We’re introduced to the GLC Coupé, the newest addition to Mercedes-Benz’s line-up, at the grandly named Centre Of Excellence on the outskirts of Stuttgart, where its most valued customers come to specify and collect their cars.
Parked on the forecourt of the plush showroom, the pre-production prototype of the high-riding four-door lift back has only minimal disguise just over a week before the BMW X4 rival makes its world debut at New York motor show.
Originally previewed in concept car guise at the 2015 Shanghai motor show, there are no big surprises when we get up close for the first time. Predictably, some of the more obvious concept car design flourishes have been toned down on the way to production.
However, the GLC Coupé, which goes under the internal codename C253, boasts an impressively assertive appearance with heavy stylistic influences from the more practical GLC SUV; both are produced at Mercedes-Benz’s Bremen plant in Germany.
As you’d expect, the GLC Coupé shares its mechanical package with the GLC. Still, the only common body panels are the bonnet, front wings, and lower doors. The remainder of the body is unique.
The sporty sibling’s design
The exterior design is distinguished by a confident-looking front end, with its bold grille, structured bumper and heavily decorated headlamps graphics. But it is in profile, where added rake to the windscreen, heavily plunging roofline and shallow glasshouse are shown to full effect, that the sporty nature of the new Mercedes-Benz is fully emphasised.
Together with nicely integrated C-pillar treatment, a sloping liftback-style tailgate and high-set rear deck, the styling of the GLC Coupé is arguably more attractive than its bigger brother, the GLE Coupé.
More than the styling, though, it is the self assured stance that leaves it mark. Sitting on optional 20-inch wheels shod with a combination of 255/45 profile front and generous 285/40 rear tyres, the new Mercedes-Benz appears nicely poised.
The GLC Coupé stretches 76mm beyond the GLC SUV at 4736mm owing to a longer rear overhang. The more heavily raked windscreen and a relatively shallow glasshouse also make it 40mm lower than its closely related sibling at 1600mm.
The familiarity continues as we climb inside. The cabin and all its various trims are brought over from the GLC SUV without any obvious change. It is a stylish driving environment, boasting heavy stylistic links with that of the latest C-Class. Yet despite the shared interior, there is a more sporting feel to the GLC Coupé thanks to a 40mm reduction in front headroom.
The plunging roofline has meant changes to the rear quarters in a bid to provide sufficient rear seat headroom and boot space. “We’ve lowered the seat squab by 10mm and the back rest is set at a more upright angle than it is in the GLC SUV,” says Mercedes-Benz chief engineer Michael Kelz. Boot space has also suffered in the transformation, although Mercedes-Benz is yet to reveal by how much.
Three different chassis options
Heading out of Mercedes-Benz vast Stuttgart factory on to public roads for the first time, Kelz reveals the GLC Coupé will come with three different chassis options. “There is a basic steel spring variant and an optional air body control variant with dual chamber air springs – both of which are shared with the GLC SUV but with unique tuning. To this, we’ve added a steel spring variant with variable damping control that we call dynamic body control,” he says.
This latter set-up is included on the prototype we’re riding in. Set to be introduced as a running change on the GLC SUV later this year, it provides the choice between three different levels of damper stiffness via Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Select system: comfort, sport and sport plus.
Switching between the three modes, the GLC Coupé feels more firmly underpinned than the GLC SUV. Given the generous ride height, body control is very tidy. It feels nicely tied down when loaded up in corners and resists float over undulating section of black top with impressive composure.
The ride quality is also very good with commendable absorption properties and excellent refinement, although the German roads we encountered were typically smoothed surfaced, so definitive conclusions will have to wait until we get to drive it in the UK later in the year.
Further changes have been focused on the steering. In keeping with efforts to provide it with a more sporting feel than its recently introduced sister model, the GLC Coupé’s electro-mechanical set-up receives a more direct ratio than the GLC SUV at 16.2:1 versus 15.1:1. Kelz insists there is added response and greater agility in keeping with the new model’s sporting brief.
We’ll have to take the Mercedes-Benz chief engineer’s word on the handling for now, although the GLC Coupé prototype managed to dismiss some of the more challenging roads on our run through the Black Forest with striking nimbleness. There’s plenty of grip mid-corner and the inherent properties of its four-wheel drive system provide it with outstanding traction when powering out of bends.
Same choice of engines as GLC
The GLC Coupé will be available from the start of UK sales with the same choice of longitudinally mounted engines as the recently launched GLC. Included is a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol unit with 201bhp in the GLC 250 Coupe as well as a turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel that develops 168bhp in the GLC 220 d Coupé and a gutsier 201bhp in the GLC 250 d Coupe.
Both engines come mated to Mercedes-Benz’s excellent nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox featuring a column mounted shift lever and 4Matic four-wheel drive system as standard – a move that reflects the sales strategy already taken with the GLC.
Shortly after launch during the fourth quarter of 2016, a further four engines will join the line-up. Among them is more highly tuned version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 242bhp, as used by the GLC 300 Coupé prototype, we rode in.
It will be joined by a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 254bhp in the GLC 350 d Coupé and twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit with 362bhp in a range-topping GLC 43 Coupe developed by Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance car division.
Continuing the German car maker’s alternative engine, the new high riding four-door liftback will also be available with a plug in petrol-electric hybrid system. Similar to that unveiled in the E 350 e, it combines a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor for a total system output of 275bhp in the GLC 350 e Coupé.
Looking to broaden its appeal, Mercedes-Benz says it also plans to offer the GLC Coupé in rear-wheel drive guise, although only in combination with selected engines and with a standard six-speed manual gearbox.
The most powerful of the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol units provides the X4 and Macan rival with more than adequate performance. There is a good deal of shove at the lower end of the rev range in lower gears thanks to an abundance of torque at not much more than the 800rpm idle. In sport and sport plus modes, the GLC Coupé also possesses a fittingly sporting exhaust note as a flap opens to enhance its volume and provide it with distinctive raspy tone under load.
We’ll have to wait until its planned unveiling at next week’s New York motor show before official performance claims are released, though the new Mercedes-Benz already appears poised to build on the success of the GLC SUV. When it hits the UK later this year expect prices of the GLC Coupé to start at around £37,000.