Beast. Tank. Tall wagon. Stubby SUV. Mean-looking. Fast. Loaded. Sophisticated. Surprising. All those descriptors came to mind after I slipped behind the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe’s thick leather steering wheel and let my right foot put spurs to the twin-turbo 3.0-liter six under the hood. “Hmmmm, this little rig is pretty sweet,” I found myself saying as the miles rolled on. And that was a revelation because, frankly, I’d expected not to like it.
See, the AMG GLC43 Coupe is something of a mutant. It’s too tall to be a wagon, but its aggressive shape (especially the rakish rear roofline) means it doesn’t offer the cargo room of a typical SUV. And despite being equipped with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, it’s not much of an off-roader — certainly not with those optional low-profile 21-inch summer performance tires. Yet despite (a) being stuck in a sort of no-man’s land genre-wise, (b) having four doors but still being called a coupe, and (c) the fact that it’s not a “real” AMG product (it’s more AMG-finessed than AMG-engineered) the GLC43 is a thoroughly likable and well-rounded machine — probably just the sort of tidy, safe, and luxurious “taller car” a lot of buyers are looking for.
With 362 horsepower on tap this 4,150-pound bulldog can sprint to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. In addition to the studly engine, credit goes to the AMG-tweaked 4Matic system (with more rearward bias — a fixed 69 percent — than the conventional GLC) and the superb 9-speed torque converter automatic, which AMG has reprogrammed for quicker shift response. The exhaust doesn’t emit the Voice of Valhalla roar you’ll find in full-on AMG products like the GLE63, but it does deliver a pleasing snarl under max boot. With all 384 pound-feet available by 2,500 rpm, and with that 9-ratio box dicing and slicing through the powerband with ease, the GLC43 feels light on its feet even though it isn’t. (The gas pedal is rather stiff and until I got accustomed to adding a little more pressure than usual, the GLC43 seemed not to want to move at all.) Curiously, top speed is electronically limited — to 130 mph — an unexpected move given AMG’s long-standing reputation for letting its products run unrestrained.
Naturally, the GLC43 Coupe boasts an AMG-tuned sport suspension, with firmer multichamber air springs and adaptive dampers plus special steering knuckles up front for improved response. It’s no Jeep Wrangler, but when the road gets rocky or the snow falls hard, the Coupe’s height-adjustable air suspension provides more ground clearance than a conventional car. Increased negative camber front and rear delivers improved cornering power. AMG has upgraded the brakes, too.
AMG products are particularly beloved in Orange County, California, where they’re as common as Starbucks outlets — and where a ton of GLC43 Coupes are surely going to be seen zipping from the yoga studio to the juice bar to the divorce lawyer’s office. Nobody’s going to use one as a sports car.
That said, uncorked on some of Malibu’s tightest twisties, the GLC43 proved pretty competent indeed. In Sport, Sport+, and Manual modes (updated for more aggressive steering, suspension, and throttle response) the rig scoots along admirably, the paddle-shift tranny matching revs and cracking off quick and precise downshifts, the brakes strong and resilient, the exhaust full of exciting spit and sizzle. Steering has a bit too much boost, but it’s tight. Grip is better than you’d expect given the high-ish center of gravity. By now any groceries in back have been bashed into Bouillabaisse.
When it comes to more conventional driving tasks, the GLC43 simply excels. In Comfort mode, it flows like cream over the asphalt, the turbo mill hushed and utterly relaxed at highway velocities, and visibility generally excellent (and, of course, higher-up than surrounding cars). Moreover, the cabin is divine. My test car included the optional designo Platinum White Leather package ($3,950), which adds gorgeous quilted-leather inserts in the seats and doors, plus rich-looking Black Ash word trim in the center console and silver seat belts. Just fabulous.
My vehicle also sported, among other options, the Premium 3 package ($5,150), which adds such niceties as COMAND navigation with an 8.4-inch color display, a center touchpad, AMG illuminated door sills, and a bounty of additional safety tech — including Distronic Plus auto-adjusting cruise with steering assist, active blind-spot assist, Pre-Safe Braking with pedestrian recognition, and active LED headlamps. There’s even a “fragrance” feature in the automatic climate-control system. (The downside to such opulent wizardry: more than $15,000 in options pushed the sticker to $76,055.)
What it all means in sum: The AMG GLC43 Coupe is an exceptionally pleasant and well-mannered place to spend time on the road. Maybe it doesn’t fit well into any particular category. But for buyers in search of a fleet-footed, safe, and superbly crafted luxury runabout, it’s going to fit perfectly in their garages.
2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe Specifications
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/362 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 384 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||186.1 x 76.0 x 62.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph (electronically limited)|