Mercedes’ mid-sized SUV gets the go-faster treatment with twin-turbo V6 power
AMG’s new ‘43’ performance series has, thus far, been something of a disappointment. The SLC43 offered plenty of punch but lacked the raucous AMG magic of old, and the C43 4Matic Estate – a semi-skimmed alternative to the full-fat C63 – was denounced for its uncommunicative steering and compromised body control.
So we were apprehensive about the least focused 43-badged model yet, the GLC43. Like the cars above, the GLC receives a twin- turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased four-wheel drive system. Mercedes claims a 4.9sec 0-62mph time and an electronically limited 155mph.
However, straight-line pace has never been an issue for AMG. Ultimately, the GLC43 needs to excel with its ride and handling, especially given 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 1845kg – some 125kg less than the Porsche – should ensure that the GLC43 can run with the pack.
With 362bhp and 384lb ft, the GLC43 feels properly quick. Push the throttle pedal through the kickdown and, after the briefest of pauses, the Mercedes hunches down and fires itself towards the horizon. Thanks to those two turbos, there’s plenty of low-down torque to make overtaking a breeze and the automatic gearbox is quick to drop a few cogs if Sport or Sport Plus mode is selected. It’s an excellent transmission that delivers consistently fast and precise shifts, and manual mode means manual, so you have to be careful not to run into the 5700rpm soft rev limiter.
However, Mercedes hasn’t sacrificed ride comfort in the pursuit of handling ability. Even with the car’s 19in wheels, the adaptive suspension does an impressive job of smoothing out imperfections, and although there’s some road roar 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 speed up the gearshifts. It sounds good in theory, but our experience of the C43 revealed that it was tricky to find a happy medium among all the settings. That car was either too wallowy or too stiff.
Thankfully, AMG has found the correct balance here. The suspension feels pliant and well damped even in Sport Plus, shaking off multiple mid-corner inputs. Outright grip is impressive for a near two-tonne car and that rear-biased 4Matic system is genuinely effective exiting slower corners, even allowing the car to adopt a small amount of attitude.
If you push on further, there’s a bit of body roll – more than in the Macan or SQ5 – and the steering hardly bristles with feedback, but this is only a factor through high-speed direction changes. Point to point, we doubt it would be far behind the Porsche.
With impressive straight-line performance, well-resolved handling and a cosseting ride, the GLC43 is the most complete 43 variant. The 3.0-litre V6, 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 huge boot.
Granted, the GLC43 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 impressive machine.
AMG turns the GLC into a point- to-point weapon, but not to the detriment of comfort or practicality
Price: £ 47,875
Engine: V6, 2996 cc, twin-turbo petrol
Power: 362bhp at 5500-6000rpm
Torque: 384lb ft at 2000-4200rpm
Gearbox: 9-spd automaitic
Kerb weight: 1845kg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Economy: 34.0mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 189g/km, 34%
Rivals: Porsche Macan GTS, Audi SQ5