Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the new Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
In February 2017 SUVs outsold passenger cars in the Australian market for the first time. Not all of them were like the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 but the very fact this has happened explains why it exists.
A few years ago we had a good giggle over fast, high-riders like this and quickly had the smug smirk wiped from our faces, replaced with the kind of grin you get from supercar performance in a family package.
The 'normal' GLC has been slightly overshadowed by the recently-arrived GLC Coupe, but it's still here and it's powering on, with a twin-turbo V6 supplying the grunt and Mercedes engineering supplying the finesse.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
Not to be confused with the X6-alike Coupe version, the more upright GLC 43 SUV comes in at $101,400 and does battle with Audi's ageing (and soon-to-be replaced) SQ5 diesel-powered rocket, which is about $12,000 cheaper. If you can live with losing boot space and like... er... unconventional beauty, the aforementioned GLC Coupe might be for you at $108,900.
In the Merc, you'll get 21-inch alloys, sports pedals, a 13-speaker Burmester-branded surround sound stereo with DAB, an 8.5-inch screen, head-up display, dual-zone climate control, AMG exhaust and steering, air suspension, panoramic glass sunroof, leather trim, keyless entry and start, sat nav, active cruise control, auto parking, electric tailgate, active LED headlights, auto headlights and wipers, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, around-view cameras, heated electric front seats with memory, power everything and tyre inflation kit.
Mercedes' 'COMAND' system is responsible for media and sat nav duties and remains the least usable of the Germans. That's not to say it's terrible, because it isn't, it just has stiff competition form Ingolstadt and Munich. There are many worse, almost all of them hailing from Japan - but the simplicity of Audi and BMW's systems is not replicated here. It doesn't help that the rotary dial control is hidden under a tongue of plastic that houses a scratchpad. It gets in the way and obscures the buttons surrounding the dial. Sadly Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not along for the ride, but there is better than basic iPhone integration with the COMAND system.
Unusually for a Mercedes, there aren't a great deal of options available, and most of them are either useless toys (like a TV tuner), bling (carbon fibre trim pieces) or a ski bag. That means there's plenty on board from the get-go, meaning your biggest problem will be choosing a colour.
The quality is, as expected, faultless.
Out of the ten colour palette, two colours (black and white) are free, six metallics are a pricey $1990, and two Designo colours are $2990 each. Mercedes certainly isn't alone in overcharging for metallic paint, but goodness, that's a lot of money.
How practical is the space inside?
The GLC's cabin is surprisingly roomy given the 4668mm length of the car and a decent 550 litre boot (which extends to 1600 litres with the 40/20/40 seats folded down).
Front seat passengers are graced with a pair of cupholders, bottle holders in both doors and a decent-sized bin under the armrest, along with a few slots and trays. Rear seat passengers score smaller bottle holders in the doors and a pair of cupholders in the centre armrest.
It's a roomy cabin, with plenty of space front and back, although a middle rear seat passenger might feel pinched at the hips.
If you're not in love with the side-steps, get rid of them - deletion is free. They collect grime and water and will ruin the backs of your pants and/or legs. And I won't publicly admit to barking my shin on them because it absolutely never happened.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The GLC is the upright sensible GLC, and the design ticks that box. There's nothing outlandish about it, but it's handsome enough. There's no doubting it has presence, with LED lights, gigantic wheels and the funky grille housing a big Mercedes star. In all other respects, its as unexciting as rivals from Audi and BMW but with a few racy touches to signify its quick brick intent.
Inside is all very Mercedes. A high dash with a 7.0-inch screen sprouting out of the middle, good clear instruments and some classy wood and metallic finishes that avoid the bling of the lower-end A Class-based cars. A piano black finish on the console picks up fingerprints but looks good when clean.
Flooring a two tonne family wagon and reaching 100km/h in under five seconds still reduces me to joyous giggling.
The quality is, as expected, faultless, with few cheap finishes or touches and even then, they're out of sight.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The 43 is powered by an AMG prepped 3.0 twin-turbo V6 pumping out a whopping 270kW/520Nm. A Mercedes-made nine-speed automatic delivers power to all four wheels and helps the 1900-odd kilogram machine to 100km/h in a tick under five seconds.
The AMG exhaust system crackles like an AMG should when you're in Sport mode and that is worth the outlay all on its own.
How much fuel does it consume?
Mercedes claims 8.8L/100km on the combined cycle but that seems like a distant possibility given my inability to score less than 12.7L/100km. Having said that, there's a lot of performance (and puerile-but-awesome exhaust popping) on offer.
What's it like to drive?
Fast SUVs are plentiful, but flooring a two tonne family wagon and reaching 100km/h in under five seconds still reduces me to joyous giggling. The whooping from the back seat makes me do it more often and it never, ever gets old.
Another thing that stays young and fresh is the idea that something this high on 21-inch wheels can go around corners the way the GLC does. While it's not as engaging as the SQ5, it's still hugely entertaining, and with that Mercedes presence, clears the right hand lane of a freeway with devastating ease.
Into the corners the GLC is plenty of fun, but you really need to have some pace on. In slower turns, the Merc pushes noticeably, to the point where it does it on full lock during a three-point or U-turn, almost like the front diff is skipping. I'm not saying that's what it is, but it feels like you're scrubbing the fronts. And this is despite an out-of-the-box rear bias of 69 percent to the rears.
The driveline also suffers from the slightly underdone 9G-tronic nine-speed automatic. It's fine in the Comfort setting, shifting smoothly and cleanly but when you're in the sportier modes, it gets jerky and shunty on a light throttle which can be a little embarrassing. It's slightly un-Mercedes.
The ride is another point of amazement. It's pretty uncommon to have air suspension as standard on cars at this price point, but when you've got it, you know it. Rolling on such big rims and fat low profile tyres, this car has no right to ride as pleasantly as it does (in Comfort mode at least). It's not exactly an E Class, but it's good.
And, of course, it has all the toys so you won't be wanting for entertainment.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
On-board safety tech includes nine airbags (including driver's knee bag), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot monitoring, driver attention detection, brake assist, AEB, forward collision warning, pedestrian avoidance.
Like the E Class, there's a curious omission - rear cross traffic alert appears to be MIA.
The GLC scored the maximum five ANCAP stars in January 2016.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
Mercedes offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with three years roadside assist into the bargain.
AMG-engined cars are required to drop in for a service at 20,000km or 12 months (whichever comes around first), which contrasts with the usual 25,000km service interval for non-AMG cars. That's still a pretty good deal.
Capped-price servicing applies for the first three services - $510 for the first service and then $1035 for the second and third, for a total of $2580 across the three years. You can also pre-purchase silver and platinum service plans, locking in the cost and in the case of platinum, covering a few consumables like brake pads and wiper blades.