Will this winter ever end!? Well, it’s certainly still going strong this week but the show must go on which is why it’s great to see a set of winter rubber on this GLC43; an intermediate AMG model with just enough performance on its mind.
It was in much nicer conditions last spring when I had my first go at the new GLC – the small SUV formerly known as the GLK, available in 2 bodystyles. This here is the more sensuously styled Coupe, something BMW has been offering in their SAVS for years. I really liked the GLC300 on a number of levels and now I’ve got my week with the racier AMG GLC43; momentarily the top trim level. The full-blown, V8-powerd GLC63 models arrive shortly. Aimed squarely at the BMW X4 M40i – another fast sport ute I drove last year – the AMG 43 Series is positioned between the standard Mercedes models and the elite AMG 63 and AMG 65 vehicles. There are 8 such AMG 43 models in the Mercedes lineup featuring what the company calls AMG-enhancements, not the “one man, one engine” mantra of the true AMG vehicles but spicier none the less and not nearly as expensive.
Here in the GLC Coupe that translates to a more rambunctious 362-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, a quicker shifting 9-speed automatic transmission, and an air suspension with fortified components, wider track and sportier spring/damper setup, driver configurable with 3 modes. 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard but is heavily rear biased in the AMG for greater dynamics while the Direct-steer system varies the steering ratio based on how far your turn the wheel making it quicker with less effort required while parking yet preserving excellent feedback in sportier driving. There’s an excellent sense of what’s happening at all 4 corners – something the AMG driver in all of us can appreciate, particularly this week having endured both a snow and ice storm. This tester was originally fitted with optional 21” wheels and summer tires but this set of downsized 20” rims and Pirelli Scorpion Winter tires made the experience far less harrowing. If you’re curious, 4 of these staggered width performance snow tires costs about $1,200. New for the 2018 model year, customers can opt for the $1,250 AMG Performance Exhaust System. It automatically comes alive in the sportiest settings or you can turn it on yourself. Its sounds are noticeable though somewhat muted from the cabin, but can be easily heard from outside with every shift and rev. I prefer a throatier growl but you’ll need the V8 for that. Still, if you’re interested this exhaust is certainly nothing to be afraid of in terms of overbearing noise. Gas mileage is shockingly good, at 20mpg combined on premium, especially considering its 384 pound-feet of torque and 0-to-60mph time of 4.8-seconds – 1.6 seconds quicker than the GLC300.
The biggest takeaways from the driver’s seat are a) lots more power and b) a harder edge to the ride. Even in its comfort setting the 43 is very stiff. Because of the ice and the snow, I haven’t been able to explore the AMG capabilities as much as I would like but when conditions have allowed I can feel and hear the added sharpness to the driver controls.
And not only does the Cranberry Red interior look outstanding but these highly bolstered sport seats are deeply comfortable and perfectly suited to spirited driving. Keeping your eyes on the road is safety 101 and this heads-up display is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of size and clarity. And do not skimp on the Surround View System – it’s an absolute must because rear visibility is extremely compromised in the Coupe. I would have liked remote start and a heated steering wheel this week but at least my ears were kept warm with the enveloping sounds from the optional 13 speaker, 590 watt Burmester Surround Sound System. Questionable is the Black Ash Wood on the center console…I like the matte finish but the grain makes it look as though something was spilled on it.
This is not a touchscreen and my tester isn’t equipped with $350 Smartphone Integration Package which would make it more tolerable. As such, it’s cumbersome to use.
Mercedes is debuting new infotainment in the upcoming A Class so hopefully the days with this robust yet complicated to control system are coming to an end. Kudos though on the quick, accurate, easy to use voice commands.
The Coupe comes with a convenient hands-free liftgate feature which opens to a surprising amount of cargo room. And, it can be lowered for easier loading.
The air springs deflate at the push of a button. Plus, there’s underfloor storage and other clever ways to secure goods. Plus, at over 56 cubic feet with the seats folded, the GLC offers 14% more volume than the X4.
Despite the Coupe’s plunging roofline, there’s actually decent space back here. The seats are also heated but unfortunately there are no USB ports.