Mercedes blends sports sedan, SUV in GLC43 Coupe

September 9, 2020 by
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

The GLC43 Coupe scales new heights with AMG performance tricks.

By John Gilbert

Mercedes Benz has maintained a consistent trajectory onward and upward with both its sedans and SUVs, and as a virtual poster-child for the blending of cars and SUVs, the 2020 Mercedes AMG GLC43 Coupe is either a very sporty compact SUV, or a slightly taller high-performance sedan that will go off-road.

GLC is the standard designation for the company’s compact sports-utility vehicle, and it won Motor Trend’s SUV of the year award when it was born for 2019. Ah, but now it fits the appearance of a compact SUV that wants to fill a sedan’s shoes, it gets both the 4-door “Coupe” treatment, and the high-performance makeover by AMG engineers.

That all conspires to make the AMG GLC43 Coupe the ultimate tool of subterfuge to confuse the vehicle-buying public. AMG used to take the sportiest Mercedes sedans and give them a sporty upgrade in power and performance, expanding to include suspension, interior, seats, and even the steering wheel, and then it gained some identifying bits of added-on grooves, contours and special effects. AMG became so prominent that Mercedes took on its affiliate to make it part of the company.

Walking up to the GLC43, I was taken by the brilliant blue metallic paint — identified as “Brilliant Blue Metallic,” in a simple, straightforward description.  It is not as dark as deep navy and not as bright as royal. As a compromise, it is a unique color, even to a blue-freak like me, and I believe I like it better than either navy or royal for a car’s exterior.

Room for four or five, AMG exhaust and suspension.

If you approach from the rear, you’re thinking you suspected it was an SUV, but you must be mistaken, because that sloped rear roofline has a sporty-car flair, and there are those four silver exhaust tips, and the rear decklid spoiler. From the front, the thin grille conveys more sportiness, so by the time you get ready to climb aboard, you’ve forgotten all the SUV-like traits, and once you get a look at the quilted white leather bucket seats and the high-tech, flat-bottomed steering wheel, you’re ready to drive a sporty sedan. Swiftly.

Under the hood there is a 3.0-liter V6 Biturbo engine, which means a pair of turbochargers feeding the two banks of the V6. It develops 385 horsepower and 384 foot-pounds of torque, which is not only a perfectly balanced distribution but is another example of what AMG can do with a perfectly good 3.0 V6.

You start up the engine, and it sounds calm enough, then you engage the gear lever — which I find odd, no matter how well it works. It is a thin little stalk sticking off to the right of the steering column, right about where most other companies would mount a windshield wiper stalk, while putting the shifter on the console, either as a lever or a rotating knob, or whatever. This little stalk can do three things: up for reverse, down for drive, or in the middle for neutral.

My trouble is that when cruising along, if you happen to hit a tiny bit a misty shower, you might flick the lever up or down, to get just one swipe of the wipers. Except in the Mercedes scheme, you have just shifted the gear selector as if trying to engage reverse — a no-no, for sure — or reinforced your desire to be in drive. My point is that when you intuitively go for the wipers, you are moving the gear shifter.

Control center steering wheel, with paddles, quilted white leather seats.

Menacing nose of GLC43 AMG says sports sedan more than SUV.

The transmission, incidentally, is a 9-speed, and when left alone it shifts with smooth precision. If you really want to get involved in the shifting, there are shift paddles comfortably behind the steering wheel, left for downshifting and right for upshifting.

In case all those features haven’t made you completely forget the GLC’s SUV-roots, there is another little button on the console that, when activated, opens up the exhaust system for a wonderfully exhilarating sound of every one of those 385 horsepower screaming for attention. Engaging a performance mode does the same thing, but the switch means you don’t have to be in track mode to get the impressive sound.

The AMC tuned suspension with air-shock support that is instantaneously activated and quick steering that is a trademark completes the performance enhancements that AMG has implemented. If you settle for not overdoing it on the gas pedal, you could reach the EPA estimate of 24 miles per gallon in highway driving, with 18 city, but you need restraint. Maybe you only lapse briefly,  opening up the exhaust for short bursts of performance satisfaction.

The reminder that this quick, swift, great-handling vehicle can do still more than portray a hot sedan, isthe 4Matic designation, which is Mercedes for all-wheel-drive, another AMG masterpiece, of stability and traction,  working to keep the vehicle stable and stability firm in all conditions, even with low-profile high-performance tires mounted on those stylish 21-inch alloy wheels.

Oh yeah — this is an SUV, after all. Just a swift, comfortable, potent accelerating, high-performance AMG-enhanced SUV.

Just-right deep blue color sets off AMG’s 385 horsepower/384 foot-pounds of torque prize.

Actually, it is the best of both, rather than a compromise that fulfills neither ideal. Does that make it worth its $63,000 sticker price? Well, that’s the standard price for an AMG GLC43 Coupe. Once you add on some captivating options, such as active steering, active distance assist, brake assist, blind-spot assist, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and cross-traffic assist, parking assist, multimedia addition, LED lighting all around, and the Burmeister surround sound system. you have increased the sticker price to $75,955.

That’s a lot, and you could probably buy a small SUV and a small sporty sedan for that money. But you would not get both of them in one package. Besides, you can get it in Brilliant Blue Metallic.

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