If you think of the Mercedes-Benz GLC as a raised C-class sedan, you wouldn’t be too far off.
Whereas the GLC’s predecessor, the GLK, shared the same platform as the previous generation C-class, a stiff ride, lackluster interior fittings, and the rugged Tonka truck styling (very loosely derived from the G-wagen) weren’t very Mercedes-like as they should’ve been.
Nonetheless, the GLK proved that there was a market for a compact luxury SUV smaller than the company’s M-class (now known as the GLE-class), and the Mercedes-Benz SUV/crossover line-up has now expanded to an astounding nine different models.
Four years after its initial launch, the GLC has received a mid-cycle refresh and now sits two positions up from its smaller siblings, the GLA and the GLB. The GLC’s rounded styling and overall refinement still looks and feels fresh, now further aided by the extensive updates for the 2020 model year and up.
For the purposes of this review, my test vehicle was the entry level performance-orientated variant of the GLC, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 AMG. While not the top dog GLC63S AMG model with over 500 horsepower, the GLC43 AMG is still one hot tamale producing 385 horsepower.
Let’s take a closer look.
Updated mid-cycle styling and updates
As one of the brand’s best sellers, Mercedes had to make sure to keep the GLC up to date with the latest corporate styling as well as on the technology front. There have been an influx of competitors over the last few years including refreshed versions of the Audi SQ5, BMW X3, Porsche Macan, Range Rover Evoque, and Jaguar F-Pace.
For 2020, the updates start with the typical tweaked exterior trim pieces such as the new grille and the addition of the classic Mercedes-Benz Panamericana grille. First debuted in 2016 on the menacing Mercedes AMG GT-R, this grille is a tribute to a legendary racing car in Mercedes-Benz’s history, the 1952 300 SL which ran in the Carrera Panamericana race held across the Pan-American Highway in Mexico.
Also new is a thinner headlamp design with standard LED daytime running lights and LED high and low beam, as well as a new LED taillamp design.
For this juiced up Mercedes-AMG version of the standard GLC-class, the GLC43 AMG comes with a 385 horsepower twin turbocharged 3.0 litre V6 that generates 384 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 to 4,500 rpms.
For 2020, there is a noteworthy bump in power, up from the 362 from previous model years owed to software tweaks and its two turbochargers being located closer to the engine for better response. 0-100 km/hr sprints can now be accomplished in 4.9 seconds.
All GLCs now use Mercedes’ new nine-speed multi-clutch (MCT) gearbox transmitting power to all four wheels via the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
On the inside, the fantastic Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system is now available on the GLC with a 12.3 inch instrument cluster display. While it doesn’t have the same hoodless one piece display panel found on newer Mercedes-Benz vehicles such as the GLB, GLE, or GLS, the system is a big improvement over the previous COMAND interface. Read more about MBUX in my GLE review here.
To accompany MBUX, there is an all-new AMG steering wheel design, consistent with other models in the Mercedes-AMG vehicle range. This new wheel borrows cues from other manufacturers, such as Porsche and or Ferrari, and incorporates customizable buttons and knobs to allow easy toggling between the customizable drive modes, as well as adjustments to the suspension, exhaust tone, or stability control systems.
The beauty of the Mercedes’ implementation is not only the mini colour screens, but also that the two left-side soft buttons can be customized to adjust the exhaust mode, the suspension, or even to turn off the start/stop system or the stability control system.
Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 AMG starts at $64,400. However, my highly optioned test vehicle had almost an additional $18,000 in options and packages, sitting well north of $82,000.
How does it drive?
Riding on handsome looking 20-inch five spoke AMG wheels , the GLC43 is loads of fun to drive.
The addition of the extra power from the AMG engine hasn’t ruined the composed nature of the GLC’s chassis and the vehicle puts its power down well. I’m impressed by how well AMG’s engineers have integrated the more powerful engine into this car, giving it a familiar but yet more playful character.
