When is a “coupe” not a coupe?
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. All photos taken during driving event.
The GLC Coupe (in GLC 300 and GLC 43 AMG variants) is Mercedes’ take on bringing the coupe silhouette to their smaller SUV, the GLC. I’ve always wondered where this came from, this need to couple an SUV with a sports coupe roofline. When another German auto manufacturer that shall not be named (but it rhymes with shmee-em-shmubbelyou) introduced us to this concept a few years ago, it simply felt like an answer to a question that hadn’t been asked. But for some reason, people are buying them and so here we are.
The non-coupe GLC is a fine compact crossover/SUV. The GLC Coupe is based on the same platform but Mercedes was quick to let us know that this isn’t simply the same vehicle with the roof chopped down. The entire vehicle has been lengthened to ensure the lowering of the roofline looks proportionately good. As a matter of fact, I’d like to throw in a quote from the product presentation where Mercedes called it a “masterpiece of design”. I’m not sure I agree there, but the Coupe’s design did grow on me. It certainly is a statement of form over function – its functionality takes a hit in terms of rear seat space and trunk space. But the shape certainly gets a ton of looks. People stared at the GLC Coupe wherever we were.
The GLC 43 looks a bit more aggressive than the 300 with a more pronounced front apron that gives it a lower stance and the tailgate spoiler. The 20-inch rims on our testers were shod with massive 285/40 tires – they’re not messing around.
There’s plenty of safety technology baked in as standard equipment. Mercedes acknowledges that the Coupe’s styling puts a dent in the visibility and creates blind spots, so blind spot monitoring is included. LED lighting all around is standard, with active LED head lights being optional. A full suite of safety tech can be added as options, all the way up to active lane keeping, radar cruise control and pre-safe braking with pedestrian recognition.
Mercedes uses a fantastic selection of materials and the fit and finish seemed to be excellent. The seats are comfortable, and while it’s not my favourite user interface, the COMAND system (with its gorgeous screen) slowly starts to make sense after you use it for a while. The optional Burmester sound system is incredible and well worth the upgrade. The sport seats in the GLC 43 are incredibly well-bolstered and wouldn’t be out of place in a sports car.
The GLC 300 is motivated by a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that puts out 241 HP and a solid 273 lb.ft of torque at only 1,300 RPM. The power makes its way through the only 9-speed automatic transmission in this vehicle class and to all four corners through the 4MATIC system.
It has enough power to make pretty much anyone happy, and picks up the pace smartly. The all-wheel drive did a fine job on slick wet streets as we made our way through Alberta’s foothills and badlands. The suspension is well sorted out and it rides very nicely. Handling is secure although there was definitely some body roll.
I am 5’10” and had just enough head and leg room in the back – about one inch to spare either way. But it’s snug to be sure.
The power liftgate exposes a long 500L trunk with a high load floor and a removable retractable tonneau cover. It’s not the biggest trunk but it could easily handle a shorter road trip’s worth of luggage. Fold the rear seats down and that space grows to a substantial 1,400L.
The GLC 43 AMG is a different vehicle. It looks slightly meaner as I mentioned, but the real differences are under the skin. First of all, it gets a mighty twin-turbo 3.0L V6 that cranks out 362 HP and 384 lb.ft of torque at 2,500 RPM. Unfortunately, it’s not hand-built in Affalterbach like AMG’s V8s but Mercedes was quick to tell us it is “worthy of the AMG badge”.
You’ll find a variable air suspension system in the GLC 43. The suspension, along with the steering, engine responsiveness, transmission programming and even the AMG Sport exhaust are impacted by the drive mode selector. Switch it from Comfort to Sport or Sport+ and you will experience a wholly different vehicle.
The 4MATIC system is enhanced by AMG too. The GLC 300’s torque split is 45 front/55 rear, where the GLC 43 sends 69% of the torque to the rear wheels for a noticeably sportier driving experience.
AMG also massages the GLC 43’s steering and suspension. The steering is incredibly direct (although still a bit numb) and the ride is certainly firmer. But it makes up for it in the handling department, where it really does start feeling more like a sport car than a crossover/SUV.
All this makes for a GLC Coupe that is deceptively quick and sounds fantastic as it cracks off shifts in rapid succession. How quick? Is 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds quick enough for you? If it’s not, I can tell you that the ludicrous GLC 63S is coming and it will have over 500 HP, allowing it to schlepp that fastback rear end to 100 km/h in under 4 seconds. Hello!
I can’t really see it happening but if you’re thinking of towing with your GLC Coupe, it actually has a surprising 3500 pound towing capacity.
Mercedes say their targeted competition is the BMW X4 and the Porsche Macan, and also the Jaguar F-Pace. They expect the take rate to be around 20% for the Coupe, but I honestly don’t see 1 out of 5 buyers springing for the Coupe over the standard SUV. I guess time will tell. It’s a pretty cool ride, even if it’s not for everyone.
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz Canada paid for my airfare, accommodations, meals and fuel and provided the vehicles for this test drive event.
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