Pedro Arrais review: AMG 'coupe' a performance pearl

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The world is your oyster if you have a budget of about $90,000 to spend on a vehicle — and the attractive pearl you see today is the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S.

The whole world, it seems, is craving SUVs. Just this past May, Rolls-Royce finally rolled out its version. So while $90,000 sounds like a lot (it is), it is now just another price point for the well-heeled crowd.

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Like everything else, details count in this segment. Instead of a Mercedes-Benz, we are driving a Mercedes-AMG, a division with a motorsports pedigree.

If you have looked at the profile of the vehicle, you might have noticed that it isn’t your typical boxy style synonymous with an SUV.

Both BMW and Mercedes offer their SUVs as “coupes” (along with the usual traditional boxy shape). Typically, a coupe would be a two-door vehicle. The German designers (as well as the marketing department) are taking the liberty to call a four-door SUV with a sloping rear end a coupe as well.

So far there has not been a pushback by the public, so the moniker stands.

The GLC Coupe line starts with the GLC 300, with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a $50,300 price. My tester is the top-of-the-line AMG GLC 63 S, with a hand-crafted bi-turbo 4.0-litre V-8 and a $91,500 list price.

It faces the BMW X6 50i, Porsche Macan Turbo and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

Wow, that’s some fast company.

Right off the mark the AMG smacks down the competition, with a claimed 3.8 seconds from zero to 100 km/h. That’s a second faster than either the BMW or Macan and a whisker faster than the Alfa.

The V-8 engine is handbuilt in Affalterbach, Germany, with the one-man, one-engine principle — each engine bears the signature of the technician who built it.

The engine’s two turbochargers are mounted, rather unconventionally, inside the V configuration. AMG claims this optimizes the supply of fresh air to the turbochargers.

The proof is in the pudding, as the engine crams 2.3 times more oxygen into the combustion process, producing 503 horsepower and 516 foot-pounds of torque, available from 1,750 to 4,500 rpm. Just as in a race car, the engine uses dry-sump lubrication, allowing the engine to be installed in a lower position.

The 63 S will push you back in your seat with just a jab on the accelerator, and spirited driving has to be done with heightened awareness as your senses are overloaded with the realization that this brute seemingly has no upper limits (it does, at around 280 km/h).

It isn’t just about power — it also tries to be efficient. With engine stop-start, the engine switches off entirely at stoplights and boasts 15.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 10.9 on the highway. In this small group, its fuel economy betters the BMW and Alfa.

The engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The added gears mean the engine can cruise at a lower engine speed, benefiting fuel economy and cabin noise.

My main beef isn’t with the actual transmission, but with the gear shifter. The unit, a slender stalk on the right side of the steering wheel, is from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin. I would have preferred a chunky shifter mounted on the centre console.

To manually shift the gears, the 63 S has steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. Again, I would have preferred to do the same action on a console-mounted shifter.

You can hear every shift and every downshift thanks to the performance exhaust — if you desire. A button on the console allows you to hush it early in the morning so as not to wake the neighbours, but open it up — loud and proud — when you hit the open road.

After a spirited run don’t be surprised to hear it bark, pop and gurgle like a ’60s muscle car when you back off on the accelerator.

The aural pleasure is matched only by how your whole body reacts to the vibrations of the engine’s growl at full throttle.

In coupe form, the GLC 63 S looks as sinister as the powerplant. The sloping rear takes out the boxy silhouette of a typical SUV and replaces it with a slimmer, more sensual body. I wouldn’t call it pretty, by any stretch of the imagination, but it demands attention on the road.

My tester had the optional 21-inch matte black wheels, which added to its appeal.

The cabin is a pleasure to spend time in, with a logical and orderly placement of all the tools you need to drive and appreciate this machine. All the luxury appointments expected from a high-end Mercedes are supplied, and fit and finish is of a high standard.

The only thing I missed was a more adjustable driver’s seat. Sure, it has all the standard adjustments. But what is missing is the ability to fine-tune the bolsters (torso as well as thighs) so as to cradle your body when tackling corners, if you are slim.

Individuals with a larger girth will appreciate the wide seats just the way they are.

If the world is your oyster, make sure you find the time to sample the AMG GLC 63 S. You might never look at a pearl in the same way again.

The spec sheet

Type: Luxury/performance mid-sized crossover, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V-8, 503 hp at 5,500 to 6,250 r.p.m., 516 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,750 to 4,500 r.p.m.

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,720; width, 2,090; height, 1,580; wheelbase, 2,870

Curb weight (kg): 2,046

Price (base/as tested): $91,500/ $112,840 (includes $100 AC tax)

Options: Premium package $5,300, Edition 1 $5,000, intelligent drive $2,700, premium rear seating $1,500, HUD $1,500, climate comfort front seats $1,200, AMG night package $1,000, LED lighting $900, metallic paint $890, trailer hitch $750, 21-inch wheels $500

Tires: 265/45 R20 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 15.1 city/ 10.9 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car and roadside assistance

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