Performance SUV follows C-Class cousin in ditching V8 for four-pot PHEV system

Find Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S E Performance deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Progress is impossible without change, or so they say. For the hottest Mercedes-Benz GLC, this means forgoing its much-loved twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine for a mesmerisingly complex plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

Launched in the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S E-Performance earlier this year, this matches an updated version of the A45’s 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine with a rear-mounted 400V electric motor to give the new GLC 63 S E Performance 671bhp and 752lb ft of torque – figures that not only place it at the top of its class but also 69bhp and 236lb ft ahead of the old GLC 63 S.

As well as the upright SUV tested here, GLC 63 buyers will be able to choose the sleeker but not as practical Coupé bodystyle – for a pretty significant price premium.

It’s also a significant 256bhp and 383lb ft more than the new GLC 43, which uses the same M139 engine but in a lower state of tune and with only mild-hybrid electrification.

The inclusion of a 4.8kWh battery – admittedly more for enhancement of performance than efficiency – also allows the GLC 63 to travel for up to 7.5 miles on electricity alone.

It can’t handle DC rapid charging, but a sophisticated energy recuperation system modelled on that used by Mercedes’ Formula 1 racers (with four settings) quickly and effectively charges it on the go.

You can also choose between no fewer than eight driving modes and four stability control settings. Predictably, however, there’s a catch: at 2235kg, the GLC 63 is now 300kg heavier.

Back to top

Hot GLCs are set apart from lesser ones by a deeper front bumper, AMG’s signature Panamericana grille, new trim elements within the wheel arches, wider door sills, AMG mirrors, a large roof spoiler and a uniquely styled rear bumper sporting four rectangular tailpipes.


mercedes amg glc63 s review 2023 013 dash

The interior includes many of the upgrades seen on the C63, including new digital graphics, an AMG steering wheel, sports seats and various new functions for the infotainment system, including a data logger for track driving.

The cabin is agreeably practical, but the packaging of the battery robs the boot of 155 litres, reducing its capacity to just 380 litres. There’s panache in the choice of materials and perceived quality is first-rate.


mercedes amg glc63 s review 2023 023 engine

In everyday driving, the GLC 63 is much tamer than its predecessor. In Comfort mode, it sets off in EV mode (if the battery has enough charge), so there’s no engine noise or exhaust blare whatsoever, just a hushed whoosh of the motor as you glide off, with the drive going exclusively to the rear axle.

When the software determines it would be better operating in hybrid mode, the engine fires up. Drive is then channelled to all four wheels, through a nine-speed automatic gearbox and directly from the motor, making it suitably urgent.

There’s no denying the overall effectiveness of the PHEV system. When the motor contributes its full quota in Sport Plus mode, the GLC 63 is very rapid indeed – faster to 62mph than the old V8, no less.

However, it rarely if ever feels like a car packing such exuberant reserves of power and torque.

Part of this can be traced to the fact that the engine has to be wound up to 5250rpm before it delivers its full 402lb ft and 6750rpm for the 469bhp, whereas the old V8 relied on its prodigious bottom-end grunt to mould performance.

Nor is the soundtrack anywhere near as assertive as that of old. It emits a distinctive raspy exhaust note that increases in both volume and intensity as you scroll through the various driving modes, and there are some acoustic theatrics on downshifts, with pops and crackles on the overrun, but I was searching in vain for the deep, bass-driven drama that we have come to expect and appreciate from AMG models.

As compensation, it offers vastly improved efficiency. The official 37.7mpg fuel economy betters that of the old V8 by almost 16mpg, leading to a dramatic drop in CO2 emissions.


mercedes amg glc63 s review 2023 024 charging

The big SUV backs up its drag-race speed with truly impressive handling. Send it into a series of challenging turns and you discover a fittingly meaty yet precise feel to the variable-ratio steering. This combines with a bespoke new rear-steering system to make it noticeably more responsive than lesser Mk2 GLCs.

The inherent sharpness is backed up by plenty of bite from the front end. With a weight distribution of 49:51 front to rear (improved from 45:55) and fat tyres (265 fronts, 295 rears), it turns in eagerly and holds its line with steely determination.

With a fully variable four-wheel drive system and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential giving torque vectoring across the rear axle, it has outstanding agility.

Meanwhile, a newly adopted active roll stabilisation system with 48V electromechanical stabiliser bars helps to keep body movements and load changes nicely in check.

The ride combines suppleness, composure and control well. It occasionally gets caught out by larger ridges and bumps (at least on the optional 21in wheels; 19s are standard), but the advanced variable damping control, which can alter the rates between each wheel, ensures that any nasty road shock is always quickly quelled.

The braking is less well resolved. The 390mm ventilated discs and six-piston calipers at the front and 380mm discs with single-piston calipers at the rear are very capable but there’s a lack of feel within the pedal and it’s devoid of a defined bite point. AMG says this is a result of providing the SUV with those four energy-recuperation modes.


mercedes amg glc63 s review 2023 025 static frton

We have a mixed bag here, then. The GLC 63 is very powerful and fast, its reworked underpinnings and dynamic smarts give it great poise and ability over challenging roads, it’s well finished and it offers all the very latest digital functions, but it fails to stir emotions in the same way as its predecessor.

It’s enticing on one level, a spurious disappointment on another. Its electrification may represent progress and make it much more efficient, but it lacks true Affalterbach identity and soul.

And that’s before we have even discussed its price, which has risen from £86,640 (when the V8 model was pulled in late 2020) to £108,995 – all while the more exciting Jaguar F-Pace SVR costs £85,180.