Why would I buy one?
- Blistering performance with a quick shifting gearbox
- Sorted dynamics despite being an SUV
- AMG brag rights
Why would I avoid it?
- Rear seat practicality
- Steering could have been more feelsome
Mercedes-Benz has smartly decided to flutter with the winds of change by rolling out the ‘43’ AMG avatar of its popular GLC name plate. And that too at an attractive price tag. Yes, it’s a hoot to drive, with just the right number of horses stuffed under the hood. If only you could humbly discount the dynamics rendered by the light steering. At long last, we can’t help but admit that this GLC 43 AMG Coupe would have made a stellar high-octane package had the rear seat practicality not taken a blow.
Engine and Performance
I scratch my sleepless head as the needle slides past 1am. My sixth sense convinces me that the 385bhp/520Nm demonic matt-black AMG parked downstairs beckons for the night-crawler in me to be resurrected. Moments later, as I crank the 3.0-litre Bi-Turbo V6, my eyes catch the headlights come alive in a snazzy formation as the engine howls to life. As I pull out of the building, I firmly swear that the freshly laid tarmac under the dimly-lit empty streets was begging me for a spectacle. Should I hesitate? Toggling into the most powerful ‘Sport+’ mode, I stamp the throttle. An angry note from the AMG performance exhaust sends the strays scrambling as greyhounds would behind a lure.
Around the first bend, my attention is amazingly drawn to the instrumentation that just depicted the Gs I just pulled-off! With every passing kilometre, I realised that the crazy decibels with the ridiculous loud pop and crackles was getting me hooked. But I wanted more. With only so much control in auto mode, the devil in me nudges the dedicated manual-mode button on the console.
So now, I only rely on the paddle shifters to go up and down the nine gears of the smooth, quick-shifting AMG Speedshift torque convertor. By now, there’s just infinite drama as I’m shifting at the maniac 6200rpm limit. You see, if 100kmph comes up in a preposterous 4.75 seconds, imagine how insane reaching 150kmph in 10 seconds sounds! Even overtaking is more like mocking other roadies, as the 40-100kmph run in kick-down takes just 3.95 seconds.
Call me lame, but it’s Sport+ for me any time since it rhymes flawlessly with the AMG persona. It’s outrageously illegal and seriously evil. Only if I’m running low on fuel would I toggle to ‘Comfort’ mode. And since we are on the subject, how does an average of 5-6kmpl sound to you? Well, I can live with it since I’ve owned a 1.6-litre Fiat Palio!
Come to think of it, there are other fixed modes in addition to ‘Sport+’ such as ‘Sport’, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Slippery’ that alters the steering, suspension settings and engine responses, along with the exhaust note. Responses are dialled down as one toggles across these above modes. Plus, there’s also an ‘Individual’ mode that can be customised for varied throttle, transmission and dynamics.
Now, for the most important part of owning an AMG; some static showing-off. A quick pit-stop at a busy midnight food joint should do the job. All I do is noisily park out in the front, and then just sit back and enjoy the glazes and selfie frenzy that follows.
Ride and Handling
Steering this GLC 43 AMG is an effortless affair due to the light steering. And this demeanour largely remains despite some artificial heft being induced into the experience, as you toggle from ‘Comfort’-to-‘Sport’-to-‘Sport+’. But frankly put, some more heft would have made it more feelsome, especially around curves. Moreover, this steering may be mighty progressive as you dial-in from the dead-centre, but if it had less than two-and-one-quarter turns from lock-to-lock, it’d be mighty quicker too.
Composure around corners though, is entertaining, as you don’t feel the 2460kg gross weight thanks to some pristine chassis engineering that’s coupled to the AWD setup and wide 20-inchers. Likewise, exceptional high-speed stability also makes this AMG an accomplished long distance bullet train.
Surprisingly, my first few minutes in this SUV was a frantic toggling between modes to get the air suspension off the stiffest setting. But slotted it was, in ‘Comfort’! So yes, the ride can be jarring at slower speeds over serious bumps, but thankfully, it settles down as one goes faster. Yet, there’s no running away from the firm ride unless you find that flat stretch of tarmac. And lest I forget, no worries about scraping the belly as this sporty SUV cleared all the speed breakers I fed it.
