I remember when “sporty” SUVs first hit the road in the early 2000s. They were marketed as high-performance vehicles that could tear up the track one day and go offroading the next. In reality, they were terrible at both; they didn’t handle well and were all but useless offroad. Despite this, the popularity of these cars has skyrocketed, and manufacturers now offer these SUVs in all shapes and sizes. I spent some time with the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe to find out if this latest of the sportier-styled SUVs lives up to the hype.
Tested as the base model diesel, the GLC220d, the 2.1-litre diesel makes 125Kw and 400Nm, with power making its way to the road via Merc’s 4matic all-wheel drive system and their nine-speed automatic gearbox through which changes are made quickly and effortlessly. Even though power dies off the higher up the rev-range you go the engine delivers respectable amounts of overtaking acceleration; enough to blast past that pesky Nissan 1400 bakkie chilling in the fast lane. Fuel consumption is good too – even with spirited driving, I managed a respectable 7.6L/100km, only 1.4L/100km over Merc’s claimed consumption.
When you do decide to apply your lead laden foot, you’ll notice that the diesel engine in this model can be quite vocal and not in a good way. It’s noisy under acceleration but settles into a quiet hum when you hit some open road.
Even if the engine is shouty at times, one place where the GLC Coupe makes up for it is ride comfort. The car we had on test comes with the Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system as standard, and when set to Comfort the car easily soaks up most bumps and ripples. Move the mode from Comfort to Sport or Sport+ and the car becomes a lot firmer – the suspension stiffens, there’s a weightiness added to the steering, and there’s an increase in the sharpness of the throttle programming.
Whether in Comfort or Sport, the GLC Coupe is reasonably capable through the twisty stuff. It’ll never touch a sedan for driving dynamics, but body roll is kept to a minimum and understeer is reduced to a minimum if driven properly. The GLC Coupe will even oversteer if coaxed in the right way; load the front tires, wait for the car to transfer power to the rear and mash the throttle. Not quite proper sports car stuff, but fun nonetheless!
There are some downsides to the way this car drives though. The steering for example; it’s accurate but lacks feel due to its electronic power assisted nature. The numbness continues even when you change driving modes and select Sport or Sport+. These modes add weight to the steering but do little to combat that feeling of being detached from the road.
Another issue is the weight of this car. Weighing-in at 1845kg it’s not exactly light, and this size makes itself known under hard braking or heavy cornering and makes the car feel unsettled. Not so sporting, then!
The Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe shares much of its architecture with the C-Class. Inside it’s much the same as the sedan – comfortable, spacious, and packed full of features. Overall the quality of the materials is what you’d expect from a premium German brand, but very occasionally you’ll find a stray piece of hard plastic that isn’t so pleasant to the touch. Besides that though, it’s quite a satisfying place to be – the heated seats, easy to use infotainment system, heads-up display, and 4-zone climate control helping to make your trips less strenuous.
The GLC Coupe comes standard with some of Mercedes-Benz’s latest tech. The LED Intelligent Light System is excellent at adapting to different situations at night to avoid dazzling other road users whilst providing excellent visibility. But perhaps the real party-piece is the optional Distronic Plus cruise control system fitted to our test car. It makes traffic and long trips a breeze; accelerating and braking when necessary and even making minor steering adjustments to keep you securely in your lane. If there’s one extra to tick on your order list, it’s this one.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe might be considered by many a “Sports SUV”. Is it sporty in the way a C-Class Coupe is sporty? The answer is no, but it has made living with a big SUV easier, and more fun, even if just a little.
There’s one big problem with the GLC Coupe though; the price. At a base price of R775 322, it makes it almost R100 000 more expensive than its sibling, the standard GLC. What does that R100 000 buy you? Some would say style but at this point the only guarantee is less headroom in the back and about 50L less space in the boot, and quite frankly it’s not going to drive much better either. So what do you spend your money on then? Well, you have two choices: either sacrifice that sporty look, save R100 000 and take the normal Mercedes-Benz GLC or, if you’re willing to look outside the Merc stable, take a look at a genuinely brilliant sports SUV, the Jaguar F-Pace…
Words and Images by Roarke Bouffe