It’s fair to say that AMG’s entry-level '43' performance series has, thus far, been something of a disappointment.
The SLC 43 offered plenty of punch but lacked the raucous AMG magic of old, while the C 43 4Matic Estate – a semi-skimmed alternative to the full-fat C 63 AMG version - was denounced by our road test team for its uncommunicative steering and distinct lack of body control.
So as you can imagine, we were rather apprehensive about the least-focused 43-badged model yet, the GLC 43. Like the cars mentioned above, the GLC receives a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 petrol engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system. Mercedes claims that a sub five-second 0-62mph time should be achievable and, given the space, the GLC 43 should rocket up to an electronically limited 155mph top speed.
However, as we know from its twin-turbo siblings, straight-line pace has never been an issue for AMG. Ultimately, the GLC 43 needs to excel with its ride and handling, especially considering the quality of the competition. Both the Porsche Macan GTS and Jaguar F-Pace S offer sports car-like driving dynamics, as do the BMW X4 and Audi SQ5. Adaptive suspension, variable steering and a kerb weight of just 1845kg – some 125kg less than the ulta-agile Porsche – should ensure that the Merc has what it takes to run with the pack.
Does the GLC 43 perform like a true AMG?
Given that it has 362bhp and 384lb ft, it's unsurprising that the GLC 43 feels properly quick off the line. Push the throttle pedal through the kick-down and, after the briefest of pauses to let the boost build, the Mercedes hunches down on its rear axle and launches towards the horizon. Sadly, you don’t get the characterful V8 soundtrack that we once would have expected as a matter of course from AMG-badged cars, but once the revs rise, the turbocharged six-pot does a good job of making itself known by delivering a deliciously raspy howl.
Thanks to its twin turbochargers, the GLC 43 also has plenty of low-down torque, pulling strongly from below 2000rpm to make overtaking a breeze, while the nine-speed gearbox is quick to drop a few cogs if Sport or Sport Plus modes are selected. It’s a truly excellent transmission that delivers consistently fast and precise shifts, and most important, manual mode means manual, so you have to be careful not to run into the 5700rpm soft limiter – like we kept doing.