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Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 2020 review

The GLC 43 2020 update is subtle but effective
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Mercedes' halfway-house AMG, the GLC 43, has had a mild update and now has air suspension as standard. Does this bring up to the level of its stiff rivals from BMW M Performance and Audi Sport?

Clustered around the hundred grand mark - and let's be generous with our rounding here - are three six-cylinder performance SUVs from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. They're each sober-suited machines based, obviously, on less racy machinery. BMW and Mercedes also offer slightly less sober suits for an extra outlay. They all offer comfort and performance while not completely sacrificing the planet or your spine.

Mercedes' offering here is the GLC 43, and it's this car that means I have to be extremely generous with the rounding, because it's rather closer to the $110,000 mark (for the wagon) than the other two. It carries the fabled AMG badge, comes in two body styles and has just had the mildest of mid-life updates for 2020.

Mercedes-Benz GLC43 2020: 4MATIC
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$120,200

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 SUV arrives at $112,500 while the coupe version is about $8000 more at $120,200.

Both coupe and SUV body styles have 20-inch alloys, multi-zone climate control, air suspension with dynamic dampers, electric and heated front seats, active cruise control, head-up display, reversing camera, surround-view (360-degree) camera, front and rear parking sensors, sat nav, keyless entry and push-button start, electric tailgate, leather and wood trim, active LED headlights, auto wipers, semi-autonomous parking, roof rails, a DVD player and a TV tuner. But there's no spare tyre, just a repair kit.

Both coupe and SUV body styles have 20-inch alloys. Both coupe and SUV body styles have 20-inch alloys.

The wagon's sunroof is a huge panoramic unit while the coupe has a smaller, more traditional glass panel.

A Burmester-branded 13-speaker sound system is powered by Mercedes excellent new MBUX system on a 10.0-inch touchscreen. The old system had good hardware but was a bit confusing and, on occasion, irritating. There was nothing wrong with the hardware's response, but the screen looked a bit titchy in the GLC's cabin. 

A Burmester-branded 13-speaker sound system is powered by Mercedes excellent new MBUX system on a 10.0-inch touchscreen. A Burmester-branded 13-speaker sound system is powered by Mercedes excellent new MBUX system on a 10.0-inch touchscreen.

MBUX offers the Themes function, which is a series of shortcuts to set the car up for a particular mood. Themes change things like driveline settings, ambient lighting and sound levels among other things.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

As with the rest of the GLC range, the 43's bumpers and headlights are new but not obviously so. It's probably one of the calmer AMG treatments, with AMG-branded brake calipers (gripping drilled front discs), a bit of a tea tray wing on the coupe and a specific 20-inch rim designs. The silly side steps are along for the ride. They get in the way and will muddy your legs if they're dirty, so watch out for that. They also seem a bit incongruous on a sporty SUV. The quad exhausts certainly belong, though, and as the Night Package is fitted they're black and poke out through a subtle diffuser.

As with the rest of the GLC range, the 43's bumpers and headlights are new but not obviously so. As with the rest of the GLC range, the 43's bumpers and headlights are new but not obviously so.

The cabin is much the same as before, with just the new screen to make things interesting. It's not one of Mercedes' finer efforts but by no means a bad cabin. I do like the look and feel of the textured wood but I'm less fond of the chintzy Burmester speaker covers. It's otherwise completely inoffensive and, as you might expect, beautifully built.

The cabin is much the same as before, with just the new screen to make things interesting. The cabin is much the same as before, with just the new screen to make things interesting.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Generous leg, knee and foot room for the outboard passengers and a big transmission tunnel to straddle for the middle seat passenger. Generous leg, knee and foot room for the outboard passengers and a big transmission tunnel to straddle for the middle seat passenger.

There are sacrifices if you choose the GLC Coupe over the conventional SUV. While you get between 550 and 1600 litres of cargo space in the wagon, you have 500L/1400L in the coupe. As well as that, you lose a bit of headroom in the back, so if your rear seat dwellers are tall, that could be an issue.

Apart from that, everything is pretty much the same - generous leg, knee and foot room for the outboard passengers and a big transmission tunnel to straddle for the middle seat passenger.

While you get between 550 and 1600 litres of cargo space in the wagon, you have 500L/1400L in the coupe. While you get between 550 and 1600 litres of cargo space in the wagon, you have 500L/1400L in the coupe.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The 43's V6 displaces 3.0-litres and has a cheeky pair of turbos strapped to it to make 287kW and 520Nm to help shove its 1900kg frame to 100km/h in a scant 4.9 seconds. Heavily involved in this process is Mercedes' nine-speed TCT transmission and all-wheel drive system known as 4MATIC.

The power figures compare rather favourably with the X3 M40i's 265kW and the SQ5's 260kW, but they're both lighter, and their transmissions both have one fewer gear.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The windscreen sticker with the fuel figures tells me that the combined cycle result for the ADR test was 10.4L/100km. This seems fairly unlikely b ut on the flipside, the car I drove was part of a launch activity which was not undertaken in the interests of fuel economy.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The GLC range scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in January 2016. It was not re-tested after the facelifted model was launched.

All GLCs have nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, traffic sign recognition, around-view cameras, reversing camera, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor, forward auto emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning and tyre pressure monitoring.

There are also three top-tether mounts and two ISOFIX points.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

As with the GLC 63, you get a less than satisfactory length of three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist. Mercedes is not alone in this, with BMW and Audi both failing to lengthen their warranty cover periods. For context, Lexus offers four years/100,000km, and Genesis offers five years/unlimited km.

As with the GLC 63, you get a less than satisfactory length of three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist. As with the GLC 63, you get a less than satisfactory length of three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist.

You can choose to cover servicing under a prepaid or pay-as-you-go arrangement, with the former saving you money over three years. If you pay upfront for the first three services, you'll pay $2250, saving $500 over the same period. You can extend to four years ($2900) or five years ($4600). It's not especially cheap, with BMW and Audi both undercutting Mercedes by about $700 over five years, but the devil is in the detail of the inclusions.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

I approached the GLC 43 after a careful stretch and a physio on standby. The last time I drove one was a while ago and it didn't have the air suspension that is now standard on the 43 and was possibly the hardest-riding car I've ever driven, crashing over five cent pieces and discarded cigarette butts. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it was hard everywhere but on the freeway.

That hardness put it at odds with its rivals and with the harder-core GLC 63 which had air suspension from the get-go.

it's a very different car to the GLC 63. it's a very different car to the GLC 63.

All is forgiven. The better suspension transforms the ride without sacrificing the handling. The 43 has five driving modes, including the new slippery mode, and your back is now safe in all modes.

Out in the fun stuff, the GLC 43 is a refined, fast machine. The nine-speed auto is excellent in Sport+, cheerfully keeping the powerful, torquey V6 slap-bang in the torque band. The engine pulls reasonably hard and the car's near two-tonne weight falls away.

The better suspension transforms the ride without sacrificing the handling. The better suspension transforms the ride without sacrificing the handling.

That decent torque figure also means it's quite easy to pedal around town. In the calmer modes it's a very comfortable car.

It's also worth pointing out that it's a very different car to the GLC 63. It might share an AMG badge, but it's much more relaxed and goes without the giant personality of the V8-powered range-topper. It also goes without the road noise.

Verdict

The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 is a vast improvement on the one I last drove. The question you have to answer is whether it's $10,000 better than either the Audi or the BMW or whether the Mercedes star is worth that.

It is a very fast, comfortable mid-size SUV with the cachet of a performance badge and the dynamics to back it up.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

EXPERT RATING
7.3
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership6
Driving8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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