This GLC 43 still delivers enough of a driving experience to be worthy of the AMG badge.
Mercedes-Benz, along with archnemesis BMW, has succeeded in ensuring that there really is a crossover for everybody. From the smallest GLA to the flagship GLS (reviewed here) and including the iconic G-Class (reviewed here), Mercedes’ lineup now offers a full gamut of luxury crossovers, most with AMG-tuned high-power versions. While the fire-breathers like the GLE 63 and GLS 63 are appealing, the sweet spot in the lineup is much more attainable. We spent a week in the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC, in traditional SUV form rather than the edgy coupé.
While there are certainly buyers for the GLC Coupé, my old-fashioned tastes will argue long and hard that the standard SUV form is much more appealing. The wider wheel and tire setup on the GLC 43 tested here, along with the aggressive grille, LED lighting and simplistic curves, all come together for one of the better lookers in the class. The busy-looking BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace aren’t likely to age quite as well, while the GLC SUV should look good for decades to come. Unfortunately, while the 1,149-liter cargo capacity is significantly better than the coupé, it still lags behind the other German rivals.
The GLC 43 gets a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 and not the inline-six on some of the new 53-series cars. Power has gone up to 385 at 5,500RPM, and torque is 384 lb-ft. at 2,500RPM. A nine-speed automatic sends oomph to all four wheels through the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. It’s quick, and thanks to the performance exhaust system, sounds great too for a baby-AMG. If a monster is what you need, the GLC 63 (reviewed here) is also available. The GLC 43 gets more aggressive tuning than its standard GLC 300 sibling, and as a result feels more urgent in just about every setting.
The nine-speed transmission tends to get a bit confused at city speeds, but out on open highways and country back roads, it’s just fine. 100km/h still comes from a standstill in four and a half seconds, which is impressive. The steering is light, but is nicely weighted and provides adequate feedback in the corners. It’s not quite as crisp as the BMW X3 M40i (reviewed here), but provides more feel than the Audi Q5’s numb rack. The boosted V6 is a sweetheart that makes great noises, and while it’s not quite as buttery smooth as the X3’s B58 inline six-cylinder, it’s more dramatic and makes more of a lasting impression.
Aside from the power bump achieved by going with six cylinders over four, the GLC has a few traits that make it worthy of the mild-AMG line. The adaptive suspension is pretty comfortable in its standard setting, but dial things up a notch and it firms up nicely. The GLC 43 is a fantastic back road companion, and ride quality is just superb in all settings. The chassis and suspension do an excellent job coming together to absorb all imperfections, in a way that’s rarely seen in this segment. The SQ5 (reviewed here) has less aggression, and is more of an angry kitten than ferocious in any way, while the GLC 43 maintains the anger of a mountain lion.
Fuel economy for the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC is rated at 13.7L/100km city and 9.8L/100km highway, for a combined 11.2L/100km. Our test consisted of about 400km of combined driving, with plenty of bumper-to-bumper traffic as well as a few longer highway stints. The result was 12.1L/100km, and it’s worth noting that 91-octane premium fuel is required. Tank capacity is a small 66-liters, and we would have liked to see a bit more space to make for longer range on longer road trips.
The interior is an area where Mercedes still excels over the competition. The GLC is nearly half a decade old, and into its mid-cycle refresh, so still lags behind its larger GLE (reviewed here) and GLS siblings. Even still, the updated cabin looks more substantial than the competition. It now gets the latest version of Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent Drive safety suite, as well as the MBUX infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both equipped as well, and while MBUX is far from perfect and not quite as user-friendly as BMW’s iDrive, it’s growing on us. The Burmester sound system is spectacular, and is able to reproduce the audio experience like nothing else.
Mercedes prices the GLC 43 at $64,400 to start, a premium of nearly $16,000 over the GLC 300 (reviewed here). Our tester was fully jammed with options including the Premium Package, AMG Driver’s Package, Intelligent Drive Package, Technology Package, Heads-up Display, and trailer hitch. Add a premium for the 21-inch AMG wheels, the Graphite Grey Metallic paint, and interior carbon fiber trim, and you’re at the as-tested price of $82,890. Buyers wishing to opt out of some of the pricier options can get away at a lower price, but we would be surprised to see any examples on dealership lots without at least the Premium and Tech packages.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 AMG is one of my favourite crossovers out there. In fact, for young couples or small families with one child and maybe a dog, it could very well be the perfect hauler. It’s fun enough to not make work of driving a crossover around, and practical enough to load up gear for hockey practice or that weekend away. While we can agree that names like AMG and M have become diluted over the years, this GLC 43 still delivers enough engagement to be worthy of the badge.