Mercedes’ svelte GLC Coupe is back in a new avatar, with regular engine options and a host of new features. So, does this coupe SUV really make any sense for our market?
The coupe SUV – a type of vehicle that makes purists' blood boil with anger! Putting a svelte coupe body on an SUV platform – well, that’s just, if I may be so bold, plain blasphemy. Frankly, the SUV-based coupe is the antitheses of accepted automotive aesthetic.
And the criminal mind behind this aberration was BMW, which first materialised this (experi)mental idea of the SUV-based coupe a decade ago – it was called the X6. In the kindest possible words, it looked nasty – everything about it seemed and sounded simply wrong. Naturally, a majority of people absolutely hated it and didn’t hesitate in voicing their hatred on the Internet. However, in the real world, BMW sold tens of thousands of units of the X6 to real people with real money around the globe.
Its success, consequently, created a new segment and piqued the interest of other carmakers. Now, to rival the X6, BMW’s old foe, Mercedes-Benz, entered the fray with the GLE Coupe. In the meantime, BMW launched its smaller coupe SUV, the X4. And Mercedes again followed suit with the GLC Coupe.
The GLC Coupe came to India in 2017, and was only offered in AMG disguise – called the GLC 43 AMG. In 2019, Mercedes gave the GLC Coupe a thorough makeover, which arrived at our shores this year. So, the question is – does the updated GLC Coupe make more sense for the Indian market?
The GLC Coupe is based on the GLC SUV, which was also updated recently. Naturally, there are a lot of similarities in terms of design. The new front-fascia is my favourite, as it looks very attractive – a nice mix of butch and classy elements.
Unlike the old model, the front-end of the updated model features new Multibeam LED headlamps, a new grille with a single louvre (the regular GLC has a double-louvre arrangement), and a new bumper. The side profile remains unchanged, but since it’s not an AMG version now, the alloy wheels are more elegant than sporty – they’re the same size (19-inch) though. The rear end gets new dual-pattern LED tail-lamps, which look very good. Also, there’s a fair dose of chrome on the front bumper, doors, and tail-lights.
The styling is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea – the GLC Coupe looks like a puffed-up C-Class Coupe in a mini skirt and bigger heels. It doesn’t particularly strike you as attractive, especially in the first encounter, but over time – as it happened with me – you get acclimatised to its appearance and, then, one day you realise that it isn’t that bad looking, after all. It’s not an extraordinary piece of design, for sure, but it does have what we call X-Factor. And, to my eyes, it looks a lot better than its direct rival – the BMW X4.
Unlike a BMW or an Audi, a modern Mercedes-Benz usually feels a little more special and luxurious once you step inside the cabin. It doesn’t simply come across as a tech-fest, but also appears to have a sense of occasion. And the GLC Coupe is no different. Everything from the cabin layout, seating comfort to the quality of materials is typically Mercedes – or, in other words, top class.
The model on test here had a sporty all-black theme. But you also get an option to spec the car in a silk beige/espresso brown finish for an airy and more opulent feel.
The new version is well equipped in terms of features too. The main highlight here is the introduction of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system. It includes a 10.25-inch HD touchscreen, a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster, touch control buttons on the steering wheel, a haptic touchpad on the centre console, which replaces the rotary pushbutton of the old model, and the new ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control.
Overall, the system works flawlessly, but there are a lot of controls, which may take some time to get accustomed to. Also, using them while driving can be a bit distracting. The screen resolution is crisp, and its functioning is smooth. The voice command system is equally good and responsive. However, at times, it fails to register our desi accent. Also, it springs to life every single time you say ‘Mercedes’, even when you don’t address the system – for instance, in a conversation. So, if you don’t intend to wake up the virtual lady behind the dashboard, you must use the M-word very carefully.
