2020 AMG Mercedes GLC 63C: Sporty crossover hot-rod SUV?

Price: $89,130 as tested. Gray paint, $700; 21-inch wheels, $1,000; Parking Assistance Package, $1,290; more below.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver calls it “as absurd as it is formidable.”

Marketer’s pitch: “SUV body, sports car soul.”

Reality: A real puzzle. Try to solve it.

What’s old is new: After a week driving low-budget cars like the Corolla and Versa, I thought the GLC would be perfect.

But wait! This is no tiny, tinny Mazda of the 1970s. This hot-rod sport crossover will clear that memory pretty quickly. Literally.

Up to speed: With a 469-horsepower 4.0-liter biturbo V-8, the vehicle gets to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, Mercedes reports. The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seatometer needle moved close to red territory, as she gripped the grab bar and yelled when I floored it.

On the curves: Yeehaw! The GLC is supremely composed and quick on the slalom. The Lovely MPS said it’s so smooth that it would be great for old people. I said we would know for sure soon enough, provided we survived the test drive.

The interior of the 2020 Mercedes AMG GLC 63 is attractive, with beautiful graphics and attractive vents. But the GLC Coupe is short on space.
Mercedes Benz
The interior of the 2020 Mercedes AMG GLC 63 is attractive, with beautiful graphics and attractive vents. But the GLC Coupe is short on space.

A whole new world: The sporty SUV also has a built-in antitheft device — by the time the average thief figures out what to do, the police will have him (c’mon, you know it’s going to be a him) surrounded. Unless he’s smarter than the Average Mr. Driver’s Seat.

Shifty: The gearshift is the first item that’s hard to find. It looks like a wiper stalk and sits in that precise location in more working-class vehicles.

Once the vehicle is moving, the paddle shifters offer some control, but the car will ease back into automatic mode pretty easily if you let it.

That would be fine if automatic mode in the 9-speed worked well, but it balked while cornering as badly as a 1985 Reliant I once owned. The Reliant’s problem was a bad fuel system on an ancient hunk of junk. If an AMG can replicate that at a price tag of $75,000+, well, then.

Sport+ mode clears the shakiness, but stop-and-go traffic becomes stop-and-lurch.

Rainy days and Mondays: With a shift selector that looks like wiper controls, you can already figure what happened on a rainy January day. Fortunately I only hit Neutral, not Reverse. But I soon learned — twist the turn signal stalk for wipers.

Uninformative: On a hurried first day of driving, the infotainment system left me completely stumped. It took until day 2, after driving for 80 miles, to really figure out what was going on.

A row of buttons under the screen allows drivers to pick phone, media, or radio, and gets those drivers to the most welcoming screen possible. From there, swiping across the touch pad on the armrest changes the station — usually. But I found the touch pad could be different levels of balkiness, depending on … I don’t know. The stars’ alignment? The expression on my face?

Voice commands help, but they’re not Cadillac-level useful. In the Cadillacs, I can say a song name from my phone, and the system finds it 95% of the time. Not so here.

Fortunately, the screen does have touch response, so all is not lost, but the touch pad made me think it wasn’t available. An AMG Mercedes sedan I tested for 2019 featured a far more workable stereo with a dial.

Not seeing is believing: The GLC has a trifecta of trouble for lane changing — a big door pillar, a tiny rear window, and tiny side-view mirrors. Let’s hope the lane alert doesn’t fail.

Driver’s Seat: It’s a comfy spot, not always the case in these hot-rod vehicles.

Friends and stuff: The GLC seats five and holds 17.3 cubic feet. With just two people inside, there’s 40.6 cubes, a tiny cargo bay.

Keep warm and cool: The GLC sticks to Mercedes’ round vents, which are beautiful and extremely workable. Controls are in a silver strip under the touchscreen and work simply.

Night shift: The Exterior Lighting Package ($800) adds LED intelligent lights and adaptive high-beam assist, and makes for a pretty nighttime experience. The high beams come on like a curtain opening, and the road is well-lit.

Fuel econ-: No, I can’t even finish that. 16.9 average driving like a complete idiot. And premium, too. Ouch, $50 fill-up. Send donations.

Where it’s built: Bremen, Germany (where Pap Driver’s Seat sailed from, on his way from Lithuania).

How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives it a reliability of 3 out of 5.

In the end: All the problems I mentioned worked themselves out, but I’m a little more open to new things than most drivers. As Yoda said, vary your mileage may.

It sure is a whole bunch of fun, though.