Stinson Carter

2021 AMG GLC 43 First Drive Review

Sep. 14th, 2021

Scaled for urban life, powered for the track, and roomy enough for a family road trip.   

The Mercedes GLC 43 sits at the transition point between sports sedan and SUV. Driving the GLC 43 in its AMG trim left me with a question: would I give up a third row in exchange for a lot more fun on the road? 

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The GLC 43 is smaller in person than I expected. But the interior seems bigger than its size would suggest, especially with the panoramic moon roof adding a sense of expanse overhead.  The rear cargo area is very spacious, and easily fit all the accoutrements for a family of four on a three-night trip, including two portable beds for children. 

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The size may be thoroughly practical, but the AMG grille with its massive star, the 20-inch Y-spoke wheels and dual exhausts make it clear that there’s serious sports sedan DNA in the GLC 43. The bucket seats envelope you when you get behind the aggressive AMG steering wheel with its wide diameter and flattened lower half.  

The custom ambient lighting is like having the interior rigged with Hue bulbs, and it was fun to play around with different mood lighting for a long drive. 

There’s a large touchscreen, a touch pad on the center console, and controls to adjust between the driving modes. The machined aluminum Burmester speakers and round air vents make this feel nearly as fancy as Benzes that cost twice as much. There is a general sense inside the GLC 43 that performance, comfort, and size have found a balance.  

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The size may be just what you need, but thankfully, the AMG GLC 43’s performance delivers more than you need. The 3.0L V6 Biturbo Engine delivers 385-horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Paired with AMG Performance 4MATIC (4WD), Sport Suspension, and a downright telepathic 9-speed gearbox, the AMG GLC 43 is a blast to drive. I took it on a drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and where a full-sized SUV will exhibit body roll in the hairpin turns, the GLC 43 hugs the sharp curves like a rally car. And when the sharp turns come, the AMG-enhanced brakes are commanding. 

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You can customize the drive modes till your heart’s content. Say, for example, you want to drive it in Sport Mode but don’t want the sport-sounding exhaust. There’s a lot of room for electronic tinkering here, if that’s your thing. 

Despite the AMG designation, the GLC 43 was also more fuel-efficient than I expected. I filled it with zero-ethanol 93 octane, and managed to do slightly better than the EPA 24mpg highway. And I wasn’t driving it timidly. 

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I live in a city, but I love to go to the mountains as often as possible. If we only had one car, the GLC 43 would be a perfect candidate. It has plenty of room inside and there’s no parking garage or street spot that it can’t breeze into. It’s solid on the freeway for a long drive, but nimble when you get it on mountain roads. And it has all the space you need without sacrificing the performance you truly want. 

The GLC 43 has a base price of $59,000, but the one I tested had an MSRP of $71,685.


Stinson Carter

Stinson Carter

Stinson Carter is a freelance writer for The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Maxim, Gear Patrol, Wired, Men's Journal, American Way, Hemispheres, Huffpost, and others. ...(Read More)