Mercedes-AMG’s new GLC 63 S enters the ring with one of Porsche’s hardest-hitting SUVs: the Macan Turbo
*** NOTE : £1 = $1.28 (correct at time of post)
Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic
- List price £76,070
- Target Price £72,631
With a new twin-turbo V8 borrowed from the C63 S, it should pack a serious punch.
Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Pack
- List price £69,505
- Target Price £69,505
A hugely popular car with good reason: it’s fast and classy, with serious cachet.
Compromise. Unlike the generations before us, it’s something we’re rarely forced to do. If you miss a TV show, you can catch up online; if you don’t have time to shop for food, there’s a company that will deliver curated meals to your front door.
How is this relevant to the car world? Well, it would appear that buyers’ aversion to compromise has had a direct impact on the gestation of the two SUVs here. In the case of the Macan Turbo Performance Pack, Porsche has taken an already high-performance luxury SUV and given its 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 engine even more power, while still aiming to deliver all the comfort and practicality you’d expect of such a vehicle.
“Ah,” said Mercedes. “Two can play that game.” So it got tuning arm AMG to shoehorn the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine from the startlingly quick C63 S saloon into the GLC, creating the GLC 63 S, complete with four-wheel drive and air suspension to keep everything manageable.
Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement
If these SUVs were boxers, the Macan would be Floyd Mayweather (precise and well rounded), while the GLC would be Conor McGregor: loud, brash and capable of delivering one hell of a punch. Indeed, with 503bhp and 516lb ft of torque, the GLC completes the 0-60mph run in a scarcely believable 3.6sec and hits 100mph in 9.0sec (if you can find a disused runway). That makes the GLC not just quicker than the already rapid 434bhp Macan (which takes an extra 0.4sec to hit 60mph) but the quickest SUV we’ve ever tested.
And, unlike the Macan, which delivers its power in a wonderfully linear yet rather undramatic manner, the GLC practically picks you up and throws you towards the horizon. From 3000rpm all the way to its 7000rpm limiter, the GLC’s acceleration is absolutely relentless, its nine-speed automatic gearbox firing through shifts with virtually no interruption. Factor in a thunderous soundtrack like a Nascar racer’s and it’s a driving experience that, for visceral pleasure, eclipses the Macan’s.
But a powerful punch will only get you so far in the ring; you also need to be nimble and light on your feet. This is where the Macan excels. While the GLC’s steering is rather inconsistent in weighting and response, the Macan’s is more precise, letting you place the front wheels more confidently. Paired with crisper accelerator response and diligent body control from its air suspension, the Macan provides the driver with a more intimate connection to the road.
However, don’t think the GLC is simply a point-and-squirt machine. It remains taut and composed on its clever air suspension, minimising lean through demanding corners even more rigorously than the Macan. And should you turn off its electronic stability aids, the GLC’s four-wheel drive system will even let you slide the car around playfully at low speeds.
That said, in order to achieve this intoxicating driving experience, Mercedes has sacrificed refinement. The GLC’s brittle ride can become tiring on longer journeys, the boomy sports exhaust never fades into the background, there’s more buffeting around its front pillars and its tyres cause more roar at motorway speeds than the Macan’s. It’s by no means unacceptable, but the GLC can’t match the Macan’s impressively hushed ambience.
Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality
Both SUVs are capable of prodigious speeds, so they need to offer an excellent driving position. The GLC’s standard sports seat proves comfortable and very supportive, while its leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel has a wide range of movement.
The Macan’s seat places you lower than you might expect and doesn’t hug your sides as well, so it’s less supportive in corners. Factor in a bulge in the transmission tunnel that pushes your left leg over to the right and the Macan is less comfortable for the driver.
The GLC also scores points when it comes to interior design. Sure, the Macan looks and feels like a quality product, thanks to a plethora of soft plastics, well-damped switches and beautiful brushed aluminium accents, but the GLC delivers an interior that’s more striking, even if it’s not as sturdy-feeling in places.
As standard, the GLC comes with Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system. The 8.4in screen is of a higher resolution than the Macan’s, but the menus aren’t particularly easy to fathom; some simple tasks take longer than they should to complete. Still, you get satellite navigation, a DAB radio, internet access and a 590W, 13-speaker Burmester stereo. The latter, with its ornate speaker grilles, not only sounds great but looks good, too.
Sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a USB connection, a 7.0in colour touchscreen and a Bose 665W, 14-speaker sound system are all standard. Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is available, so you can control your iPhone via the screen, but Android Auto isn’t. The touchscreen itself is clear and has useful physical shortcut buttons. Commands are processed reasonably quickly, although some of the menus can be a bit confusing.
Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot
We doubt prospective buyers will base their purchasing decision solely on practicality, but a key attribute of performance SUVs should be that they demand fewer compromises than similar-priced sports cars. So, the fact that the GLC offers more leg room, both front and rear, than the Macan can’t be ignored. Indeed, a tall adult sitting behind someone equally lanky in the Macan will find their knees wedged against the front seatback; there’s no such issue in the GLC.
Granted, head room in the GLC is a little restricted with the optional panoramic sunroof fitted (part of the £2595 Premium Package), but only those well over six feet tall will struggle. And if you need to fit three abreast in the rear, the GLC’s wider interior again betters that in the Macan, which is tight on shoulder room for three burly adults.
The GLC’s longer boot will swallow eight carry-on suitcases to seven in the Macan’s. Thanks to a wider aperture and the absence of a load lip (the Macan’s boot has a small lip that can restrict access), you’ll find loading hefty items into the GLC’s boot easier, too.
Both cars have useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats. The GLC’s are folded using two handy remote releases by the tailgate opening; you have to open the rear doors of the Macan to reach the levers on the top of its seatbacks.
- Official boot capacity 550-1600 litres
- Suitcase capacity 8
GLC’s boot is longer than Macan’s with the rear seats down and the aperture is wider; it has handy remote seat releases, too. There’s more leg room, front and rear, but head room is only average with a panoramic roof fitted.
- Official boot capacity 500-1550 litres
- Suitcase capacity 7
Macan is surprisingly narrow in the rear, so space is tight for three sitting abreast. Rear leg room is poor, too; tall passengers will find their knees pressed against the front seatback if they’re sitting behind someone equally lanky.
Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security
Such is the demand for the Macan that Porsche won’t offer you a penny off, despite the model having been on sale for nearly five years. Haggle with Mercedes, though, and you’ll be able to get the price of the GLC down by around £3500.
Both cost around the same per month to lease, but if you go down the route of PCP finance, the GLC is pricier. Over three years, you’ll pay £1163 a month, compared with £894 for the Macan. This is partly because the Macan has much more impressive resale values.
The GLC’s phenomenal performance pushes up running costs, too. Private buyers will pay more for servicing and face slightly higher insurance bills, while the GLC will cost more to fuel; its 23.8mpg official average economy trails not only the Macan’s 29.1mpg but also the latter’s 25.3mpg return in True MPG testing. And while the two cars’ high CO2 emissions put them in the top band for company car tax, the GLC will cost drivers in the 40% tax bracket at least £2000 more over three years.
Both cars scored five stars in their Euro NCAP crash tests, but overall ratings don’t tell the whole story. The GLC outperformed the Macan in every category and is streets ahead when it comes to safety aids. The Macan doesn’t even have automatic emergency braking – a highly unusual omission for this class and a sign of the Macan’s age.
There’s always a compromise when it comes to SUVs; being higher and heavier than sports cars, they’ll never handle as well. So, despite the fact that both cars are impressive to drive, judging them purely on handling finesse seems less important than asking: which one brings the biggest smile?
Answer? The GLC. Its thundering soundtrack, straight-line pace and more playful handling make it more fun on the road. Its greater practicality and superior safety seal the deal.
If driving precision matters but you don’t want the impracticality of a proper sports car, there’s joy to be had from the Macan’s crisp steering and chassis balance. But it’s just too compromised elsewhere.
1st – Mercedes-AMG GLC
- For Incredible straight-line performance; greater practicality; awesome engine noise
- Against Firm ride; so-so infotainment system; heavier depreciation
Specifications: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic
- Engine 8cyl, 3982cc, turbo, petrol
- List price £76,070
- Target Price £72,631
- Power 503bhp @ 5500-6250rpm
- Torque 516lb ft @ 1750-4500rpm
- Gearbox 9-spd automatic
- 0-60mph 3.6sec
- Top speed 174mph
- Gov’t fuel economy 23.8mpg
- CO2 emissions 244g/km
2nd – Porsche Macan
- For Fantastic steering; great chassis balance; cheaper to buy and run
- Against Tight rear-seat space; interior looks dated; limited modern safety systems
Specifications: Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Pack
- Engine size 6cyl, 3604cc, turbo, petrol
- List price £69,505
- Target Price £69,505
- Power 434bhp @ 6000-6700rpm
- Torque 443lb ft @ 1500-4500rpm
- Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
- 0-60mph 4.0sec
- Top speed 169mph
- Gov’t fuel economy 25.3mpg
- CO2 emissions 217g/km