Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 SUV & coupe first drives: medium burn

David Linklater
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Expensive, but the GLC 43 is still quite understated.

If there’s one thing Mercedes-Benz likes more than assembling long rows of letters and numbers, it’s staggering the rollout of multiple-but-related new models until you’ve pretty much lost track of what’s what.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
Yes, that's your midsize: GLC crossover aligns with C-Class.

So for the record, the GLC is the brand’s medium-sized SUV: the “C” aligns it with the C-Class sedan. We’ve already had a pretty good look at the Mercedes-Benz versions of this model, the GLC 300 SUV and coupe.

But now we meet the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, which costs another $38,000 but brings a hand-built engine, adds another 120kW/100Nm and benefits from a whole lot of AMG engineering.

To complete the picture, there’s also now the GLC 63 S E Performance, which you know is better again because it has even more letters and numbers. It takes the already impressive outputs of the 43 and adds a plug-in hybrid system for yet another 190kW/520Nm: total 500kW/1020Nm.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
This is the SUV version, but there's a also a 'coupe'. Read on.

The thing for the AMG models is that the V6 (43) and V8 (63) engines of the previous model are gone. In their place is a shared 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four combined with electrification. But yes, the four is a “proper” AMG engine, hand-built and signed-off with a plaque. We've already seen the 43 powertrain in the C-Class sedan.

It's a tech-nerd’s delight. The GLC picks up a turbocharger system 'directly derived' from Formula 1.

On paper the GLC 43 is extremely impressive, with 310kW and the ability to rocket to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. But it’s still the middle of the range and the entry point to the AMG-GLC world.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
A lot going on in the engine bay. And yes, the four-cylinder engine is hand-built.

And a tech-nerd’s delight. The GLC picks up the turbocharger system “directly derived from technology used by the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team” (Merc’s words, not ours) that includes electric assistance for the turbocharger. It also has a 48-volt electric system, integrated starter-generator (ISG) and additional battery supply.

The GLC 43 seems remarkably understated. It doesn’t even look that outrageous next to a standard 300.

There’s new suspension architecture for the AMG models, adaptive damping and rear-axle steering that can turn one way or the other up to 2.5 degrees.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
Grille is the main giveaway to AMG status, but there are some cool aero details too.

Despite all of that, or perhaps because of all of that, the GLC 43 seems remarkably understated. It doesn’t even look that outrageous next to a standard 300, although there are plenty of cool details if you look closely: check out the aero “flicks” at the edges of the front spoiler or that big diffuser under the rear bumper. The cabin is also packed with AMG-specific detail.

The four-wheel steering turns demanding corners into an effortless arc.

It’s rapid, no question. Wind up the drive mode to Sport or Sport+ and you’ll still get ferocious acceleration, a raspy engine note and gearchanges from the 9-speed automatic that pop and crackle.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
Mercedes-AMG claims (semi-convincingly) the turbo-tech comes straight from Formula 1.

But for the most part, even in brisk open-road driving, the overall impression is of one smooth operator. The trick turbocharging system all but eliminates lag and the 43 simply surges forward upon request. The chassis obeys your commands in unflustered fashion and the four-wheel steering turns demanding corners into an effortless arc.

For a car with this much performance, it still feels more mild than wild. That’s not necessarily a criticism, because an effortless dynamic character could be considered highly desirable for a car of this type.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
Wow, that's bright. But GLC cabin is well thought-out and easy to navigate.

There’s still noticeable body roll even with the chassis in max-attack mode (the 63 has even more sophisticated damping to combat that), but the upside is a pretty decent ride, especially considering the 20-inch wheels.

There’s an intimate feel to the cockpit, partly thanks to the fancy AMG steering wheel and curvaceous sports seats. But it’s also spacious and the layout of the cabin is great, the GLC picking up the new C-Class architecture - including that cool angled 11.9in infotainment display.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
We're still not sold on Merc's insistence that SUVs must have running boards. Cool wheels though.

It’s mostly digital, but we love the fact you still get some traditional M-B features: like the seat adjustment and heating buttons mounted on the doors. 

Everything’s intuitive and the driving position is just-so, as it is in the standard GLC 300.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
SUV noticeably less sleek than coupe (below). But still a bit of a looker and 75l more bootspace.

The wireless phone charging pad is a rare misstep: it’s buried in the centre console on an angle and once you phone’s on it, good luck getting it back without a good deal of finger-flicking and perhaps a little swearing.

You can also have the 43 in coupe form. At $157,900 it’s a $6k premium over the SUV and it’s all about style of course. Rear-seat headroom is still pretty good, but you lose 75l of bootspace and a lot of the view out the rear window.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
Coupe-versus-SUV not a black-and-white matter: rear seat space still pretty good in the latter.

There was one major specification difference between our two cars. The SUV had the $6900 Performance Ergonomic Package (neatly making it a similar price to the coupe) which brings a fancy steering wheel, the AMG Track Pace data recorder and more curvaceous Performance Front Seats.

All a matter of personal taste of course, but the office was split on the benefits of the more aggressive front chairs. Suffice to say to the standard seats are still pretty comfy and supportive.

The AMG GLC 43 offers a lot of performance and engineering over the Benz GLC 300, but then so it should. That $38k gap from the very well-rounded 300 to 43 is double-take territory, although it doesn’t compare to the $48k jump from 43 to 63. Mercedes-AMG certainly puts in the work, but it costs.

ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo petrol 4-cylinder with 48-volt mild hybrid system POWER: 310kW/500Nm GEARBOX: 9-speed automated dual-clutch, AWD 0-100KM/H: 4.8sec CONSUMPTION: 6.2l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $151,900-$157,900.


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