AMG's treatment of the GLC turns it into a point-to-point weapon, but not to the detriment of the car’s comfort or practicality

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It’s fair to say that AMG’s entry-level '43' performance series has, thus far, been something of a disappointment.

The SLC 43 offered plenty of punch but lacked the raucous AMG magic of old, while the C 43 4Matic Estate – a semi-skimmed alternative to the full-fat C 63 AMG version - was denounced by our road test team for its uncommunicative steering and distinct lack of body control. So what of this special variant of the Mercedes GLC

It’s a truly excellent transmission that delivers consistently fast and precise shifts, and most importantly, manual mode means manual

As you can imagine, we were rather apprehensive about the least-focused 43-badged model yet, the GLC 43. Like the cars mentioned above, the GLC receives a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 petrol engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system. Mercedes claims that a sub five-second 0-62mph time should be achievable and, given the space, the GLC 43 should rocket up to an electronically limited 155mph top speed.

However, as we know from its twin-turbo siblings, straight-line pace has never been an issue for AMG. Ultimately, the GLC 43 needs to excel with its ride and handling, especially considering the quality of the competition. Both the Porsche Macan GTS and Jaguar F-Pace S offer sports car-like driving dynamics, as do the BMW X4 and Audi SQ5. Adaptive suspension, variable steering and a kerb weight of just 1845kg – some 125kg less than the ulta-agile Porsche – should ensure that the Merc has what it takes to run with the pack.

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Does the GLC 43 perform like a true AMG?

Given that it has 362bhp and 384lb ft, it's unsurprising that the GLC 43 feels properly quick off the line. Push the throttle pedal through the kick-down and, after the briefest of pauses to let the boost build, the Mercedes hunches down on its rear axle and launches towards the horizon. Sadly, you don’t get the characterful V8 soundtrack that we once would have expected as a matter of course from AMG-badged cars, but once the revs rise, the turbocharged six-pot does a good job of making itself known by delivering a deliciously raspy howl.

Thanks to its twin turbochargers, the GLC 43 also has plenty of low-down torque, pulling strongly from below 2000rpm to make overtaking a breeze, while the nine-speed gearbox is quick to drop a few cogs if Sport or Sport Plus modes are selected. It’s a truly excellent transmission that delivers consistently fast and precise shifts, and most important, manual mode means manual, so you have to be careful not to run into the 5700rpm soft limiter – like we kept doing.

However, if you want to settle back and enjoy your journey, you’ll be pleased to know that Mercedes hasn’t sacrificed ride comfort at the expense of handling. Despite the car's whopping 19in wheels, the adaptive suspension does an impressive job of smoothing out imperfections, and while there is some road noise from the vast rubber, wind noise is relatively unobtrusive.

Turn off the motorway and onto a country road and the multiple driving modes allow you to stiffen the suspension, sharpen the steering and quicken the gearbox. Sounds good in theory, but past experience of the C 43 AMG tested earlier in the year revealed that it was hard to find a happy medium among all the settings. That car was either too wallowy, or too stiff to deal with undulating British B-roads, with vertical movements erring to the faintly ridiculous in the firmer setting.

Thankfully, AMG has found the correct balance with the GLC. The suspension feels pliant and well damped even in Sport Plus mode, shaking off multiple inputs mid-corner. Outright grip is downright impressive for a near two-tonne car and out of slower corners that rear-biased all-wheel drive system is genuinely effective, allowing the car to adopt a small amount of attitude.

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Granted, if you push on further there’s a bit of body roll – more than you find in the Porsche Macan or SQ5 – and the steering doesn’t exactly bristle with feedback, but this only becomes a limiting factor through high-speed direction changes. Point-to-point, we doubt it would be far behind the Porsche. 

Has the GLC redeemed the '43' badge?

With impressive straight-line performance, well-resolved handling and a cosseting ride, the GLC 43 is the most complete ‘43’ variant we’ve driven to date. The 3.0 V6 petrol engine, nine-speed automatic gearbox and rear biased four-wheel drive system feel at home here and, more important for families, it has one of the most luxurious interiors in the class, plenty of room in the rear and a whopping great boot.

Granted, it doesn’t quite have the sharpness of the Macan GTS or the straight-line pace of the SQ5, but as an all-rounder it’s a genuinely compelling machine. 


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 (2016-2023) First drives