First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Coupe
– Turin, Italy
The view of the car world from the editor’s chair is not dissimilar to that observed by you enthusiast readers. Growing up with storied racing legacies and classic designs dancing through our dreams, we’re often quite resistant to new paradigms, especially when they seem to play fast and loose with comforting conventions.
Sedans called “coupes” and minutely lifted station wagons called “crossovers” are easy targets for our conservative ire. And Mercedes-Benz, as much or more than any other automaker, has pushed the boundaries in this get-off-my-lawn set of segments. Thank god it has. If sales of slightly less practical versions of existing products – like this newly minted 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe – allow headroom in the budget for passion products like the AMG GT R, I’m all for them. There’s a spoonful of sugar to this sales-driven medicine, too: The GLC Coupe is nearly as entertaining to drive as any comer in the small-utility world.
Engineers have retuned the steering, making it quicker than in the standard GLC, and the result is a rack that doesn’t feel ship-like on tight mountain roads.
Drive out of Turin and into the Italian Alps, and you’ll soon find exactly the kind of roadways that we editors and enthusiasts love to talk about; the kind that a generation ago were deadly dull in a crossover. Arbors, vineyards, and sheepfolds flank these winding tracks, with switchbacks bending narrow streets into rising, falling, suspension-stressing stretches of driving gold. I’ve piloted quite a few utility vehicles that are able to stir a bit of passion out in the great wide open, thanks to all-wheel-drive grip and mighty engines, but most of them fall flat in this kind of arena. It was a bold choice of venue for Mercedes to launch the GLC Coupe.
But the slant-back vehicle surprised me, to start, by merely keeping up with the road, even at a good clip. Engineers have retuned the steering, making it quicker than in the standard GLC, and the result is a rack that doesn’t feel ship-like on tight mountain roads. The steering wheel is light in action (though it does weight up as speed increases), allowing one to alter direction quickly. There isn’t very much road feel offered up, of course, and that’s a detriment where edge-of-grip driving is concerned, but it also makes the Coupe a far more relaxed thing on the open autostrada (or the mall run) than would a more talkative tiller.
Even the tautest Sport+ setting can’t disguise the weight and body roll of the car.
Adaptive damping and the optional air-adjustable suspension also go a long ways toward giving the GLC Coupe confidence in most drive settings, though even the tautest Sport+ setting can’t disguise the weight and body roll of the car, especially in those hairpins. I was able to develop a nice, quick rhythm for coming down the backsides of slopes, but had to be patient in the effort, waiting for the machine to turn in, take a set, and then get ready to haul ass again. Not exactly a sports car experience, but a touch more involving than the original GLC.
It’s fair play to mention that the base GLC Coupe will arrive Stateside using a taller steel suspension than European units will get, and one that will likely soften up the handling a bit. Such a car wasn’t available for me to drive on this program, so I’ll have to come back to the point when we’ve parked one in the Motor1 fleet (the model goes on sale in early 2017, so it’ll be a minute).
The sole powertrain available at launch is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that merits the GLC300 Coupe designation. Matched with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission, this is a very capable powerplant, even when asked to move 4,000 pounds of crossover bulk. Rated at 241 horsepower with a healthy 273 pound-feet of torque, the engine offered unsurprisingly strong midrange acceleration. The exhaust sound, on the other hand, was a surprise, and a pleasant one. Though the car does the hushed highway cruise thing pretty well, at the top of the tachometer in lower gears, it proved rather growling. The basso back pipes were at least worthy of the estimated mid-six-second drive from 0 to 60 miles per hour, and pressed me to pull hard out of slow switchback corners.
Though the car does the hushed highway cruise thing pretty well, at the top of the tachometer in lower gears, it proved rather growling.
The moderately improved handing and familiar powertrain may lurk beneath the skin, but cosmetically, the differences between the GLC SUV and this GLC Coupe are rather obvious. A traditionally shaped rear end and load space have been sacrificed for that coupe-like roofline, creating a sleeker, less-functional form that is, well, the whole point of this segment.
Autos-observant readers will, no doubt, have strong feelings on this genre of utility vehicle, often predicated on pre-formed opinions about the quasi-trailblazing BMW X6 (or, in the U.S. derisively compared with the poor old Pontiac Aztec). There are undeniable similarities in every current crossover coupe form, be it the roofline of the X6 or its little brother X4, or the Mercedes pair of the GLE Coupe and this new GLC.
I happen to prefer the styling of the GLC Coupe to the larger GLE version, as the smaller vehicle seems far less hulking and hunched; happier in the ground-hugging rear view, and sportier looking with its big-wheeled corners. (Conversely, I like the X6 much better than the smaller X4, so I don’t appear to be a latent size-ist.) It may be that the GLC Coupe is simply close enough to being a kind of large hatchback that its existence gets challenged less by the reptilian portion of my brain… In any case, it’s pretty attractive, and may even be best-in-genre today.
The real compromise for the Coupe’s roofline seems to be in the form of back-seat headroom, more than cargo space.
The real compromise for the Coupe’s roofline seems to be in the form of back-seat headroom, more than cargo space. Yes, maximum capacity drops from 56.5 cubic feet in the GLC to 49.4 in the Coupe, and the top part of the load space is more pinched, but it’s not something that will affect most drivers, most days. But tall adults in the rear seats – myself included – will get a kinked neck more quickly in the newly shaped vehicle, thanks to that racy rear roof. Real estate agents and UberBlack drivers, take note.
You’ll understand it by rote if you’ve been driving recent Mercedes products (or reading the reviews), but there is zero compromise for driver or passenger in the from two seats. My test car had the attractive carbon-fiber-styled center stack, flanking the palm-read COMAND controls which operate one of my favorite infotainment suites. A stitched leather dash, elegant brightwork (I love the porthole vents), and good-feeling switchgear dominate the forward view. And the two most driver-critical contact points – the seat and the steering wheel – both balance comfortable ergonomics with sporting intent. Where automotive interiors are concerned, Mercedes seems to have inched ahead of most Audi products in the mainstream-luxury race (though plucky Volvo is hard-charging from the back).
For the style-minded, or simply open-minded, the GLC Coupe looks and feels pretty all right on an Italian mountain road.
Mercedes has not released pricing for the GLC Coupe as of writing, but it isn’t too hard to read the tea leaves. The current GLC300 4Matic (the Coupe arrives as AWD only) starts at $40,950; that’s literally the same as BMW’s X3 xDrive28i. It seems a mortal lock, then, that the GLC Coupe will be within a schnauzer-hair of the rival X4 xDrive28i’s starting price of $45,250.
If you’re an insistent purist who simply can’t abide this evolving oeuvre of coupe-like things, don’t fret. Mercedes will happily sell you a C300 sedan or coupe, or a square-back GLC, in that same forty-ish price strata. But for the style-minded, or simply open-minded, the GLC Coupe looks and feels pretty all right on an Italian mountain road, which is a great fact to present about any vehicle, regardless of pesky door count.
|2017 MERCEDES-BENZ GLC300 4MATIC COUPE|
|ENGINE||Turbocharged 2.0L I4|
|OUTPUT||241 Horsepower / 273 Pound-Feet|
|0-62 MPH||6.5 Seconds (est.)|
|WEIGHT||4,000 Pounds (est.)|
|CARGO VOLUME||49.4 Cubic Feet|
|BASE PRICE||$45,000 (est.)|
Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com