused up-market sector.