2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe First Drive

Power, prestige, and pretty bodywork.

AMENIA, New York—In L.A., it's hard to tell when summer has exactly ended; the clearest indicator is when Starbucks starts to promote its beloved—or intensely hated—pumpkin-spice latte. In upstate New York, though, the landscape paints a clearer picture, one that's at once cinematic and straight out of another century.

My personal taste in cars runs toward things like the Jaguar F-Type SVR coupe, Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS, and Lexus LC500, all of which offer seductive exterior design and two of which pack thumping V-8s. SUVs on the other hand aren't really my jam, and chiefly those with identity crises that can't decide whether they're an SUV or sedan but want to be called a coupe anyway. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe, however, is an SUV-sedan-thing that piques my interest, as it looks great and, well, it has a V-8.

Like the rest of the GLC SUV and Coupe lineup, it was just updated for 2020, as well, providing an excuse for us to slide behind the wheel again. You can get the full rundown on what's changed here, but the upshot is it has slightly different graphics front and rear, a new AMG steering wheel with a drive-mode selector knob, an electronically locking differential, and Mercedes' MBUX infotainment with digital assistant.

Eager for the drive, I quickly got situated in the GLC63 S's well-bolstered AMG performance seats and headed out on the back roads surrounding Amenia, New York, a quaint town that's home to roughly 4,000 inhabitants. There in Dutchess County, the experience was akin to being in the opening shot of a Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese film, but there was little time to appreciate the view. I toggled from Comfort to Sport+ mode to get an understanding of what 503 horsepower feels like in this beast. (The GLC63 Coupe is only available in S spec, while the GLC63 SUV is only available in 469-hp base trim.)

The S Coupe's 4.0-liter twin-turbo eight-cylinder also produces 516 lb-ft; especially in Sport+, it makes itself known with all sort of raucous and rowdy noises emanating both from underhood and from the exhaust. Mercedes says it's capable of hurtling this feisty SUV from zero to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, and that's probably even a little conservative.

Blasting across the scenic roads of Amenia and leaving a trail of scattered leaves in our wake, the GLC63 S handled every corner precision and poise. The roads were smooth enough that the extra-firm Sport+ mode didn't beat me up, but you'll want to largely use Comfort or Sport for most driving situations. The settings also alter the transmission's shift behavior—its gearchanges are superfast and smooth—and the steering weight, while an Individual mode allows drivers to program in their favorite parameters and roll with that.

Inside, my test vehicle has the AMG Performance package, which beefs up the steering wheel section width, brings the most aggressive seats, and applies vibrant stitching throughout. This upholstery may be an acquired taste for those who prefer a more traditional Mercedes-Benz interior, but the "traditional" Benz buyer isn't likely looking at AMGs, and especially not a hot-rod coupe-UV. Mercedes-Benz's execution of infotainment control via touchpad is the best I've used, and having it added to the GLC lineup is very welcome. It processes inputs accurately and quickly, and rarely if ever annoys or feels clumsy, unlike, say, the setup in Lexus vehicles.

Additional tech on board includes safety systems such as active cruise control, hands-off detection, route-based speed adaptation, automatic emergency braking, speed-limit assist, and active lane keeping. There's also a standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.0-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Burmester audio, and navigation with a cool augmented-reality feature that overlays the directions on a front camera view so you know exactly where you need to turn. As mentioned, the GLC now also has the MBUX multimedia system, which has a virtual personal assistant on standby that cannot wait to help.

As you may know, MBUX's digital assistant uses artificial intelligence to learn your preferences and usual inquiries, and is summoned by saying "Hey, Mercedes." Of course, if you simply mumble the word "Mercedes" the elegant-sounding virtual woman will snap to attention. Probably less of an issue for owners, but a source of frustration for journalists trying to discuss the merits of a test vehicle with other occupants.

Having put on some classic country music for the drive—despite being in New York, the old-world feel of the area made it feel plenty appropriate—I was promoted to play a round of trivia with the "Hey, Mercedes" lady. It went something like this:

"Hey, Mercedes!"

"How can I help you?"

"Who wrote Patsy Cline's chart-topping hit 'Crazy?' "

"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. How can I help you?"

"It was Willie Nelson."

"What would you like to do?"

"Fuggetaboutit!"

"I'm sorry, I didn't get that."

Thankfully, asking Mercedes for restaurant recommendations, to adjust the cabin temperature, or the weather at a destination go more smoothly.

The 2020 Mercedes AMG GLC63 S Coupe starts at $84,100 and goes on sale later this year, at which point the BMW X4 M Coupe will be waiting for it. Based on our first drive of the Bimmer, we're thinking that's going to be a knock-down, drag-out sort of fight.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe Specifications
ON SALE Late 2019
PRICE $89,630
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8; 503 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 15/22 (est)
L x W x H 186.9 x 76.0 x 62.4 in
WHEELBASE 113.1 in
WEIGHT 4,548 lb (est)
0-60 MPH 3.6 sec (mfr)
TOP SPEED 174 mph (mfr)
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