Putting the cross in crossover, with the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43
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Fancy more aggression in your premium crossover? School runs have never been so much fun
Ah, more alphabet soup from Mercedes-Benz then?
If it has all got a bit much, let me quickly catch you up. The GLC-Class is Mercedes-Benz's (very popular as it turns out) entry into the burgeoning crossover category. There are a couple of diesel and a couple of petrol options, all wrapped in mid-sized crossover-style SUV bodywork and featuring Mercedes-Benz's rear-biased 4MATIC all-wheel drive system underneath.
There are also a handful of GLC Coupe models to be had. These feature the same running gear and dimensions as the SUV, but with a roofline that slopes down to the tail behind the c-pillar, hence the loose "coupe" word association. So, a GLC with slightly less rear headroom and boot space then. The model sits under the GLE-Class in terms of range hierarchy.
It's the 50th anniversary of the AMG performance sub-brand this year, so you can expect Mercedes-Benz to offer up a few high-octane highlights. But the advent of the AMG versions of the GLC models isn't outside the norm; Mercedes-Benz now offers almost every model it makes in a more aggressive package, save for its light commercial van line-up.
There are two distinct strains of AMG; the GLC models featuring the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 rather than the full gamut of eight cylinders many will be more accustomed to.
Still, as experienced on a run from Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula for the Leadfoot hillclimb event at Rod Millen's property near Hahei, a twin-turbo V6 will get you up and moving quickly. Add to that the sure-footedness of Mercedes-Benz's 4MATIC system and you have plenty of school-run fun at your disposal.
Thanks to its crossover format, the GLC 43 pulls off the neat trick of feeling like a lower-slung sedan or wagon, rather than the compact SUV it is on paper.
There's plenty of room for five inside, but behind the wheel, the way it grips, turns in and gathers its skirts (0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds) suggests something much lither.
That direct on-road feeling is aided by Mercedes-Benz's Airbody Control suspension and selective damping, while Dynamic Select drive modes give you the option of Sport or Sport+ variations to sharpen performance for twistier backroads. The GLC is essentially a C-Class underneath and, despite the increase in mass, feels well sorted in the manner of its sedan cousin.
Naturally the GLC 43 has plenty of reminders of your unabashed penchant for power, with enormous 21in AMG alloy wheels, AMG-specific body styling and a "diamond"-look grille, along with AMG sports seats and steering wheel inside. But as with pretty much every Benz on offer these days, the standard equipment list is extensive.
Mercedes-Benz is keeping its powder dry with the AMG 43 models in some respects, though.
For a start, you won't flip over the key fob for the GLC 43 and see the AMG crest, like you might on a C 63 S or GT.
There is also no delineation between "normal" GLCs and the AMG version when it comes to where you change gears; only AMG sports coupes feature a stylised gear shifter in the centre console these days. The GLC 43 has a column shifter like its less ferociously-themed siblings.
Mind you, a full-blown C 63 S features a column shifter these days, too.
While those three letters add a decent amount of power to the GLC template thanks to the GLC 43's twin-turbo V6, they also add to the price — it costs $22,500 more than the other petrol in the range, the $94,900 GLC 250.
For many though, the AMG one is The One. I'm not kidding: New Zealand boasts the highest concentration of AMG purchasers in the world. We love an unhinged skunkworks-specified take on the norm. The other German manufacturers will report a similar story: if it's the performance version, then that's the one Kiwis want most.
So perhaps the extra cost is a moot point (the fastback-silhouetted GLC 43 Coupe costs $123,900, so the car you see here isn't even the most expensive AMG GLC).
Despite being relatively late to the crossover segment party, the GLC has proven all-conquering for the Stuttgart-headquartered brand, with or without AMG endorsement. It ticks so many boxes before you add something as base as horsepower to the equation, that every entry in the range represents a solid purchase.
But the AMG version is always going to be that bit more special. For a large proportion of Mercedes-Benz customers, the one to buy has arrived.
MERCEDES-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC
Engines: 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo (270kw/520nm)
Pros: The ultimate expression of Mercedes-Benz's all-things-to-all-people mid-sizer
Cons: A GLC 250 still packs a punch and features plenty of standard fare — for $22k less