The son of seven-time world champion Michael is edging closer to an F1 drive
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What’s this swoopy looking thing? It’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, the somewhat inevitable offshoot of the GLC SUV. Since the arrival of the BMW X6 eight years ago, these crossover-coupes have become quite the essential in premium carmakers’ ranges. Doesn’t Mercedes already have one? Yup, the GLE Coupe. This GLC version looks almost identical, it’s just smaller in every dimension. But that doesn’t mean it’s wee: at 4.7m long, 1.9m wide and weighing not too far under two tonnes, this is not a titchy car. So what’s its purpose?
This, Mercedes tells us, is the sportier offshoot of the C-Class-based GLC. It was benchmarked against the BMW X4 and Porsche Macan (and surely the Jaguar F-Pace too, if it had come out in time). Compared to the standard GLC, the steering is quicker and there’s a new setup for the suspension, but it’s not been a night-and-day change of all the componentry. Sports Suspension is standard-fit, with the usual toggle of modes ranging from Eco to Sport+ to alter its, and other components’, characters. Air Suspension is a £1,495 option, and it’s what Merc’s engineers recommend. Well they would, wouldn’t they… Is it actually sporty? Its maker claims that it’s ‘the sports car among Mercedes SUVs’, and that’s true, but then these things are all relative. But it is pretty decent to drive, to be honest. Here’s what we said when we drove the standard GLC: “Reactions to the steering wheel are measured and progressive rather than agile or direct. But the GLC doesn’t get upset if you push it down a twisty road at a good clip.” The steering is notably sharper, then, particularly when you ramp up through the different dynamic profiles, while this GLC acquits itself very well when you get a bit ambitious with your cornering speeds. It’s not wild, and it’s a little way off the fun of a Macan (both Merc and Jag seem unable to touch the dynamics of Porsche’s chubby hot hatch), but it’s surprisingly adept for something so weighty. To a point, of course: while it feels happy in fast, flowing corners, it can be recalcitrant in tight hairpins, of which there were many on our test route. Which returns us to the age-old argument with cars like this: if you cared that much about dynamics, wouldn’t you just be buying the equivalent C-Class, nay BMW 3-Series? Stick to the GLC. What engines can I have? Just diesels for now, with prices starting at a whisker over £40,000. It launches with some terribly sensible little four-cylinders, namely the 168bhp GLC220d and 201bhp GLC250d. Both offer the same 56.5mpg economy, so it’s more about if you fancy spending around £1,200 to secure a 0.7sec cut in your 0-62mph time and an 8mph hike, the 250d offering up 7.6secs and 138mph. Both also come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive, those features standard across the range.
Is there a faster one? Yup. More interesting is the GLC350d, which has a V6 diesel to better fit the GLC Coupe’s sporty remit. It boasts 255bhp and 457lb ft, enough for a hot hatch-like 6.2secs sprint to 62mph and a 147mph top speed. All of these figures compare very favourably to a Macan Diesel S. Away from Top Trumps comparisons, it’s a strong engine, too: quiet and effortlessly muscular in the day-to-day mooching we imagine these cars will spend 99 per cent of their time, and then plenty powerful during those rare deviations onto more interesting roads. Just the usual diesel-y downsides, really: it runs out of puff low in the rev range, and it doesn’t sound at all emotive when you’re chasing its top end. If it wasn’t for how engaging the Audi SQ5 manages to make diesel power, these wouldn’t be relevant criticisms. What else is interesting? The interior is excellent, as is the way at Merc these days. It’s impeccably put together, the seats are comfortable, and the infotainment is great, once you’ve figured out its slightly odd dial and touchpad. It’s reasonably well equipped as standard, but there are numerous, pricey option packs which include everything from a 13-speaker Burmester stereo to Merc’s semi-self-driving lane assist technology. You’re being awfully nice. Is there a ‘but’ coming? A ‘butt’, actually. There’s no doubt these cars are hugely popular, or else SUVs with a sloping roof wouldn’t be launching on a near-monthly basis. But, and I speak personally here, what is the point? It’s as big and heavy as its base car, it costs around £3,000 more, and while it’s sharper to drive, you’d be buying a different sort of car entirely if that was your utmost priority. People are buying these things for their looks, and without wishing to sound like a granddad not understanding the latest fashion trends, I just don’t get it. The shape of the car is odd and the result of its swept back roof is a letterbox rear window, which has led to Mercedes UK fitting reversing cameras and active parking on every GLC Coupe, in order to bypass dreadful rear visibility. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good car, this. I’d just personally stick with the more practical and, to my eyes, more aesthetically subtle standard GLC if it was a Merc SUV I craved. For those of us who do like it, can we have a petrol? You can. Soon. On the horizon is the GLC43 AMG Coupe, an AMG-lite with a 367bhp V6, sub-five-second 0-62mph time and the full-fat 155mph limited top speed. Mercedes is very tight-lipped on whether there’ll be a proper, twin-turbo V8 GLC63 AMG, but given that engine goes in just about anything that can house it, we suspect it’s on the way. And if you want petrol without an antisocial racket, there’ll be a GLC350e hybrid in a couple of years. We tried it (it’s the white car, above) and it’s a very pleasant thing. With little weight in its steering and nothing in the way of engine braking in silent EV mode, this is not a GLC for anyone seeking those sharper dynamics. But its blend of petrol and electric power operates smoothly and seamlessly, and with 208bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.9secs, it’s no slouch either.