Modern SUVs are expected to be consummate all-rounders, the Mercedes-Benz GLC in its regular form, represented by the GLC 200 and GLC 250, is a stylish and capable premium SUV. No surprises that it has turned out to be pivotal in Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s (MBM) robust sales record.
But leaving well enough alone isn’t an MBM thing, they had to introduce the AMG GLC 43 and then assemble it locally so it has a chance to chalk up some numbers. In isolation, RM471,888 for a mid-sized SUV sounds pretty steep, but to find something similar with the performance to match, you’d have to fork out at least RM610,000 for a base-spec Porsche Macan S.
Three factors why the GLC 43 is a win
When Lewis Hamilton adds another pole to his name, he would have probably strung the best three timing sectors of the race weekend. It is easier said than done of course, many factors need to come together to make a lap great. With the GLC 43, it feels as though Mercedes-Benz has somehow strung it together and produce a storming SUV that you can also live with every day, and that’s largely down to three factors too.
It rides on air
If there’s any fault with GLC models resting on passive suspension with steel springs, it would have to be its busy ride on less-than-smooth roads. You’d expect it’ll be harsher on a much sportier AMG model, but this isn’t the case, far from it. No matter what the nomenclature says (Airmatic is now dubbed Air Body Control), air suspension transforms how the GLC rides and handles.
Instead of clattering over road crowns and imperfections, the GLC 43 tip toes and dances over them. The air springs takes the edge off the ride but doesn’t dull the feedback. It’ll no doubt roll in corners simply because the GLC is a tallish SUV, but the controlled and finely-judged body motion is useful in conveying its limits and in no way detract from the fun.
This ride pliancy also helps the rear-biased (61:39) all-wheel drive system sink those sticky Continental rubber onto the tarmac, resulting in a drive out of corners that’s nothing short of immediate. You’d almost feel sorry for the road in many ways.
It has a heart of gold
As with any story on a 43-series AMG model, you can’t go without mentioning that twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6. We liked it a lot in the C 43 coupe, can’t get enough of it in the GLC 43 either. There is however a difference in the exhaust soundtrack between the application in the GLC and in the sedan or coupe.
Maybe there’s more under-body room in an SUV for the pipes and mufflers to find their voices, so the note that the GLC 43 sings is notably fuller, bassier, with more crackles and pops on the overruns. Even slowing down for a U-turn is an event. AMG exhaust guys and gals have the best jobs at the office.
Apart from turning up with heaps of firepower (367hp and 520Nm), more than even what the new facelifted Macan S can muster, that AMG-fettled V6 also brings welcomed civility and refinement to the powertrain, befitting what the GLC 43 needs to be when it’s not being driven like it’s stolen.
Credit must also be paid to the ever-improving calibration on the nine-speed auto that allows the hard-revvy character of the V6 to shine through, but it also offers crisp and fast gear-changes when you need it to, or go into engine-decoupled ‘sail’ mode in Eco when you want to eke out more miles from your premium unleaded.
It’s a bargain, really.
It’s easy to overlook value proposition as one of the driving factors of the continued success of the three-pointed star in Malaysia. Beyond the glitz of fashion weeks and high-energy rock concerts, Mercedes-Benz has also delivered value on a consistent basis, not just bread and butter models but across the range, including performance models such as this GLC 43, made possible by the ballsy move to assemble it locally.
For under half a million Ringgit, there aren’t any SUV able to dip under five seconds from zero to 100km/h, nor comes standard with air suspension, bespoke exhaust system, panoramic sunroof, premium audio, red seat belts (because they look great, so you’ll never fail to put them on?) and all the versatility and creature comforts a family-friendly SUV is expected to have. Some days, you can have your cake and eat it.
Mercedes-AMG GLC 43
Price: RM471,888 Engine: 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged, All-Wheel Drive Output: 367hp / 520Nm Transmission: 9-speed auto Performance: 0-100km/h in 4.9s; top speed 250km/h (limited) Wheels/tyres: 255/40 R21 / 285/35 R21 (F&R) Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control Warranty: 4-year/unlimited