The premium crossover class is very competitive and constantly growing. To play in this field, manufacturers must be at the top of their game.
Mercedes has updated the GLC for 2020 with some new exterior styling bits, optimized wheels, the updated MBUX infotainment system, and more power.
The GLC is very stable in appearance. It is short and low with a long wheelbase and wide track. As is common with many vehicles today, the grill is oversized and the Mercedes emblem in this grill might be the largest emblem on any vehicle I’ve seen. Because of all this, and the bulges in the hood, the GLC looks very aggressive from the front.
Moving to the side, the AMG split 5-spoke wheels stand out from the rest of the side profile. From this angle, it’s clear the GLC is a sports car-based crossover with a low roofline that swoops down at the back. Apart from the BITURBO badge on the front quarter panel and AMG wheels, there isn’t much to indicate the performance that hides inside.
Looking at the rear of the GLC, again the wide track shows with bulging fenders and wide tires. The dual exhaust with quad tips adds to the performance look. Just like from the front, the sportiness is obvious from the rear.
One surprising feature is how wide the hood opens. As far as gas strut assisted hoods go, this has to be the widest opening in the industry.
Inside, the GLC43 is very nicely appointed. The seats have adjustable thigh supports along with all the standard adjustability. There is a red theme throughout with red stitching on the seats and steering wheel and red seatbelts.
The steering wheel is the focal point of the interior. It has touch screens, LCD screens, buttons, wheels, and levers. The black squares on the 3 and 9 o’clock spokes are touch screens with the right one controlling the center display and the left one controlling the instrument cluster. There are 2 lower LCD displays with the left one being split into two.
These control drive modes, the exhaust note, traction control, and a few other settings. Behind the steering wheel, but attached to it, are the paddle shifters. The number of features that are controlled without removing your hands from the steering wheel is unparalleled.
In the center stack, there are clear and easy to use buttons for the climate control system and in front of the center console are the touch screen and more buttons to control driving dynamics and the cameras.
The GLC has an optional package called AMG Track Pace, which will keep track of lap times, among other things, when you are on a track that is in its system. For those looking to have some fun with their crossover at the track, this system can help record lap times, section times, and other stats.
Inside there isn’t a ton of room; the GLC is a compact crossover after all. There is enough cargo space and seat space for four adults to take a weekend trip, but beyond that things will get very tight.
Like all AMG vehicles, the driving dynamics is where the GLC43 shines. The 3.0-liter biturbo V6 puts out a healthy 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. The AMG suspension can be tuned for comfort or sport driving with various settings, and the ride height can be adjusted for better ground clearance or better performance.
What all these goodies do is make the GLC fast and composed under most driving situations. On normal streets, the comfort mode is still a little stiff, but this is an AMG vehicle after all. The steering is light but provides good feedback and the exhaust note is calm. For daily driving it’s a comfortable vehicle, but the sportiness is never truly hidden.
The only noticeable downside we found in our testing was that sometimes the GLC will buck when accelerating at a leisurely pace from a stop. It feels a little like dropping the clutch too quickly in a manual, but much less harsh. When accelerating at mid to high rates, the bucking isn’t noticeable.
Adjust the various settings to Sport or Sport+ and the steering becomes very firm, the ride quite stiff, and the exhaust note glorious. When driving hard it remains flat in the corners, yet it’s able to absorb bumps without jarring the passengers.
The acceleration is excellent and will send you into triple digit speeds with little effort. Upshifts are fast and downshifts send a wonderful pop through the exhaust, especially when the baffles are opened for sport mode.
Mercedes offers an off-road package on some lower trim GLC’s but not on the AMG versions. However, there is still height adjustable suspension that can be raised even when in Sport+ mode. With the long wheelbase and tires pushed out to the corners, the approach and departure angles are actually really good for a street performance crossover.
On the articulation test hill, the GLC was able to make the climb in all the different drive modes, but it prefers more wheel speed than most vehicles. Each of the modes tunes the steering and throttle response differently, with Slippery mode having the least throttle response and Sport+ having the most. As expected, there is very little articulation from the fully independent track tuned suspension.
High speed bumpy gravel and dirt road driving will overwhelm the driver quickly. Being tuned for the road makes off-pavement driving a little rough. It does remain controlled and planted, but it doesn’t smooth out the medium bumps, much less the large ones.
Climbing a steep hill and lifting a wheel at the same time is very hard for the GLC to overcome. Even with the suspension in the higher settings, we didn’t want to risk damaging the undercarriage by carrying high speeds up the hill. Eventually the braking system needed to cool down and we stopped our test without ever cresting the hill.
We would love to test a lower trim equipped with the off-road and off-road+ modes, as they will likely perform better on this hill than the AMG versions.
The base price for an AMG GLC43 is $59,500 and comes with a plethora of goodies. On top of the standard features, our test model included the AMG carbon fiber trim, 20” AMG wheels, AMG performance exhaust, AMG drive unit, AMG Track Pace, panorama roof, 12.3” instrument cluster, Burmester surround sound system, dual pane glass up front for additional insulation, parking assistance package, multimedia package, and AMG night package. Along with the destination charge, all these features brought the total price to $70,110. None of these options or packages were overly expensive for what they provide. We recommend getting any of these packages that the owner wants as the cost doesn’t outweigh the value.
Overall, the AMG GLC43 is a fantastic road-going crossover with the ability to be taken to the track. The driving dynamics are great, and the engine is wonderfully powerful. It comes with a slew of standard safety features and has great standard technology features as well. The AWD system is excellent for performance driving and foul weather, but struggles a bit off-pavement. While the price is a little bit higher than its competitors, it offers a lot in a small package.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.