2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 first drive review

We’ve been down this road before—well, not literally, as this particular stretch of Germany’s Baden-Württemburg state isn’t exactly bristling with tourists. But there’s a distinct familiarity to the Mercedes-AMG GLC43.

After all, the recipe is tried-and-true for Mercedes. The brand is keen to spread its Affalterbach skunk works’ magic to its entire lineup with the goal of offering every buyer an AMG of some sort, but instead of shooting for the stars with only big V-8s, AMG is now shoehorning its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 into just about everything in the lineup. The GLC43 is the latest to get this motor, which can be found in the C43 and the E43 and a few others.

In those models, it’s something of a mid-level before you work your way up to the more bonkers 63s, which is headed to the GLC63 in the future. And that’s just fine, because this compact crossover isn’t designed to steal market share from the Porsche Macan Turbo or the upcoming BMW X3 M and Jaguar F-Pace SVR.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43, Affalterbach, Germany

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43, Affalterbach, Germany

Fitted here, the V-6 delivers 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, the latter coming on at a predictably low 2,000 rpm. Up until now, the GLC lineup in the United States has been restricted to a 2.0-liter turbo-4, which is adequate but not heart-pounding. But Mercedes watched Audi sell more 354-hp SQ5s than anyone ever expected and it has seen Jaguar jump into the fray with its 380-pony F-Pace S. Clearly, compact crossover buyers want some zip and they’re willing to pay upwards of $50,000 for it. (The GLC43 stickers for $55,825.)

ALSO SEE: Mercedes-Benz GLC43 Coupe revealed

That V-6 cuts the 0-60 mph sprint by about a second and a half over the GLC300, bringing the figure to a zippy 4.8 seconds.

The V-6 is mated exclusively to all-wheel drive and it sends power to each corner via a 9-speed automatic with a sport mode and paddles mounted to the steering wheel. Underneath, an air suspension can be adjusted from pillowy to fairly firm thanks to its own AMG calibration. Unlike the standard GLC300, the 43’s all-wheel-drive system has been tweaked to send nearly three-quarters of available power to the rear axle under normal driving conditions.

Inside and out, the expected cosmetic touches add a little more presence, with a choice between 20- and 21-inch alloy wheels. Aside from a glimmering grille and that taller, fatter rubber, the GLC43 doesn’t scream boy racer—which will probably be fine with most buyers. Otherwise, the GLC43 is basically a step up from the GLC300, which isn’t a bad thing. Think of it as a GLC400 with a better-than-average sport package and you’re on target. A GLC43 Coupe will follow, but it’s an odd duck for those who want to go pretty fast while sitting up high but not carrying a lot of luggage. At least the standard GLC43 makes sense.

AMG tweaked the GLC43’s steering, which livens it up a little over the admittedly dull and slow setup in the GLC300. What’s more impressive is the crossover’s body control; it hustles into corners and remains flat especially in sport mode, mostly masking the crossover’s plump 4,100-pound curb weight.

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Most of our driving was on damp roads, but the GLC43 never felt out of step. Unlike the GLC300, the 43 handles like a proper rear-drive crossover, albeit a chubby one. Its rear-biased all-wheel-drive system helps the front end feel a little more light and delicate despite the chunkier 21-inch wheel and tire package fitted to our Euro-market test car.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43, Affalterbach, Germany

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43, Affalterbach, Germany

The differences are subtle but appreciable, at least until the wick is turned up. The V-6 storms to life, amplified by an AMG exhaust system that delivers the kind of pops and snarls once relegated to race cars. It’s a little much at high rpms, but around town there’s a nice rumble that bounced gently off of walls as we moved through picturesque, quiet villages near Stuttgart.

Built up almost identically to a GLC300, the 43 package adds about $10,000. Unlike AMGs of yore, however, this one’s about more than just going fast. It’s the entertainer that unmasks the GLC300’s subdued nature.

It’s an AMG for just about everyone, at least those with around $60,000 to spend on a compact crossover. So far, this performance for the people mantra at AMG seems to be working in everyone’s favor.

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