While the powerplant doesn’t particularly feel like an AMG engine from 10 years ago, it’s smooth, punchy, responsive to throttle inputs, and emits a pleasing note under larger throttle pedal openings. For a more brutish experience like the AMGs of yesteryear, Mercedes-AMG offers that experience in the form of the V8 powered GLC63.
AMG Dynamic Select allows further fine-tuning of the car’s functions, with Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual modes to the transmission, engine response, suspension and steering. The latter is speed-sensitive with Comfort and Sport settings.
With the Airmatic (Air Body Control) air suspension system, the GLC43’s body roll is well controlled and calculated. In Sport mode, those reactions get sharper, not in a punishing way but just stiffer. Twist the dial to Sport+ for the full bat-out-of-hell mode when on a track.
I left the settings in Comfort mode for 90 per cent of the time and found the vehicle to be a fantastic road trip companion particularly on the Sea-to-Sky highway leading up to Whistler. With plenty of passing power, precise and well-weighted steering, the GLC43 rewards its driver particularly well on the twisty sections of the highway.
Activate the Sport Exhaust setting and the baffles in the exhaust open up to give the vehicle a satisfy growl. There is a real sense of pantomime which grows in intensity as the rev counter swings above 3,000 rpms.
I liked to use Individual setting on occasion, which allowed for many different permutations and combinations from the different modes. Want to hear the exhaust rumble, enjoy a weightier steering from the Sport mode, but yet leave the suspension supple? No problem.
The AMG-tuned 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is unchanged from previous model years, set at a fixed 33 per cent fore, 67 per cent aft power split.
Properly equipped the GLC can tow up to 3,500 lbs.
On the inside
Aside from the upgrade to the MBUX infotaintment system and a full digital instrument cluster, much of the GLC’s excellent interior has been carried over. If it looks familiar to the C-class, it’s because much of it has been carried over. The same dash layout makes an appearance, and the floating centre screen has now been reconfigured to an aspect ratio friendlier to support MBUX.
Compared to its competitors such as the Audi SQ5 and the BMW X3 M40i, the GLC’s interior still looks relatively fresh. It’s probably my favourite of the bunch as far as a blend of high-quality mixed materials, technology, and design.
Mercedes-Benz’s ambient lighting system has risen to be one of the best in the business, with multi-zone, multi-coloured, multi-animation settings. You can truly light up the interior to varying brightness levels, by zone, to mimic the Las Vegas strip should you desire.
The GLC43 AMG includes heavily bolstered AMG seats that offer extra lateral support over that of the standard GLC’s seats. You’ll also get a wonderful split leather / Alcantara steering wheel that is just the right diameter and thickness. I just wish that steering wheel heating was available.
The aforementioned AMG seats are a great place to rack up the miles. They’re well-contoured, holding you in place in the corners, and the cushioning has a nice initial give but yet is firm and supportive beneath even for the long haul. The standard 14-way power driver’s seat has plenty of adjustments, including lumbar and seat memory.
The cargo area has up to 1,600 litres of storage, offering up a great deal of space.
Relatively thin roof pillars and good-sized windows make seeing out of the GLC relatively easy. That’s impressive for a small luxury SUV since most rivals opt for slick-back styling that results in thicker rear roof pillars and a compromised raked / squashed rear window.
On the active safety front, like other Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the GLC43AMG comes standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Also standard is Brake Assist System Plus. This system scans in front of the vehicle looking for other cars and pedestrians. It also augments the driver’s brake pressure to ensure stopping in time for an emergency.
A blind spot warning is optional, as is a 360 degree surround-view camera system. Rear cross traffic warning is also available should you choose the correct tech package.
Despite its relaxed vibe, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 has enough athletic chops that make it fun-to-drive and a true AMG model.
While it might not be as engaging to drive as a Porsche Macan S, it offers greater utility, a lower entry price, as well as the allure of the legendary three-pointed star.
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