by Adam Lynton
A luxury SUV used to equate to a raised ride height, lethargic performance and the dynamics of an elephant - slow and steady, but temperamental and, frankly, dangerous if rushed. The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 is no elephant. Still solid like an SUV should be, but far faster and more agile than we once imagined they could be, it's more of a tiger. Animal kingdom references aside, this isn't even the wildest variant in the range - the even madder GLC 63 holds that honor. Yet, the 43 remains a potent performer, with 362 horsepower from its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 enabling a 4.7-second dash to 60 mph. It's the perfect bridge between the non-AMG GLC 300 and the over-the-top AMG GLC 63 variant. The GLC's talents don't begin and end with performance either, with this Mercedes going toe to toe with the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 for excellent practicality, quality, and style. A pliant suspension setup ensures that the available power doesn't come at the expense of comfort, which is a Mercedes hallmark - all of which makes the GLC 43 a fantastic all-rounder in a competitive and hugely popular segment.
With a more significant update on the way in 2020, Mercedes has made a few more subtle updates to the GLC 43 for 2019. AMG performance seats and an AMG Nappa/Dinamica performance steering wheel becomes available, and there are new designo packages in combination with the AMG performance seats; the AMG performance studio package will now also include an AMG optics package. The latter adds several gloss black accents to the GLC's exterior for an even sportier look. Heated front seats are now standard.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG GLC 43 4MATIC SUV||
3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
Mercedes hasn't tinkered too much with the GLC 43's looks, but there was little need to do so: this remains one of the more attractive SUVs. In AMG form, it's an edgier prospect altogether thanks to 20-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels, gloss black exterior accents and a diamond-black grille with chrome finish. It's sporty without the level of outright aggression that's evident on the GLC 63. LED headlamps and taillights can be added on, as can brushed aluminum running boards and a roof spoiler.
Measuring 183.5 inches in length, 64 inches in height, and 82.5 inches in width (with the side mirrors included), the GLC casts a similar-sized shadow to the BMW X3. The wheelbase is 113.1 inches in length. Curb weight is 4,149 pounds, which is around 170-odd lbs lighter than the more powerful BMW X3 M40i. As a result, the GLC 43's power deficit is less noticeable than you might think.
With an unchanged color palette for 2019, there's still a choice of ten shades. Only two (Black and Polar White) don't cost extra. For an additional $720, several metallic shades are available: Obsidian Black, Iridium Silver, Mojave Silver, Lunar Blue, Brilliant Blue and Selenite Gray. Designo Cardinal Red Metallic costs $1,080, while the priciest color option is Designo Diamond White Metallic at $1,515.
This is a rapid SUV with enough performance to justify all of those AMG badges. With 362 horsepower at its disposal, the GLC 43 rockets to 60 mph in 4.7-seconds. This is faster than the Audi SQ5 but three-tenths of a second behind the brawny BMW X3 M40i.
With a nine-speed AMG speedshift transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive, the GLC isn't just a fast accelerating SUV but also feels suitably sporty and exciting when making full use of the available power. The V6 engine produces a lovely howl under load, giving it a unique character to set it apart from the unruly GLC 63. In many ways, the 43's performance feels more appropriate for the real world - you're never left wanting for more power, but neither does the package overwhelm within the confines of a bustling city or speed-restricted highways. If you intend to use the GLC 43 for more than just traffic light blasts, you'll be pleased to know that the towing capacity is a decent 3,500 lbs.
Pop the hood, and the 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbo engine sits beneath a red engine cover. With variable valve timing, enhanced turbo boost, and a weight-saving diecast-alloy block, the impressive power plant churns out 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. It's coupled to a nine-speed AMG Speedshift automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
The beauty of the GLC 43 is how it can effortlessly be programmed and driven to suit your mood. Gentle cruising is rewarded with a refined engine, effortless passing power, and imperceptible gear shifts. In one of its naughtier driving modes, the AMG rewards with crisp responses, and the V6 delivers ample power that makes light work of the SUV's weight. It is easily accessible performance that doesn't require sweaty palms or heroic efforts to unlock. After all, this is still a luxury SUV that needs to perform its duties with polish. As a stepping stone to the top-tier of AMGs from Mercedes, the GLC 43's bi-turbo V6 and slick transmission do their jobs perfectly.
AMG's adaptive air suspension is perfectly in tune with the engine's all-round ability. Using AMG Dynamic Select, you can alter the car's throttle response, shift points and steering effort by choosing between one of four modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport +. There's also a special Individual mode, which allows the driver to set up the transmission for manual shifting. Eco dulls the throttle response too much, so we'd stick with Comfort if you're not in a hurry.
Even with its large wheels, in Comfort mode, the GLC 43 impresses with its ability to smooth out surface scars without transmitting them to the cabin. Only some additional tire noise is evident over GLCs with smaller wheels. It's certainly more comfortable than the harder-edged X3 M40i.
The rear-biased 4Matic all-wheel-drive system (31:69 front/rear torque split) endows the AMG with surprisingly fun handling characteristics, with accurate steering allowing you to blast out of corners with a reassurance you may not have anticipated. No, there isn't the same degree of agility on display as you'd find in the Porsche Macan - and steering feel is limited - but the GLC appears to be spot-on for its intended application. This is far from a boring SUV to pilot, and again, it's the GLC's ability to do everything well that shines most brightly.
While matching the Audi SQ5's fuel efficiency, the GLC 43 lags behind EPA estimates for the BMW X3 M40i. Whether this matters to buyers of a high-performance SUV is up for debate.
The AMG's figures are 19/25/21 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, enough for a combined cruising range of 365 miles from the 17.4-gallon gas tank. By comparison, the BMW's 20/27/23 mpg will see it travel a further 42 miles from a marginally larger gas tank. When filling up, note that the GLC 43 requires premium unleaded gas.
Borrowing a number of cues from the C-Class, the GLC's interior melds contemporary design with high-quality materials. Familiar, modern Mercedes touches include a trio of prominent air vents in the center of the dashboard, along with generous lashings of metal-effect trim. There's loads of space for all passengers, especially those in the second row, while appealing seat trim in a combination of MB-Tex and suede-like Dynamica upholstery adds to the sophisticated feel. Newly available AMG performance seats take the ambiance up another few notches, but even without this upgrade, the GLC's cabin is a class act.
Accessing the GLC for the first time, you may notice that it's lower than the typical SUV. This improves overall ingress, although the rear doors aren't the biggest.
Once inside, there's an abundance of space, and nothing about this compact SUV feels particularly compact. Leg and headroom are both generous, and there is an especially welcome amount of space for taller passengers in the rear. The driving position is excellent, with 14-way power adjustment and a power steering column making it easy to get comfortable. Despite rather broad roof pillars, visibility remains generally good, and it's simple enough to get a sense of the GLCs extremities in tighter spots.
The GLC looks and feels suitably premium, with no rattles or squeaks and a pleasing luster to the materials used. While leather is an added cost, the standard combination of Black MB-Tex material with Dinamica (with red stitching) feels both durable and luxurious. The seat belts are red, although they can be replaced with less conspicuous black seat belts at no cost. If you must have genuine leather, this is a $1,620 option, and there are five colors to choose from: Black, Espresso Brown/Black, Silk Beige/Espresso Brown, Saddle Brown/Black and Black with red stitching. Designo Nappa leather is a $3,100 option, with two color choices: Black, and Platinum White Pearl/Black. A choice of three wood trims is available at no cost (Natural Grain Black Ash, Dark Brown Linden, and Light Brown Linden), while racy AMG carbon fiber trim costs $975.
A useful 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space makes the GLC a practical family SUV, although this lags behind the BMW X3's exceptional 28.7 cubic feet of trunk capacity. However, the GLC's trunk area has a large, square opening, which makes loading large suitcases and a set of golf clubs easier. A power liftgate is standard, as is automatic lowering of the rear air suspension (by 1.6 inches) to more conveniently load heavier items. The 40/20/40-split rear seats fold flat at the touch of a button, freeing up 56.5 cubes of utility space, not far off the X3 M40i's 62.7 cubic inches. So, while the GLC's cargo area may not be the biggest by the numbers, it's the many thoughtful touches that increase the practicality score.
