It's the kind of car that motoring journos love to hate, but even we find the GLC Coupe to have more than a few redeeming facets.
WHAT IS IT?
The swoopier looking, marginally less practical version of Mercedes-Benz’s GLC wagon, for those who find the the regular five-door wagon just a little ‘inside’ the box.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
It made a good first impression when we first drove it on European roads, but that was without full knowledge of local spec or pricing. Now we have that info, we can get a better idea of how it stacks up against rivals, and how it deals with Aussie roads.
BMW X4, Range Rover Evoque Si4 HSE Dynamic Coupe
Opting for swoopy SUV styling, in this instance, doesn’t mean the rear seats become useless or luggage room evaporates. And the price premium over the wagon is not daylight robbery, when the extra equipment included as standard is factored in.
PLUS: Striking profile view; composed dynamics; cabin quality; equipment levels up over wagon
MINUS: Performance adequate, rather than scintillating; some tyre noise; reduced rear vision
THE WHEELS REVIEW
Maligned and derided by motoring journalists; loved by customers. That’s the lot of the SUV ‘coupe’. Not since Clive Palmer wore budgie smugglers has there been a more polarising body style. Critics scoff at compromised rear-seat packaging and the fact that off-road ability gets pushed even lower in the skill set, while owners shrug and talk about cool lines, and quietly congratulate themselves for thinking outside the SUV box. Guess who the car manufactures are listening to?
In the case of the new Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, Mercedes-Benz has made it even harder for haters to point and sneer at compromised packaging. Yes, the dimension chart shows there is less headroom in the back compared to the GLC wagon. And yes, anyone around 6ft or over does have to duck like they are avoiding a fast bowler’s bouncer to avoid clonking their head as they enter under the arch of the sloping roofline. But that’s about where the negatives end. Once seated in the rear, there’s ample room. I’m an imperial 6 foot and my oversize bonce does not brush the roof lining. And with the front seat set to my driving position, I have no complaints about rear leg or foot room. As for the centre seat, a compact adult could cope just fine for a short hop. Rear shoulder and elbow room, for the record, are the same as in the wagon.
Likewise, luggage space does get torpedoed in the Coupe. The electrically operated tailgate rises to reveal a cargo compartment that initially appears a bit shallow (it’s 500 litres, down 50L on the wagon) until lifting the hinged (and lockable) floor reveals a deep bay that easily takes a couple of soft bags. The backrests of the 60/40 split rear seat flop forward at the touch of a button on either side of the cargo compartment to reveal 1400 litres of space, 200 litres less than the wagon, but hardly an issue unless you’re in the coffin transportation business.
The Coupe’s initial three-model line-up spans a tight price bracket, opening at $77,100 for the Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, stepping to $80,100 for the petrol GLC 250, and topping out at $82,100 for the GLC 250d. Later, we’ll see the GLC 43, with its potent twin-turbo V6, priced at $108,900. For our first local drive, only the full-strength GLC 250d and petrol GLC 250 were available, with the latter expected to take over half of all Australian GLC Coupe sales. So let’s touch on value, to address the “gouging you for less headroom” criticism which often gets directed at this category. At first glance, it does look that way, with prices around $11,000 higher than the same-engined wagons. Ah, “but” counters your friendly Merc salesperson, the Coupes get, as standard, AMG Line Bodystyling, 20-inch AMG wheels, and, importantly, Dynamic Body Control sports suspension, among other additional standard inclusions. Suddenly the adjusted price premium is more like $6000.
The Dynamic Body Control makes a significant difference to the way the Coupes drive, based on our experience with the regular wagons. In the comfort setting, it largely rids the GLC of the suburban-speed choppiness that affects the fixed-rate chassis set-up, while the Sport mode brings a welcome degree of extra body control at fast touring pace on country roads. The slight inclination for heave and wallow is removed, but not at the expense of overall composure and comfort. It all works pretty well on the standard 20-inch wheels, with 19s offered as a no-cost option. We suspect few style-driven buyers would glance sideways at the (slightly) narrower 19s, even if the chassis engineers surely wish they would, and the coarse-chip road noise would almost certainly drop a little.
As for powertrain choice, the predictable outcomes apply. The petrol engine idles more quietly, feels zingier and more eager, but needs to be worked harder and drinks more. The 250d diesel has the muscle, and decent refinement levels, but is still a bit of a slogger compared to the best four-pot oil burners out there. Bottom line: teamed with the standard nine-speed auto, both are agreeable, efficient powertrains, if a little uninspiring when viewed in context of the sporty, AMG-clad exterior of the GLC Coupe.
Will owners notice or care? No, but for any who do want a more full-fruit experience to go with the fast lines, wait for the GLC 43 that's coming February 2017.
Model: Mercedes Benz GLC 250 Coupe
Engine: 19991cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 155kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1200-4000rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 7.3sec (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 7.4L/100km
On sale: now