From £35,5508
AMG's treatment of the GLC turns it into a point-to-point weapon, but not to the detriment of the car’s comfort or practicality

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Merc’s mid-sized SUV gets its UK debut. Has it been worth the wait?

Neil Winn - Autocar
28 October 2016

What is it?

It’s fair to say that AMG’s new entry-level '43' performance series has, thus far, been something of a disappointment. The SLC 43 we tested earlier this year 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.

What's it like?

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.

However, if you want to settle back and enjoy your journey, you’ll be pleased to know that Mercedes hasn’t sacrificed ride comfort at the expense of handling. Despite the car's whopping 19in wheels, the adaptive suspension does an impressive job of smoothing out imperfections, and while there is some road noise from the vast rubber, wind noise is relatively unobtrusive.

Turn off the motorway and onto a country road and the multiple driving modes allow you to stiffen the suspension, sharpen the steering and quicken the gearbox. Sounds good in theory, but past experience of the C 43 AMG tested earlier in the year revealed that it was hard to find a happy medium among all the settings. That car was either too wallowy, or too stiff to deal with undulating British B-roads, with vertical movements erring to the faintly ridiculous in the firmer setting.

Thankfully, AMG has found the correct balance with the GLC. The suspension feels pliant and well damped even in Sport Plus mode, shaking off multiple inputs mid-corner. Outright grip is downright impressive for a near two-tonne car and out of slower corners that rear-biased all-wheel drive system is genuinely effective, allowing the car to adopt a small amount of attitude.

Granted, if you push on further there’s a bit of body roll – more than you find in the Macan or SQ5 – and the steering doesn’t exactly bristle with feedback, but this only becomes a limiting factor through high-speed direction changes. Point-to-point, we doubt it would be far behind the Porsche. 

Should I buy one?

With impressive straight-line performance, well-resolved handling and a cosseting ride, the GLC 43 is the most complete ‘43’ variant we’ve driven to date. The 3.0 V6 petrol engine, nine-speed automatic gearbox and rear biased four-wheel drive system feel at home here and, more important for families, it has one of the most luxurious interiors in the class, plenty of room in the rear and a whopping great boot.

Granted, it doesn’t quite have the sharpness of the Macan GTS or the straight-line pace of the SQ5, but as an all-rounder it’s a genuinely compelling machine. 

2016 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

Location Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £47,875; Engine V6, 2996cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 362bhp at 5,500–6000rpm; Torque 383lb ft 2000-4200rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1845kg; 0-62mph 4.9sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 34.0mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 189g/km, 34% Rivals Porsche Macan GTS, Audi SQ5

Join the debate

Comments
17

TS7

28 October 2016
... is that it seemingly 'allows' Mercedes dealers to charge a whopping £3.1K to extend the warranty for the 4th and 5th year. Mercedes UK's own price is around £990 per year. If it had been badged a GLC450 I wonder if it would have been quite so expensive. As a comparison the 4th + 5th year warranty on a Audi RS6 is £1,335. I can't say our Merc dealer has been at all helpful with our purchase of one of these. We chose it after back to back test drives in a RSQ3, SQ5 and GLC43, but the dealers attitude was almost akin to them doing us a favour in letting us buy one. Not only that but they cancelled the test drive the day before it was due, having booked it 3 weeks previously. They did exactly the same with a C63S I wanted to test 3 months ago - hence my decision to go with a RS6. Pointing out that we wouldn't consider buying one without a test drive they 'miraculously' found one that the dealer's director had as a company car. Communication throughout the buying process has been poor: half an invoice, unreturned telephone calls, poor comunication within the dealership leading to multiple mixed messages received by us, everything seemed too much trouble. Perhaps we weren't 'corporate' enough for them. Needless to say we won't be getting it serviced there unless forced to at gunpoint. At times we've been on the point of cancelling the purchase entirely. Hopefully the pre-purchase pains are merely the poo in the birthing pool, we pick the car up today... Still, at least we got a £1,600 discount! Rant over, I just hope the next few years of ownership go smoother than the last few days.

TS7

28 October 2016
...is helped by the 55/50 (f/r) profile tyres?

28 October 2016
Quite a story there.Its amazing how hard ti is sometimes to get a test drive before buying.Would would never spend a considerable sum on a musical instrument without playing it!On the other hand I have been to dealers where they have been very accomodating and have driven several vehicles at the visit.I have also wandered round dealers and never even been approached by anyone.That was one snooty Porsche dealer who deals mainly with Asian clients.
You made a step up from a C63 to the RS6! I wish they would bring an RS6 sedan! as I value the 5th seat which RS7 does not have.RS3 will be nice but a bit small.

