The first clue that the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63 differs from most other SUVs appears at the first intersection we arrive at after leaving the 250-year-old Troutbeck Inn in Amenia, NY. As the S version we’re in approaches the corner, a front camera view of the road appears on the center display screen with the name of the street ahead overlaid in blue, along with arrows indicating the direction to turn in order to remain on course. That’s the optional augmented reality feature for the navigation system doing its job and it certainly beats squinting at road signs.
“Very impressive, Mercedes”—it’s a mumbled compliment designed to be unanswered, but it turns out the car has big ears. Saying “Mercedes,” as you would with “Siri,” initiates a conversation with the car regarding infotainment options.
Outside, the leaves are changing color, and the test route—which crisscrosses the Hudson River at various points between Saugerties and Newburgh, meandering through towns like historic Woodstock and scenic Cold Spring—highlights the beauty of the oncoming autumn season. But the real change in perception comes courtesy of the AMG GLC 63 as it altered our view of what an SUV really is—or can be.
The AMG designation means that this SUV comes equipped with a more powerful V8 bi-turbo engine, rather than the four-cylinder power plant on the basic GLC 300 model, all of which are available in standard SUV and coupe designs. The performance numbers are staggering for an SUV: the coupe version can reach 60mph in 3.8 seconds with a top speed of 155mph. The Sport version (which is 0.2 seconds quicker off the mark) grabbed the speed record at the Nuerburgring race track in Germany. There is even a race mode among the driving options, should you fancy some track time on your own. A handy knob on the steering wheel makes toggling through the driving modes, including a new choice dubbed “slippery” (for example, wet leaves), easy.
What this means is that the changing leaves can become a colorful, impressionistic blur when passing other vehicles on the single-lane roads of the Catskill Mountains. This is also the moment to appreciate the high performance brakes that let you quickly reduce speed once you’ve overtaken slower moving traffic.
With speed that rivals a sports car, it’s almost hard to believe that this car has all the cargo and seating room normally associated with SUVs. The interior is well-appointed and the seats are comfortable—even after an entire day of driving. An air-suspension system with adaptive damping keeps the ride smooth. Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts also will note a change in the front and rear lamp designs from previous models, as well as slight modifications to the tailpipe. And a new graphite grey metallic colorway is also a striking new option. Just don’t say how nice this new Mercedes is until you’re out of the car, otherwise it’ll be a long conversation with the vehicle.
Two models ($87,445 for standard and $96,425 for the S version) will arrive later this year.
Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz