Review: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 SUV
AMG and SUV
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – car manufacturer X’s bestselling vehicle in North America is an SUV.
Gets a bit old after a while, doesn’t it? Perhaps, but that doesn’t make it any less true, and not just for mass market manufacturers. Many premium brands also rely in SUVs to drive sales. Audi, BMW and Lexus, to name a few, all have SUVs at the top of their sales charts.
And you can add Mercedes-Benz to that list. Its C-Class stalwart has been passed by the GLC utility, which was the marque’s bestseller in both Canada and the U.S. in 2019. Its sales in climbed by 21 per cent in Canada last year, while the C-Class dropped by a whopping 40 per cent. Sign of the times, indeed.
At any rate, the compact GLC was introduced in 2015 as the replacement for the outgoing GLK and is available in both SUV and SUV coupe (sloped roof) form. It slots between the subcompact GLA and the mid-sized GLE in Mercedes’ lineup of utilities.
The 2020 model year brings some mid-cycle updating to the GLC, including new LED headlights, unique AMG styling cues, Mercedes’ MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system with available 12.3-inch instrument cluster display and a more powerful V6 engine.
The focus of this review is the AMG GLC 43 SUV version, which I recently drove courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Canada. My tester is finished in Graphite Grey Metallic with a black interior.
Powering the GLC 43 is a 3.0-litre biturbo V6 that produces 385 horsepower at 5,500 – 6,000 r.p.m. and 384 lb-ft. of torque at 2,500 – 4,500 r.p.m. Noteworthy is the significant horsepower bump the engine receives for 2020, from 362 to 385. The gain is owed to software tweaks and its two turbochargers being located close to the engine for better response. On that front, the GLC 43 can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, quite quick for an SUV.
Paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, the GLC 43 launches off the line and has loads of power in reserve for passing and merging. Console buttons for adjusting suspension damping, drive mode settings (slippery, comfort, sport, sport+, individual) and exhaust note can dial the car’s sportiness up even further. Switching between drive modes can also be done via steering wheel knob.
Unsurprisingly, GLC 43’s reflexes are at their most responsive in sport+, which was the most frequent setting during my test. Steering is tight with good feedback. Acceleration is sharp, the handling feels nimble for an SUV and the exhaust note is louder, but nowhere near deafening. Suspension damping is quite stiff in sport and sport+, especially with 21-inch wheels shod in summer tires, but much more liveable in comfort.
On the inside, the GLC 43 offers a refined and sophisticated take on premium luxury. While the 2020 comes with such updates as a new AMG steering wheel, MBUX infotainment system and twin digital display screens (12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch multimedia), other aspects of the GLC 43’s interior have a familiar Mercedes-AMG look and feel.
The well-bolstered black Artico seats, leather trim inserts in the dash and on-the-centre console, along with the red stitching accents on many of those same touch points, all exude a strong performance feel. Other cabin touches, such as aluminum speaker grilles and carbon fibre trim inserts also enhance the GLC 43’s AMG character.
As for the MBUX infotainment system, this was the first extended hands-on experience I’ve had with it, and while there is a bit of a learning curve, I found it to be quite user friendly overall. Apart from pin-sharp HD graphics, quick response time and customizability, the system also offers steering wheel and console track pad inputs. I can also confirm the voice prompt ‘Hey Mercedes’ works quite well and, much like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, sometimes activates without any prompting from the user.
Despite its performance pedigree, the GLC 43’s utility factor is high. Front and rear seating areas offer a good deal of space, the cargo area has up to 1,600 litres of storage and, when properly equipped, this compact SUV can tow up to 1,588 kg (3,500 lb).
Before wrapping up, I should mention my tester carries more than $16,000 worth of optional kit. Some items I’ve mentioned, such as the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment display and AMG performance steering wheel, are optional, as is a slew of other stuff.
I mention this not to suggest the GLC 43 isn’t well equipped, because it is, but just for full disclosure. This car comes with a lot of standard kit, including 20-inch wheels, MBUX infotainment system, Artico seating surfaces, aluminum trim and, of course, a 385-horsepower V6 engine. The optional items are cherries on the sundae.
Overall, I think the GLC 43 SUV delivers a lot of performance for money and a good value proposition if one can exercise some restraint when ordering. The GLC 43 is the ideal size for most North American consumers, plus it delivers dazzling technology, and a high degree of AMG performance and sophistication with plenty of utility.
For those in the market for a performance SUV, its argument is a compelling one.
2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 SUV
BODY STYLE: Compact luxury SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, nine-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 3.0-litre biturbo V6 (385 hp, 384 lb-ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) L / 100 km N/A
CARGO VOLUME: 1,600 litres (57 cu. ft)
TOW RATING: 1,588 kg (3,500 lb)
PRICE: $64,400 base; $82,890 as tested excl. taxes