We put the small AMG crossovers through their paces.We brought you a first-drive review of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 sedan earlier this month, but that's is just the tip of the iceberg. Mercedes-Benz is launching AMG 43 variants of all of its bread-and-butter products. From the C-Class on up to the aforementioned E, there's a new entry-level Mercedes-AMG variant available for just about all of them.
Of course, as is customary these days, that means performance crossovers and SUVs are part of the mix too.
Today, we're taking a look at the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV and GLC43 Coupe--yes, a four-door crossover "coupe." The GLC Coupe competes with the likes of the BMW X4; Mercedes simply elected not to give it a particularly unique nameplate. The Mercedes-AMG variant would line up opposite BMW's X4 M40i, which we drove a year ago. This pattern repeats with the GLE SUV and Coupe (of which AMG 43 variants are also available)--the Mercedes-Benz alternatives to the X5 and X6, respectively.
But we digress. What matters most for the purposes of this evaluation is that the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV and GLC43 Coupe represent the first step up in performance from the base GLC300 models. We had the opportunity to get seat time in a U.S.-spec GLC43 SUV and a European-spec Coupe. We were assured that the European-market Coupes we drove were quite close to the U.S. versions. The only obvious differences on the exterior will be regulatory (DOT-compliant lighting, etc.), but it's not quite the same story inside the cabin. For that reason, we photographed only the SUV model's interior.
A quick glance at the two GLC models' profiles reveals just about everything you need to know about the differences between them. The radically sloped (and practicality-annihilating) rear roof line is the GLC Coupe's signature element. This reshaped roof line shaves two inches off the Coupe's overall height, so while the Coupe doesn't ride any lower than the SUV model, it does have an ever-so-slightly lower center of mass.
But the AMG exterior upgrades are rather tame. Unique grilles, wheels and badging denote their place in the lineup, but at a casual glance they have little more presence than their GLC300 siblings.
Inside, the GLC43 models gain a flat-bottomed steering wheel (Alcantara-wrapped in our Euro-spec Coupe--sadly, a feature that won't make it to our shores) and some other telltale "AMG" badging.
If we've learned anything about the new AMG 43 lineup, it's that they're more like hotted-up versions of their mainstream counterparts. Since the GLC's predecessor (the GLK) lacked an AMG variant, the Mercedes-AMG GLC43s are the most capable vehicles Mercedes has ever built in this segment by default. Make no mistake, however: the 43 models are far from their 63-badged cousins. And yes, Mercedes-AMG GLC63 models are expected soon enough.
So you don't get the fire-breathing biturbo V8 and unique chassis upgrades of the 63 series, but what you do get is a significantly more powerful engine than you'll find in the GLC300. The 3.0L biturbo V6 makes 362 horsepower and 384lb-ft of torque in this application--not quite as much punch as the unit in the E43, for those keeping score at home. That engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive with a 31/69 power split front/rear.
Mercedes claims both the SUV and Coupe will do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. Translation? You'll need to hook up like a boss to smoke a GLC43 off the line in a V8-powered pony car.
The GLC43's chassis and suspension very closely mimic those of a loaded-up GLC300. Air Body Control is standard and integrated into the "Dynamic Select" system which allows for the selection of different drive modes (and individual customization).
Thanks to the underlying C-Class architecture, however, the GLC43s aren't all that heavy. The SUV checks in at 4,145lbs--not even 150lbs heavier than the GLC300 4Matic despite the much larger engine. Mercedes-Benz hasn't finalized the U.S. market GLC43's curb weight, but the product specialists on-hand assured us that the difference in heft between the SUV and Coupe models is negligent. What the Coupe lacks in sheet metal, it largely makes up for in glass.
On the road
We weren't surprised to learn that the SUV and Coupe behaved quite similarly on the road. The Coupe's slightly lower center of mass did translate to a minuscule advantage in road-holding, but it's certainly nothing like the leap from a crossover to a true sports coupe.
After driving the C-Class 43 variants (and even the E, to an extent), the GLC43s felt a bit bulky and a touch on the slow side, but the GLC is at an inherent disadvantage compared to any of them. It's taller and heavier than the C-Classes (save perhaps the cabrio) and less powerful than the E43.
The added height and weight over the C-Class is readily apparent in the form of increased body motion. Had we not been driving those cars immediately beforehand, we're confident it wouldn't have been quite so noticeable. Such is the nature of back-to-back comparisons.
And despite the GLCs' extra suspension travel, the Sport+ Dynamic select setting could be uncomfortably harsh over poor surfaces. As we found while driving the E43, we had to dial it back to "Sport," and even then we occasionally cringed at the impact from a particularly large dip or pothole.
For what they are, however, they're supremely competent. When we drove the GLC300 SUV, we found ourselves hungry for a bit more power. The GLC43 variants satisfy that need and then some.
Leftlane's bottom line
The 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV and Coupe are welcome additions to the GLC lineup. While we may never understand the appeal of crossovers with deliberately stunted practicality (looking right at you, "Coupe"), we're happy to see more performance variants of these very competent and desirable crossovers.
2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 SUV base price, $54,900; Destination, $925
2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe base price, $59,650; Destination, $925
Photos by Byron Hurd.