Has AMG found a way to revive the GLC crossover? We find out with a spin on home turf in the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Price (as tested):|
|V6, bi-turbo, 2996cc||362bhp @ 5500-6000rpm||520Nm (384lb ft) @ 2500-4500 rpm||4.9 secs||250kph||1845kg (196bhp/ton)||$79,890|
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|Finally adds some character to the model line|
|Question marks over quality and practicality|
Given that the dismal remnants of an engineer that survive within me to this day demand a sense of purpose and utility, I expected to loath the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. It is, after all, a small crossover born of the necessity to compete in a segment that targets those wannabes who can’t afford the larger, more opulent GLE, but consider themselves better than a Toyota Prado.
On top of that, early last year I drove the non-AMG-spec GLC 300, and concluded that as good as it was, the weight of a full 4×4 drivetrain was badly served by the relatively small power and torque the 2-litre four-cylinder could provide (it barely pushed 242bhp and 273lb ft of torque in a crossover that weighed 1815kg). The AMG 43 however mounts a 3-litre bi-turbo V6 that produces 367bhp and 520Nm (384lb ft) of torque and, more importantly, truly brings the GLC back to life.
What kind of power are we talking about?
A bit of contect first. On the smaller engine in the GLC 300 for instance, the throttle had three positions. The first was for coasting, and needed only 30 per cent of your effort. The second, slightly more energetic position required you to fill out a form having it stamped, copied, notarized and submitted before there was any appreciable change to speed. The final position meanwhile was pedal to the metal, which, after a pause, made an inordinate amount of rather-too mechanical noise and had the on-board computer doing its best to shift through nine gears as rapidly as it could. With such a setup, at no point did the GLC 300 really draw you into the drive.
With the AMG 43 though, the throttle has a full range. We still have the multilink suspension, the permanent all-wheel drive, the more dynamically-setup 9G-Tronic gearbox, and the chassis that can take anything. But the permanent availability of power and torque from 2500rpm upwards – ‘abbodante’, you might even say – makes the initial pick-up and the sensation of speed considerably more animated. The AMG package includes a 31:69 power distribution to the rear wheels, meaning better acceleration, enhanced cornering and fun. Far from the lunacy of the AMG C63, the GLC 43 gives a perfect balance of usability and power in a way its entry-level counterpart simply cannot.
How does it ride and handle?
The electronically controlled air suspension also dilutes the still reasonably high 1845kg kerb weight under braking and cornering, which combined with the outstanding Mercedes steering makes hitting the apex child’s play. If there was anything to mention it would be that we could do with a bit more feel through the helm. For an AMG, the feedback is just too numb.
We could fault there is a bit too much body roll through the corners, despite the heavily stiffened chassis, but taking into account the GLC is 22cm taller than the base C-Class, and with a suspension designed to also take a bit of sandy patches, it’s forgivable. And if you thought the taxes were going to come from the fuel pump, my reasonable driving managed 11.2l/100Km, which, for the weight and power it carries, is a trifle.
Any sticking points?
Yeah, here is where my review becomes less complementary. The price, for instance. Our test model leaves the showroom in exchange of $80K. Granted, that’s with $8000-worth of options included, but that still seems a lot for prospective customers to fork over, particular given that, in the US, the AMG GLC 43 retails for just $55,845. Why such a big difference? Our test model also arrived with only 1500km on the clock, and while this is ‘Middle East car journalist mileage’ and thus cannot be favourably compared with everyday driving standards, still panels in the cabin would crick when going over speed bumps. They are mild, yes, but it does make us wonder whether these will get worse over time – who wants a cricket for a Mercedes? – and whether this was a one-off or signs that Mercedes’ ever-expanding product line-up is starting to hamper its quality control? We really hope it’s not the latter.
And then there’s the spare wheel, a GCC option thrown in as standard, so kudos to Mercedes for that. For some reason though – and this is true of all AMG models we’ve come across recently – the spare wheel is anchored to the boot floor rather than underneath it. Now, yes, lift the boot floor and you’ll find a small array of tools, a cleverly packaged fuse box, and a nifty Mercedes-branded folding crate. Strain yourself, and you could argue that, with the spare wheel ready to hand in the boot, it does make punctures slightly less of a ball ache: our illustrious publishing editor suggested that, should you get a flat, you don’t need to unload the groceries to reach the spare wheel. But honestly, its placement obliterates the boot space completely save the bottles and soda cans you can pack around the sides. The sooner Affalterbach removes this idiotic feature, the better.
So, overall verdict?
I don’t want to leave this review on a sour note though. Admittedly, I struggle to understand the significance of a segment boasting the BMW X3, the Audi Q5 and the Porsche Macan, but I am obviously in the minority, since these models sell. A lot, and surely the Mercedes GLC will be no different. If you are considering a GLC though, the AMG 43 is the one you want. It has all the comforts of both its segment and befitting that three-pointed star, the 3-litre bi-turbo V6 breathes new life into the model’s performance, and while the handling could do with some more texture, only limited body roll means the GLC 43 is surprisingly fun to drive through the corners. We’re not at C63 AMG levels, but given that we are in the still early stages of the product cycle, and given Mercedes’ recent tendency to plug gaps in the market wherever it can, part of me does wonder what next for the GLC. Might an AMG 63 be in the pipeline? And will that breathe even more life into the GLC?
- Technical specifications available on page 2