Merc is up to its (new) old tricks again. Last year I drove another of its four-door “coupe” SUVs, and it was astoundingly good. So of course I needed to try the very latest Merc offers in the segment to see how it compared.
The GLC300 4Matic is labeled “coupe” to connote its low ride, sportiness, and slim roofline compared with larger SUVs. This GLC family is the model line the company introduced in 2016 as a way to help fill in the the spots left around the departing GLK, a boxy compact SUV. Right now, the family consists of the new GLC SUV proper, the GLC300 Coupe, and the higher-performing AMG GLC43 Coupe.
The “coupe” SUV segment is the latest attempt to capitalise on the wild success of luxury crossovers. When automakers like Porsche, Mercedes, and BMW (they call theirs the “Sports Activity Coupe”) start making four-door SUV- and crossover-style coupes, it means they’ve got a lot of market space to play with. And so far, they’re doing it right.
Here are six things that surprised and delighted me on my test drive.
Yes, It Drives Like a Coupe
The GLC300 4Matic (4Matic is the badge that designates all-wheel-drive vehicles at Mercedes) comes standard with a 2.0 inline-four turbo engine that gets 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough to shoot the GLC forward thrillingly the moment you punch the gas—the car weighs a relatively light 4,133 pounds, after all. Mercedes’s engineers have perfected the power-to-weight ratio better than just about anyone. Yes, the GLC300 4Matic is called a coupe and isn’t, in the traditional sense of the word. But it feels like one—the way it moves, surges, pounces—when you drive it.
Goes to Nine
The GLC300 has nine—count them, nine—speeds. This is quite a feat, considering that its competitor, the excellent BMW X6, has eight of them and many luxury cars have six or seven. Those nine gears, plus the laser-precise steering and optional “Air Body Control” air suspension, for US$1,800, reward the most demanding driver. Riding in the GLC300 Coupe is like running your hand across a cool marble table. So smooth.
Efficiency Comes Standard
The GLC300 comes standard with the Stop/Start function that allows the car to turn off the moment you come to a halt and step on the brake. Although I personally find this annoying—there’s something about your car shutting off in the middle of traffic that is unsettling—you can push a button to disengage it, and it does save gas: GLC300 achieves 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. This compares well with the X6 and Macan. It’s a huge improvement over even a few years ago, when even luxury vehicles offered Stop/Start only as an option and most vehicles didn’t have it at all.
One of the biggest arguments for buying such a weird thing as an SUV-coupe is the fuel savings it achieves over a regular SUV, and here the GLC Coupe excels.
All the Signs of Sport
Optional AMG styling Sport Packages come short of actually making this an AMG-tuned vehicle, yes, but you can’t fault Mercedes for trying. The benefits—leaner body styling at the front and upper door panels; a louder, rawer sport exhaust system; AMG lettering inside; aluminum sport pedals; perforated front brake disks; and a flat-bottomed steering wheel—are clear aesthetically. And there’s half a chance the casual observer will take your GLC for the (more expensive, more manly) AMG version.
The Price Is Right
The GLC300 4Matic costs US$45,950. The options on the car I drove pushed its price tag to US$63,505. Both figures, to my mind, are reasonable.
What’s more, the AMG GLC43 Coupe costs US$59,650. And direct competitors to the GLC coupe cost more (X6, US$61,400; Porsche Macan, US$47,500; Macan GTS, US$67,200). Large sedans, a possible alternative, are pricier as well.
In fact, this the real allure of this odd SUV-coupe segment—it has no real distinct logic or raison d’etre, which somehow frees it to be uniquely, delightfully, wholly itself. (Just like the others I mentioned in this segment.) The price becomes somewhat of a moot point in your decision making.
More Than What You See
The GLC300 Coupe has the same 113.1-inch wheelbase as the standard GLC SUV and is three inches longer overall. And yet the slope of the roofline does not make you feel nearly as cramped as the exterior profile of the car suggests.
Sure, the space in the truck isn’t ideal for weekend camping trips and vision clearance out the rear window is minimal, but there’s enough space in the front to make it feel like a proper SUV, and the back is certainly compatible with a pack of adults taking a road trip. For people who want a high-riding sporty four-door vehicle, the GLC300 Coupe is a solid option.
Here, then, is where Mercedes has pulled off the biggest feat of all: From behind the wheel, and all things considered, the GLC Coupe is bigger than the sum of its parts.
The AMG has a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that gets 362 horsepower and pound-feet of torque.