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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe review, test drive

13th Aug 2016 6:00 am

We head to Italy to drive Mercedes’ new SUV-coupe to see if it has what it takes to put this niche segment on the mainstream path.

  • Make : Mercedes-Benz
  • Model : GLC

What is it?

Mercedes’ second product in the growing ‘SUV-coupe’ segment. The GLC Coupe joins its older sibling, the GLE Coupe to take on BMW which literally created this segment with the X6 and the X4.

The Coupe borrows its underpinnings and bits like the lower door panels, front fenders and the bonnet from the GLC SUV, on which it is based. The coupe, however, gets sportier bumpers, a heavily angled windscreen and of course, a plunging roofline. The lift-back tailgate tapers over a rear overhang that's longer than that of the standard GLC SUV. In terms of dimensions, the Coupe is about 80mm longer and 40mm shorter than the SUV version.

Getting an SUV to carry off a coupé body style is always going to be a challenge, but the GLC probably does it the best with little bulk and flab about its body. The lines are all taut and tucked in giving it the impression of a well-toned athlete. Going up against its main rival, the yet-to-be-launched-in-India X4, the GLC Coupe has a lot going for it in terms of proportions and styling details.

While the standard GLC gets the regular twin-bar grille, the Coupe gets Merc’s sportier ‘diamond’ grille. The headlights are the now familiar Mercedes signature units. Adding to the sporty character are large air inlets on the front bumper.

The side view is obviously dominated by the stretched coupé roofline. The lower sill has optionally available running boards that are not your typical large-SUV style units but are sleeker and smaller. The alloys on the car we drove were twin five-spoke units that did add a lot to the sporty appeal.

At the rear is the styling theme that made its debuted on the S-class Coupe and which all Mercedes coupés have since followed. So you have narrow horizontally oriented split tail-lights, a centrally positioned three-pointed star and a sharp spoiler lip. The exhaust tips are integrated into the bumper that has its lower edge in black to cleverly break up the visual mass. 

What’s it like from the inside?

Stylistically, the interiors are all very Mercedes, so you have things like the rounded steering boss, the seat-shaped electric seat controls and sadly the ‘after-thought’ display screen. Being based on the C- class, the finishing of everything is to a very high order.

With a sharp coupé roofline, headroom is expectedly not great, but that’s about it as far as space goes. Mercedes state that the Coupe’s shoulder room, elbow room, legroom and even the entrance height are all identical to its more practical SUV sibling and sitting in does bear this out. It’s wide, spacious and very comfortable. I didn’t get a chance to sample the rear seats on a long drive, but the driver’s seat was comfortable, and even after a full day of driving, it had me feeling quite relaxed.

What’s it like to drive?

I really wanted to see if this car could handle fast highways, tight cities, and off road, and so I didn’t spend too much time fiddling with the equipment on-board and instead spent most of the time driving. With a Coupe and some beautiful Italian mountain roads, who could resist. Sadly though, there was no off-roading to be had. Mercedes calls this a sportscar that is an SUV or an SUV that is a sportscar. That may be quite a stretch, but the car does have a decidedly sportier edge to it. I seldom like the handling characteristics of SUVs but this one was genuinely entertaining. The tight Aosta valley mountain roads brought out the quick steering and tight body control. With a steering ratio of 15:1 compared to the regular SUV's 16:1, the Coupe's steering feels quicker. The suspension on the car I drove was the Dynamic Body Control sports suspension with steel springs and adjustable dampers. Unique to this segment, the Coupe has an air suspension system, but we drove the steel sprung variant as that’s likely headed to our shores.

For most parts, we drove the car in Sports mode which adjusts the suspension, steering, engine and gearbox for a lively driving experience. However, even in Comfort mode the suspension did have a bit of a sporty edge to it. Ride quality was hard to judge given that the city roads, highways and even the mountain bits were all superbly surfaced. Mercedes did say we would have a bit of a rough stretch throw in but this turned out to be merely small ruts or surface cracks, nothing like the moon-like surface that we have for roads.

Should I buy one?

So does the GLC have what it takes to develop this niche segment into a mainstream one? Well, it's no easy task to achieve. There will always be those who will simply want an SUV to be an SUV. And it’s always going to be a tough task getting an SUV to wear the coupé look. But as things stand, the segment is growing and so for those that must have an SUV-coupe, the GLC Coupe is quite a compelling choice. It is set to launch in India only next year and may be without a direct rival with the absence of the BMW X4.  With an expected launch price of over Rs 60 lakh, there are other SUVs that you can consider in this price range, including Merc’s full fledged GLE. However, if your reason for buying a SUV is standout value, with a bit of sporty driving thrown in, then the GLC Coupe fits the bill neatly.

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