I used to Marvel at Chevrolet’s prolific use of its famous and long-lived Small-Block V8. In capacities from 5.3 litres all the way up to 7.0 litres, the compact, lightweight pushrod V8 powered everything from mini-vans to giant pick-ups, and snoozy front-wheel-drive sedans to Le Mans-winning Corvette racers. These days, however, Chevrolet’s cost-amortisation team look like mere amateurs compared to their counterparts at Mercedes-AMG.
The Affalterbach-based Mercedes hot shop has been busily stuffing their twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 into pretty much anything with a three-pointed star on the nose. In fact, it’s actually easier to list the Mercedes products not available with the characterful V8 than to rattle off the full list of those powered by the 3982cc bent-eight engine. Given the proliferation of the V8 across C-, E- and S-Class models, along with AMG’s sports cars and SUVs, the hand-built V8 has got to be one of the most popular V8s in the world after the aforementioned Small Block and those from Ford and Dodge/Chrysler. It’d also have to be the world’s most numerous hand-built engine.
And the latest recipient of the M177 V8 is the GLC 63 S in either wagon or ‘coupe’ (pictured). Both variants feature five doors and there’s only a 10kg weight different between them – 2010kg for the wagon and 2020kg for the coupe. While the GLC 63 S isn’t a lightweight, its heavyweight engine is more than up to the task of providing hilariously entertaining levels of propulsion. Given that the same engine musters 450kW and 900Nm in the S63, the 375kW/700Nm tune for the GLC feels very unstressed. The torque peak arrives at just 1750rpm and continues reporting for duty until 4500rpm. Meanwhile, the full complement of kilowatts arrives at 5500rpm and parties until 6200rpm. While those numbers suggest a low-to-mid-range engine, the V8 is happy to spin beyond 7000rpm.
Coupled to a nine-speed wet-clutch MCT automatic gearbox, the engine sends its drive to all four wheels via a permanent all-wheel-drive system (it cannot switch to smokey rear-drive mode like that in the E63 S). Make full use of the available traction and torque via the Race Start function and the monster truck will thunder to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. To give some perspective to the absurdity of that number, it’s quicker than a C63 to the same benchmark. Top speed for the GLC is quoted as a fearsome 280km/h.
Once rolling on the road, the GLC 63 S doesn’t feel quite as ferocious as a C63, but there’s more than enough mumbo for fun or fear. Generally, the suspension does a fine job of controlling the mass as its tossed backwards under acceleration or forwards under heavy braking – the front rotors are 390mm composite units. There’s some pitch and dive, along with just enough roll for you to gauge how hard the tyres are working, but the GLC 63 S does a reasonable impression of an over-sized hot hatch. Given the similarities in mass, the suspension tune for both wagon and coupe is identical.
The GLC combines its control with a level of pliancy and fluidity that is missing from many heavy-footed mega SUVs. The suspension rounds off the worst of the sharp impacts that Australian urban and country roads have in abundance, yet it keeps float in check. It’s an impressive double act.
The suspension, like the drivetrain and steering, can be altered through the Dynamic Select system. There’s the usual Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race modes, along with the ability to mix-and-match settings via the Individual mode. For most road driving, Sport seems like the Goldilocks mode across the board. If you were really on a charge, Sport+ brings a welcome pick-up in shift speed, but generally it’s a bit manic and too eager to bang in a downshift or hang on to a gear for too long.
In every mode, the engine offers something new and impressive. It’s demure in Comfort mode, sharp in Sport, savage in Sport+ and demonic in Race. And regardless of mode, it sounds the business. Okay, the pops and bangs from the exhaust are a bit much in Race mode (and Sport+ too if you’re not in the mood), but despite the muting effects of turbocharging, the engine is full of aural character and vitality.
And, much like the Chevrolet Small-Block V8, the AMG 4.0-litre engine delivers unique traits to each vehicle it powers. In the case of the GLC 63 S, it treads a line between the maniacal E63 S and the mature S63.
At $164,900, the wagon is expected to take the lion’s share of the sales in Australia – up to 65 per cent according to the brand. The coupe starts at $171,900. It’s easy for a motoring journalist to pontificate about the uselessness of such a car, but the dynamic compromises aren’t as dramatic as you’d think, and the GLC certainly rides better than the C63. While it wouldn’t be my choice from the catalogue of 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 AMGs, I wouldn’t judge you poorly if it were yours. Jesse Taylor