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One Week With the Roaring 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe Is a Confusing Experience

Easy to design, fun to drive, but not so easy on your backside.

Todd LassaWriterManufacturerPhotographer

As I began my week with the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe, I recalled that Gorden Wagener loves the art of designing crossover/utility vehicle coupes.

"You have a better body-to-wheel relationship on the CUV coupes versus normal coupes," said the design chief for Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler. "When you compare CLS to GLE coupe, of course it carries the same DNA. The CLS is probably our core DNA for four-door coupes. Small greenhouse, high beltline, great body-to-wheel relationship." He added that a fastback design on an SUV platform is even "faster" for optimal aerodynamics, and the daylight opening (DLO), or greenhouse, is more evenly proportioned with the lower body. Plus, there is space in the wells for those 21-inch wheels.

GLC vs. GLE

Wagener was talking about the new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, based on the company's midsize SUV platform, and I was just about to get into a coupe based on the compact SUV platform. But it was quite a compact crossover, a 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe.

At this point, terms need to be addressed. Many of my peers object to the notion of a "crossover" utility, a term Wagener used in this case to delineate Mercedes' conventional box-ended SUVs from the sporty, rakish ones with much-diminished cargo capacity. These vehicles are aimed at well-heeled young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and older empty-nesters.

"Crossover" is a made-up term, such critics say, though of course the term "SUV" didn't exist until the mid-1980s. Anyway, this CUV is just 62 inches tall, with no roof rack to extend the height that's roughly equal to American sedans and coupes of the 1950s. That was before Virgil Exner's longer, lower, wider Chrysler cars changed things in the 1957 model year.

Coupe-Like Utility

The more compact body style takes its toll on a crossover's utility. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe has 49.4 cubic-feet of space behind the front seats, versus 56.5 cubic feet for a conventional GLC SUV. The back seat has good legroom and adequate headroom for adults. In marketing-speak, this is utility for owners to impress their best friends, another couple, on the way to a fancy dinner.

As for the word "coupe," no, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe does not have two doors. But it's also not a closed buggy with two passenger seats inside and one outside for the driver, either, which was the original definition back in the buggy whip era.

This coupe has 503 horsepower under its hood, so I'll give the two questionable terms a pass. The "S" in the GLC 63 S Coupe refers to the addition of active engine mounts, for a 34-horsepower, 37 lb-ft of torque, $7,600 boost over the "base" GLC 63 Coupe. Without having driven that non-S GLC 63 Coupe as a baseline, I can only say this SUV is as edgy as the AMG brand ever gets, short of the Black Series track-ready AMG cars.

Simply backing and turning out of a driveway will make the driver aware of the 21-inch Pirelli P-Zero high-performance summer tires scrunching underneath. The engine starts up with a throaty roar that seems to settle down only when the AMG's speed catches up with the aural quality. In fact, it's a bit of a race-car engine around town in stop-and-go traffic, its lack of smoothness most evident when the stop/start feature kicks in.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe: Bullet Train on the Freeway

On the freeway, the 4.0-liter bi-turbo V-8 moves the crossover coupe like a bullet train, just like the autobahn-bred AMG Hammers of yore. But whether in Comfort or Sport modes (of the five available), the combo of short wheelbase and significant unsprung weight at all four corners may remind you of one of those buggy-whip coupes. It's just too stiff and too ready and willing to respond to road imperfections. Mitigating the AMG ride quality and sound quality is the Mercedes side of the name; it's still a quiet, sold vehicle, coddling its driver and passengers with top-notch fit and finish, insulation, and isolation—the good kind that doesn't mask the exhaust note when you step on the throttle.

The manufacturer claims a 3.6-second 0-60-mph time for the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe, 0.2-second quicker than the 479-hp GLC 63, and after a couple of quick pedal mashes, I have no reason to doubt it.

Cornering grip is impressive, and the GLC 63 S Coupe is surprisingly well-mannered on curvy off-ramps from the expansion strip-laden freeway. In Sport mode, the car yaws a bit and takes a set with impending, but not excessive, understeer (it has an all-wheel-drive system, after all). There is none of the head-toss or sea sickness I often associate with the hardest of hard-edged SUVs from traditional sport-sedan or sports-car manufacturers. Yes, I'm looking at you, Lamborghini Urus.

The short-test conclusion says the 4.0-liter bi-turbo engine is smooth only on the freeway, and the ride and handling are well balanced only when exiting or entering the freeway. Probably on twisty mountain roads, too, but those are rare in Southeast Michigan.

How About the Wheelbase and Wheel Size, Though?

When it comes to the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe's ride and handling, it gets back to the big wheels and relatively short wheelbase. I've met several engineers who have an anti-unsprung weight bias against huge, oversize wheels, and they should have devised some sort of ratio or equation by now. As far as I know, they haven't, so here goes: This 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe runs on 21-inch wheels (19s are standard, by the way) separated front-to-rear by a 113.1-inch wheelbase, for a wheelbase/wheel-diameter ratio of 5.39. The less-powerful, $2,900 less-expensive Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 Coupe has a 115.7-inch wheelbase and maximum wheel option of 19 inches, for a ratio of 6.09. Don't be surprised to find the AMG CLS has better ride quality.

My skepticism almost certainly colors this review in this regard—but car reviews, like reviews of books, theater, music, movies and architecture, are by definition rather subjective. In this case, though, I've got some objective math on my side.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe Pros:

  • Power
  • Cornering
  • Exhaust note

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe Cons:

  • Choppy ride
  • High-strung engine
  • Mercedes-Benz User Experience still tricky and touchy to use (like most competing systems)
2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $85,095 (base)
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-8/503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 16/22 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 186.9 x 76.0 x 62.4 in
WHEELBASE 113.1 in
WEIGHT: 4,548 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.6 sec
TOP SPEED 174 mph