5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Broad power band is useable every day, smooth ride around town, playful dynamics
Can feel floaty on big crests; rear headroom and boot space is limited; steering calibration needs refining
The Wheels Verdict: For buyers wanting a performance SUV that can both thrill on the weekend, and remain endearing during everyday duties, the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 does a good job of filling both roles. There are compromises needed, but these never sour either skillset beyond what is reasonable, and the end result is a pleasing, stylish, and polished product.
WHAT IS THE MERCEDES-AMG GLC43 COUPE?
The tamer of the two Mercedes-AMG’s GLC variants is powered by a twin-turbo V6 engine, and incredibly popular with buyers. It’s not as brutish as the GLC63 S, and the coupe body appeals to more style-driven buyers thanks to its swoopy roofline. By ratcheting down the power and softening the ride compared to the more hardcore AMG, it aims to be the more palatable set of wheels for everyday duties.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
For its 2020 update, AMG has thrown bigger turbos at the engine, boosting power levels. There are also subtle style changes inside and out. Being one of AMG’s most popular products, we wanted to see how it compared to other potent SUVs from the likes of BMW and Porsche.
It must be hard being the Mercedes-AMG GLC43, living in the shadow of its fearsome and lauded V8-powered sibling.
It’d be all too easy to dismiss this cheaper, less powerful AMG SUV as the lesser of the pair, unable to fill the shoes left by the 63. But, in many ways, it is a more complete offering, able to retain a dual personality that has proven more appealing to more buyers.
Perhaps by losing a pair of cylinders the GLC43 AMG is better off, and now it has come in for a mid-life refresh.
Visual changes for the 2020 update include a toothier grille (which aligns the 43 with its bigger, badder, 63 S sibling), restyled lights front and rear, new digital screens inside, while the old rotary infotainment controller has been replaced with a touchpad.
Mechanically, there have been subtle but important improvements. The turbochargers from the E43 have been fitted to the carry-over 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. These have a larger diameter and run more boost pressure, increasing power by 23kW compared to the old model. The snails have also been moved closer to the engine, in a move designed to increase responsiveness.
The tune for the engine in its comfort drive mode is agreeably subdued, with the torque being delivered in a progressive surge from low in the rev range. This is aided by a confident gearbox calibration which will happily hang onto gears when you apply more throttle, instead of going searching for a more optimum ratio.
Even with a $2400 optional AMG performance exhaust fitted, the V6 lacks the shock and awe of the V8 engine, but does retain enough snap, crackle and pop to remind you that this is a performance SUV. Bury your right foot and you’ll be left in no doubt at the GLC43’s credentials, with thrust that’ll worry plenty of sports cars.
While the suspension is sufficiently burnished around town, soaking up the bumps and potholes that we have all become accustomed to with aplomb, it does sacrifice some of the ultimate body control of the 63 S on curving and undulating roads.
By opting for a softer tune with the GLC43, AMG has made it more malleable and playful on corner entry, with the rear-end easily provoked out of line while remaining controllable. However, the soft damping has resulted in the GLC43 becoming floaty on large crests, and weighting up significantly on big compressions.
The steering in the GLC43 is more in line with its non-AMG siblings in terms of weight, and there is some fuzziness near dead centre which can mean it feels slightly disconnected on corner turn-in.
These are compromises that are reasonable for an SUV that is comfortable around town, while providing thrills on demand when needed. If you want a pragmatic performance SUV, if there even is such a thing, the GLC43 just might be the Goldilocks fit for you.
Audi SQ5, BMW X3/X4 M40i, Jaguar F-Pace 35t S, Porsche Macan GTS
MERCEDES-AMG GLC43 COUPE PRICE AND SPECS
Model: Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe
Engine: 2996cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Max power: 287kW @ 5500-6000rpm
Max torque: 520Nm @ 2500-4500rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
On sale: Now