Storage for smaller items is fair, with a covered compartment ahead of the infotainment controller and well-sized door bins.
As this is the second variant on the GLC podium (after the AMG 63), a high feature-count is expected. In front, the sport seats have 14-way power adjustment, heating, and a memory system. Mercedes' door-mounted seat controls also make sense, as it's easy to see which portion of the seat is being adjusted. Dual-zone automatic climate control takes care of temperature regulation, while there's also keyless start and go, power-folding side mirrors and a power liftgate. Standard safety features comprise a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers and LED daytime running lamps. You'll have to pay extra for LED headlamps, however.
While Mercedes MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system rolls out across the brand's various model lines, for now, the GLC still uses the COMAND system. It's still a fairly solid system, if lacking the increased user-friendliness of MBUX. The standard GLC system uses a seven-inch color screen, upgradeable to an 8.4-inch screen with navigation. Bluetooth audio streaming, dual USB ports, an HD radio receiver, SiriusXM with a six-month all-access trial, and an SD card reader are all standard. The standard system's age shows due to the fact that both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are only available as part of the $350 Smartphone Integration Package. However, this package is incompatible with the $2,200 MultiMedia Package (navigation, larger screen), so you can either have navigation or enhanced smartphone integration, but not both. A FrontBass audio system features two under-dash subwoofers and is standard, while a 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system is optional.
It's a bit of a mixed bag for the GLC 43, with a solid J.D. Power score of 84/100 at odds with a number of recalls in 2018. These recalls, issued by the NHTSA, were for the passenger airbag being displayed as "on" when it was deactivated, a rear seat belt that couldn't be latched, incorrect color for the turn signal lights, an airbag housing material failure, detaching sunroof panels, and inadvertent deployment of the driver's airbag. Worryingly, this isn't the first time that recalls were issued for faulty Mercedes safety features, with the S-Class also being affected.
The GLC 43 is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, with the same coverage for the drivetrain. Roadside assistance is for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first.
As a range, the Mercedes-Benz GLC achieved a full five-star NHTSA rating for overall safety. The 2019 GLC was named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS, although this only applies to models equipped with the Advanced Lighting package. These excellent results confirm that the GLC boasts exceedingly high levels of safety in the event of a crash.
All of the safety features you'd expect are fitted as standard: seven airbags, a rearview camera, brake assist, trailer stability assist and tire pressure monitoring are all there. Of course, being a Mercedes-Benz, there's even more. The innovative Pre-Safe system is also standard and can predict an impending accident, preparing the GLC for this situation. Driver-assist tech includes blind-spot monitoring, crosswind assist, active brake assist, and attention assist, which can sense and warn of driver drowsiness. The list of optional driver-assistance technologies is a long one, with features like Distronic cruise control and active steering assist largely taking over common driver inputs. A handy surround-view camera system provides a 360-degree view of the GLC's surroundings when parking.
As a middle-ground between the GLC 300 and the fire-breathing AMG GLC 63, the 43 is a compelling performance SUV. Inside and out, it looks and feels like a premium product, with the interior being both superbly trimmed and appreciably spacious. In fact, this could be the most stylish cabin in the segment. The powerful V6 twin-turbo engine and 4Matic all-wheel-drive operate in concert to provide a much sportier driving experience than the GLC 300, all without sacrificing the refinement and comfort of the range. Rivals from Porsche and BMW may outperform the Mercedes at the limit, but the GLC 43 strikes the ideal balance between ferrying the family around in comfort and tackling a mountain pass on the weekend. Weaknesses are few, with the infotainment system due for an upgrade - hopefully, this includes the standard inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other compact SUVs also have superior cargo capacities, but the GLC is hardly stingy in this respect. So yes, AMG-lite is more than just a marketing gimmick: the GLC 43 is a bonafide performance SUV.