Interior Space and Quality
Gone are the days when you’d need to wriggle into a low supercar; the popularity of SUVs have that covered now. While the insides are too similar to the regular GLC, one feels the sportier inclination of this iteration through the AMG inscribed steering and the overall darker shades that have been emphasised by the bright red seat belts and matching seams all across. As expected, this well-crafted cabin has an extravagant air about it, which you can read about in our regular GLC review here. Notwithstanding, this being an AMG means a lot revolves around the driving experience, so I won’t digress. We’ll start with the chunky AMG steering with prominent paddle shifters. The enormous grip particularly aids as you reel it in rapidly around tight bends.
Ironically, I developed a strange affinity to the all-digital instrumentation. Not for being overly attractive, but for feeding you the infinite customisation options such as boost or g-force data which frankly won’t bore you for week’s altogether. Something far from impressive though, is the tiny rear windscreen that’s ridiculously raked which makes marking anything out of the rear quite demanding. So I’ll rub it in; relying solely on the rear or 360-degree cameras is the order of the day.
For the record though, visibility from the explicitly adjustable driver’s seat is spot-on, especially around the A-pillar. As for the front seats, they’re supremely bolstered with firm cushioning that braces you deftly. This is further complemented by the adjustable lumbar and thigh support. Something worth noting is that for those with large frames, there’s no dearth of head or shoulder room here either.
Even so, like with any feverishly sloping roofline, the rear seating geometry had to be revamped. So, although there’s plenty of leg and head room (I’m 5’5”), the same can’t be said for the thigh support. Which, when combined with the slightly upright backrest can be uncomfortable for longer stints. More so for the middle occupant, who also needs to dodge the intrusive transmission tunnel.
What we appreciated though, is that the centre seat cushioning didn’t feel like a bulging afterthought, as the passenger can be seated in reasonable comfort. As for the boot, the enclosure is visibly short due to the sloping roofline. But even then, two medium-sized suitcases and some soft bags should do it here.
Features and Equipment
Being an AMG also means living up to enhanced expectations, so I won’t delve around the basics such as the sunroof or wireless charging. So, one gets the acclaimed AMG Dynamic select, AMG badging generously splashed across the interiors and exteriors, including the front brake callipers and an AMG spoiler lip. You also get the AMG sports exhaust system (two twin-exhaust pipes), spectacular 20-inch AMG alloys, the sporty aluminium-look running boards with rubber studs, and a host of other goodies.
We really liked the Burmester Surround Sound System that sounds like heaven. Its Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, got MBUX with voice controls along with a touchpad and also sports the ‘Mercedes Me’ app connectivity functions. As for the display, its high-res with good colours and decent graphics. Call me picky, but I’d love to see faster processing with quicker frame rates, just to replicate the sportier nature of this AMG.
Being an SUV, you’d expect the GLC 43 AMG Coupe’s rear seat experience to be far more practical. But it isn’t. In fact, this also trickles down to the sloping boot-lid marginally restricting its boot space. And, while the stiff low-speed ride may not be to everyone’s liking, the same goes for its fuel efficiency.
There are plenty of perks though. Its addictive performance mated to the prodigious exhaust note will kindle one’s zeal to an inexplicable level. Moreover, one will thoroughly enjoy the well-crafted interiors with the tinge of understated sportiness that pampers in a rather subtle manner.
Then comes the price. With Mercedes-Benz now building AMGs in India, the GLC 43 AMG Coupe is the first one to roll out. With a price tag of just under Rs 91 lakh (OTR Mumbai), it’s around Rs 14 lakh more than the top-spec GLC Coupe.
But importantly, despite it hovering around the larger Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5, we fiercely admit that this size of SUV is thoroughly usable, particularly in the AMG form. Sure, dishing out more dough can get you the Porsche Macan S or the BMW X3M.
I’d settle for this though, despite the shortcomings, and save the extra to splurge on fuel. What say?
Pictures by Kapil Angane