Unlike BMW’s iDrive, which only allows for Apple CarPlay compatibility thus far, MBUX offers both CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity – Mercedes doesn’t treat Android users as second-rate citizens, you see. Jokes aside, the GLC does miss out on a few tricks. For instance, there’s no wireless Car Play like the X4, and all the USB ports are Type-C. However, it does offer wireless phone charging. You also get a 360-degree camera and sensors – a real blessing, since the rear visibility is simply appalling.
In terms of practicality, it may appear that the slanting roof compromises the rear seat comfort. However, surprisingly that’s not the case. Sure, getting in and out does require a fair bit of craning, but the space inside isn’t bad at all. In our test car, the headroom was more than adequate for my 5’ 9” frame, while the legroom is as good as a regular SUV. The middle seat is the only weak link in an otherwise practical cabin, as the transmission tunnel is quite prominent.
Love it or hate it, the GLC Coupe is not offered in an AMG 43 version in India as yet. Instead, there are two versions on offer – the regular GLC300 (petrol) and GLC300d (diesel), which are assembled right here in India. The one we tested was the diesel version.
Propelling the GLC300d is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, which produces 241bhp of power and 500Nm of peak torque. However, sitting inside the car, you’d never realise that it’s a diesel mill – the refinement levels are exemplary! It’s only when the engine goes past 4,000rpm that you realise that there’s actually something alive under the bonnet. In terms of performance, its torque delivery is instantaneous, but it doesn’t accelerate like a wild cat – it’s linear and progressive. Mind you, I’m not saying that it’s slow.
Power transmission duties are taken care of by Mercedes’ 9-speed automatic transmission. The engine and gearbox work in perfect harmony, making every transition quick and seamless. A bit of force on the pedal can make the surroundings get blurry very fast! During downshifts and kick-down, the gearbox tends to be a little jerky. For instance, if you’re cruising in 8th gear at 100km/h, sudden acceleration results in the transmission quickly dropping four cogs and then continuing as usual, but, as a result, you do get a bit of a jolt. Also, it doesn’t feel as decisive or snappy as the X4’s 8-speed torque converter.
Despite running on steel springs, and not air suspension, the ride quality is stellar – it just gobbles up every crack and crater on the road as a big Merc should. Couple this to the dead silence of the cabin, and you have a perfect place to enjoy some self-isolation from the current troubles of the world.
It’s a lot of fun when you drive it enthusiastically on a twisty road. However, that’s not to say it’s an exciting handler. It’s enjoyable because it’s fun to resist the laws of physics in a car this big! For the most part, it handles really well. But if you start pushing it harder, you can sense the whole car pitching and bobbing quite a bit, owing to the soft suspension setup.
You do get ‘Drive Select’, which offers five driving modes – Sport, Sport+, Comfort, Eco, and Individual – which alter the suspension (damping), as well as the engine, transmission, and steering response. In Sport mode, the throttle response is markedly sharper while the steering firms up, but, other than that, there’s not much of a difference in the way the car handles. Surprisingly, it’s pretty good off-road and has decent clearance. And the 4MATIC all-wheel drive is quite handy on the loose stuff.
I never thought that I’d like the GLC Coupe as much as I did! The styling – even though it’s divisive – makes it unique and stand out. And the new ‘regular’ engine options give it an everyday utility and purpose. The space inside isn’t bad either – it certainly can’t be called a compromise. And, to top it all, it has now become more affordable than before.
Sure, it’s not as exciting as the old AMG version, but, on the brighter side, it does justify the term coupe SUV – it sports a sporty look, but offers the capability and comfort of a regular SUV.
- 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC300d Coupe
Engine: 1,950cc / 4-Cylinders / Turbocharged
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic/ All-Wheel Drive
Power: 241bhp @ 4,200rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,600-2.400rpm
Price: ₹63.70 lakh (ex-showroom)
X-factor: In its new avatar, the GLC Coupe lives up to its 'coupe SUV' tag – a svelte body coupled with the comfort and practicality of an SUV.
• Supremely comfortable
• Engine refinement
• Quite Practical