Google ‘Panamericana’ and you’ll get results that vary from a Peruvian TV network and a university in Mexico, to a 90-minute road trip documentary, a gruelling motor race and numerous diners serving up a whole host of culturally inspired cuisine. But add a ‘grille’ to your search and you discover something totally different to sink your teeth into.
With its proud vertical slats, the Panamericana Grille dates back to the early ’50s and was first spotted on the nose of the motorsport icon that was (and I guess still is) the Mercedes 300SL. This ‘Super Light’ Gullwing sports car dominated the era’s endurance races and notably won the 1952 Carrera Panamericana cup in Mexico, this was despite, or maybe in spite of, a vulture smashing through its windscreen and drivers (Karl Kling and Hans Klenk) stopping to build a ‘cage’ in its absence (incidentally, that 300SL is now a ‘hall of famer’ and museum piece).
Anyway, revised for the 2018 AMG GT, the Panamericana grille commanded such a visual impact that Mercedes-AMG is seemingly turning this into a signature piece for the brand—and this was the first thing that grabbed my attention when I picked up the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe to review.
The contrast of the medium-sized SUVs pure ‘Polar White’ shell, with the deep black grille and inset lower air ducts makes this AMG model’s kerbside appeal very dramatic, especially when you add in the carbon fibre mirror housing and enormous rear lip spoiler of the Exterior Carbon Pack and then finish it off with large, black 21-inch AMG Cross-spoke shoes.
The carbon fibre theme continues inside with the centre console and dash generously smothered in this fine composite while the supportive sports furniture was smothered in luxurious nappa leather. Infotainment comes via a 21.3cm TFT colour display and Burmester-supplied the tunes.
The sloping external rear-end styling of the AMG’s coupe styling would have me believe that the interior passenger space would be compromised, however, although there is around 200L of extra luggage space in favour of the regular SUV, the coupe offers up a shade over 3 inches of extra headspace (and even more for those in the front seat when you open the sunroof).
Then comes that delicious AMG performance engine. What can I say? The 4L V8 Bi-turbo is a show-stopper. In comfort, it’s fairly restrained and will give you reported combined fuel efficiencies of 10.9L/100km but that aside, as you move up the driving mode settings of Sport, Sport + and Race, this family-sized SUV lets its 375kW and (get this) 700Nm loose on the world, but don’t panic, there are a raft of elaborate driver aids and the Mercedes-AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive system to keep you pointed in the right direction. The GLC 63 S boasts a zero to 100km/h time of 3.8s and I can quite believe it, but it’s the hiss, pop and roar when it downshifts that for me, continued to be a source of both elation and amusement—it really brings out the inner child.
I’d be bending the truth if I told you I went on a long family jaunt to the coast or engaged some of its undoubtedly impressive semi-autonomous assists (such as adaptive cruise, blind spot and lane keep) and headed out on the three-lane highway south, but the fact is, I took to the highly engaging roads that make up Rodney and its surrounding areas and quite simply played. With no other vehicles in sight, I spent my time slowing to a near stop then racing up to the speed limit (windows down to let that V8 roar into the cabin), I hugged corners and let rip on the long straights, paddling up and down all nine gears along the way. I should say that I was testing out the sports suspension, the precise steering and the AMG Speedshift MCT (multiple clutch) transmission, but quite frankly I was just having an endless amount of fun. Shame I had to return it.
I’d like to believe that I’m a simple kind of guy and as such, I only need a few things to make me happy. My family for one thing (I guess I have to say that), I like fine food, but a burger and fries from a roadside diner is certainly just as high up on the list. Oh, and now, of course, a fast, impressive Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe with a totally immersive V8 engine, good-looking Panamericana Grille and some free time to play with it—not much to ask now, is it?