Madmac

289

28 October 2016
Sadly Madmac, I think the issues with obtaining a test drive will get worse (across all brands) rather than better. The sad facts are that buyers, particularly 30 and under, are increasingly NOT bothering with test drives....hence the fact that they are prepared to do the whole deal 'on-line'
And as the young get older this trend is only going to increase.
For me, i would never buy a car with out trying it first be it new or used...particularly used!
But I am a dinosaur and out of step with the trend.
It used to be said that buying a car is the second biggest purchase we make, but of course with over 90% of deals today (other than fleet), being on PCP's that is no longer the case. Buyers don't look at a car being £30k for example anymore....its £299 per month. And if they don't like it - well they can change it in 2 years time - maybe less with the shorted cycles being pushed by OEM finance companies.
I would counter that you could get pretty pissed off with a car in two years, particularly if the ride was appalling, but as I said i am no longer the 'norm'.
One small word in a Dealers defence, (having once been one), it is quite common when a test drive is booked as far ahead as 3 weeks for the car requested to be no longer available...someone may have bought the demonstrator leaving the dealer with no immediate comparable replacement...particularly on scarce AMG models. However what can never be condoned is salesmen either looking down their noses at customers/trying to judge from appearance their suitability or ability to finance the product/ rudeness/lack of attention or poor communication etc. Dealership staff would do well to remember that whilst they might swank around in a £50-100k 'demonstrator' car to impress their neighbours, if asked to put their own hand in their pocket to own one. they couldn't afford it!!!

TS7

29 October 2016
289 wrote:

...
One small word in a Dealers defence, (having once been one), it is quite common when a test drive is booked as far ahead as 3 weeks for the car requested to be no longer available...someone may have bought the demonstrator leaving the dealer with no immediate comparable replacement...particularly on scarce AMG models.

Appreciate all that, and they did source another GLC 43 at short notice. I'm still a little annoyed about not having a C63S test. I even contacted MB UK who, several months later, have still to get back to me!

1 November 2016
289 wrote:

However what can never be condoned is salesmen either looking down their noses at customers/trying to judge from appearance their suitability or ability to finance the product/ rudeness/lack of attention or poor communication etc.

It's the same with most luxury brands. The employees let the brand go to their heads and look you up and down with a preformed opinion whether you should or shouldn't be in the shop/dealership. Never judge a book by its cover and all that.

289

28 October 2016
Shame they don't do a 3.0 petrol without all the turbo's, excessive horsepower and gimmicky 'sports' crap plastered all over it.
Other than this you are limited to poxy diesels...4 pots at that.

28 October 2016
Best stick with them! I'm a self-confessed Mercedes enthusiast purely because I've got a great local dealer. I'm now on my 4th Merc and every aspect of my experience, from test drive, sales, and service has been the best I've had. If it hadn't been I wouldn't have got past Merc number 1. I've had an average experience with Audi, farcical with Alfa Romeo, appalling with BMW and great with Subaru. I'm sure we've all got similar comparable experiences.

Fortunately for me, the salesman I deal with at my Merc dealer is a real car enthusiast and called me when the AMG GT demonstrator arrived to see if I'd like to take it out! Couldn't afford to buy one but it didn't matter. Likewise when the new C63 came in, I got a call. I have to confess to falling absolutely for the storming performance and that's why there's one sitting on my drive.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as fickle as they come. If the service level drops I'll be off to another manufacturer like a shot, but for now I'm happy to fly the three pointed flag.

I am concerned though that Mercedes are cranking out too many AMG models and the risk in broadening the customer base is diluting the quality of the brand. I've only test driven the GLC43 of the new 43 range and it was impressive but I can't comment on the quality of the others. With so many AMG models they can't all be developed and tuned to the same standard that they once were, surely?

The same applies to Audi too, it's not so many years ago that they only released a new RS model when they stopped making its predecessor and you'd only have one RS model across the whole model range at any one time. This meant each new release was a major event. Not any more and that's the problem. There are too many performance models in each manufacturer's range to make them special any more!

Old man rant over!

29 October 2016
Maybe i'm just weird but what is it with these SUV coupes .. ? I figured, when the forerunner of all these, the X6, was viewed in the flesh and the subsequent ridicule of how bizarre and pointless it looked, that the fad would be over and people would see sense. Instead these coupe SUV things are cropping up all over. I just dont get it..

289

29 October 2016
...I think you are getting confused here, this is NOT the coupe version.

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