There's just a single variant of the AMG 43 GLC and it carries an MSRP of $57,000, with this price excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $995.
Available in a single trim/configuration, the AMG GLC 43 utilizes a 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 producing 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive are standard fare.
Outside, signature AMG badging adorns the 43, along with 20-inch AMG wheels, anodized roof rails, the prominent Mercedes badge in front and gloss black accents. The interior is trimmed in a mix of MB-Tex/Dinamica upholstery with red stitching, with the MB-Tex material extending to the door panels. Dual-zone climate control, a seven-inch central display screen, a power liftgate, power front sport seats, heated front seats, and keyless go are all on the standard equipment list. A sport AMG steering wheel in Nappa leather sits ahead of the driver, who also has access to a rearview camera, blind-spot assist and crosswind assist.
As is the German way, there is no shortage of options when customizing your purchase. Starting off with the exterior, you can specify the $800 Exterior Lighting package, which includes LED headlamps and adaptive high-beam assist. The $1,500 AMG Performance Studio package now also includes AMG optics, which adds a gloss black finish to the rear spoiler, rear diffuser and the front apron. The quad tailpipes also get the darker treatment, and overall these changes do provide some added aggression.
Inside, those AMG performance seats are certainly tempting. For $2,500, these race-inspired seats feature integrated headrests and AMG badges - they really do look the part. The $2,200 multimedia package bundles together navigation, a larger screen, a touchpad controller and voice control - it's just a shame that opting for this package means you can't add on Android Auto and Apple Carplay, too. The comprehensive Driver Assistance package costs $1,800 and adds almost more driver aids than you'll know what to do with - Distronic cruise control, active steering assist and speed limit assist are just a few of them. Choose this one if you'd rather sit back and let the GLC do most of the driving itself.
The standalone options that seem most attractive are the Burmester surround sound system ($850), AMG head-up display ($990), and Nappa leather seats ($3,100). Just be sure to set aside a full day when creating your ideal GLC 43 - you'll need it.
With just one engine and transmission to choose from, it's up to the options list to determine what your final product will look like. Unless navigation is essential, we'd immediately throw in the $350 Smartphone Integration package to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. While the standard seats are excellent, the AMG performance seats really transform the appeal of the cabin. Together with the $1,500 AMG Performance Studio package, you'll go some way to making the average GLC 63 driver stop to take a second look. These three upgrades will add $4,350 to the total price, still well below the GLC 63's MSRP.
Each adhering to the same philosophy, both the AMG GLC 43 and BMW X3 M40i are positioned as tamer versions of these brands' fastest SUVs. Getting to grips with each of these hot SUVs tells a familiar story: the BMW is sharper and the keener overall performer, while the Mercedes-Benz is the classier and more comfortable alternative. Both have superb power plants of the same capacity (V6 for the Merc and an inline-six for the BMW) and all-wheel-drive. Both have extremely comfortable interiors, with the X3's infotainment system having the edge, but the GLC fighting back with a more impressive design. As has been the story for decades, choose the X3 M40i if you want the more dynamic driving experience, but go for the AMG if a better balance between comfort and handling appeals.
Giving up just 14 horsepower to the Mercedes, the similarly-priced Porsche Macan S also features a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 and all-wheel-drive. Even sportier than the X3, the Macan S is all about offering as much of the 911 experience as is possible in the body of an SUV. As a result, it corners like no other rival in the segment, with superb body control and generous driver feedback through the major controls. However, while the Macan S is better at being a sports car than the GLC 43, the Mercedes is better at being an SUV. There's loads more rear legroom in the GLC - a result of a longer wheelbase - and total cargo space is also superior. While the Macan is far from uncomfortable, it's also the GLC that provides a smoother ride quality. One area in which the Macan does have an edge is in the quality of its infotainment system - it uses a larger screen and is also easier to use than the GLC's current system. Which one is best? It depends on what kind of SUV you want. The Mercedes pampers with its lavish interior, while the Macan thrills.
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