MERCEDES-BENZ GLC 63 S AMG GLS 580

DUSTY STARS

As soon as Mercedes models have a ‘G’ in their name, they can officially be taken off the beaten track. I picked two vehicles out of the GL range: the nimble GLC 63 S AMG and the mighty GLS 580. But I made only one of them dirty.

Electrification, battery packs, investments of billions of Euro into a green future, and Mercedes-Benz wants to electrify more than 50 models until 2022. But on the other hand SUVs are booming. Despite their size. In times like this performance SUVs seem to be even more inappropriate. They are like Sumo wrestlers turned dancers – a paradox incarnate. But to be honest, it is so much fun to experience fierce sportscar performance, while sitting higher up, in a comfortable car. In 2016 Mercedes-Benz changed their SUV nomenclature to more logical class names. The Mercs in heels are since called: GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE & GLS – not to forget the legendary grand-daddy of them all, the ‘G’. Corresponding with A-, B-, C-, E- and S-Class sedans, coupés and convertibles.

I picked two of them. Let’s hop into the C-Class among SUVs first. The base GLC is the most popular Mercedes model. In its 63 S AMG guise, it is more sportscar than SUV, and the AM in front of the G makes it love grippy tarmac so much more than loose dirt. This vehicle makes more sense on a racetrack, chasing better and better lap times, then on corrugated dirt roads. The reason, why I looked for some twisties to enjoy this powerful AMG. And some of the best curves in the Cape, with grippy, smooth tarmac are located between Gordon’s Bay and Rooiels, along 21 kilometres of glorious, coastal Clarence Drive.

The power and strength of the 4.0-l. V8 is impressive. The 375kW have no problem whatsoever with the SUV’s weight. Chunky like a G, supple like a C. The GLC 63 S AMG brings 350kg more to the scale than the C 63 AMG, but the performance figures are still the same! I love the bubbling on downshift, and the rumble, while accelerating out of those tight turns. And with the exhaust flaps open, activated by a button in the middle console, the hottest GLC bellows impertinently. 3.8 seconds from 0 to 100km/h is clearly sportscar territory. It is not necessary to plant this much power into a compact SUV, but man, it is crazy, exhilarating fun.

The SUV’s road holding is exceptional, thanks to the many components the GLC received from the E 63, like the variable four-wheel drive system 4Matic+, resulting in easy controllable oversteer, and the E 63 rear axle and electronic rear differential. And even standing still you immediately realize, that this is no regular GLC. Starting with the impressive Panamericana grille from the AMG GT, to the bigger air intakes in front, the diffusor in the back and the four exhaust end pipes. The wheel arches are significantly wider, to fit up to 21inch tyres. Not to forget, that the GLC I am in is the sexier Coupé version. As mentioned before, I didn’t make this one dirty.

MERCEDES BENZ GLC 63 S AMG

ENGINE

4.0-l. twin-turbo V8, paired with a 9-speed auto

POWER

375kW and 700Nm

TOP SPEED

280 km/h

MERCEDES BENZ GLS 580

ENGINE

4.0-l. twin-turbo V8, paired with a 9-speed auto

POWER

360kW (+ 16kW from the EQ system) & 700kW

TOP SPEED

250 km/h

Instead I took it’s much bigger brother for a road trip, which included two of South Africa’s most adventurous gravel passes: Alfred and Swartberg. The third generation GLS is more comfortable, more luxurious and even bigger than its predecessor. With more space for seven passengers. But it doesn’t look bulky at all anymore. It soothes elegance and sophistication. Especially in black, with those tinted rear windows. Inside it is a larger version of the S-Class cabin. Cruising along the N2 towards the Garden Route and Karoo, I wouldn’t be surprised if typical S-Class customers would regard the GLS as the superior passenger car, compared to the S-Class sedan.

Moving around in this massive, comfortable SUV like it weighs nothing, is a thoroughly enjoyable thing to do. Incredible how this land yacht performs on windy roads. I doubt, that you really need the GLS 63 (450kW & 850Nm, 4.2 seconds from 0 to 100km/h), after experiencing this one. And you save almost a million Rand. Add the AMG line package (R69 000) and the beautiful black beast looks the part. And off road? How did it handle those dusty historic gravel mountain passes? In off road mode and thanks to the liftable air suspension, both Alfred and Swartberg Pass didn’t pose any problems. It felt like taking your living room off the beaten track, while Discovery Channel was playing outside. The S-Class among SUVs ironed out all the ruts and bumps, while grunting with pleasure. This 4.0-l. V8 engine, supported by EQ boost technology (see boxed text ‘Mild & Wild’), is a gorgeous powerplant.

Verdict: big SUVs with mighty powerful V8s are fascinating technological marvels. Enjoy them as long they are still around. Remember the dinosaurs.

TECH SPECS

MERCEDES BENZ GLC 63 S AMG

Engine

3.7-l. six-cylinder turbo, paired with an 8-speed auto PDK

Engine

4.0-l. V8, paired with a 9-speed auto

Power

375kW & 700kW

Top Speed

280 km/h

0-100km/h

3.8 seconds

Price

R1 888 280

MERCEDES BENZ GLS 580

Engine

3.7-l. six-cylinder turbo, paired with an 8-speed auto PDK

Engine

4.0-l. twin-turbo V8, paired with a 9-speed auto

Power

360kW (+ 16kW from the EQ system) & 700kW

Top Speed

250 km/h

0-100km/h

 in 4.7 seconds

Price

 from R2 025 000

round

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