Not too long ago, owning an SUV meant dropping a few hundred grand on a ride large enough to carry your entourage and ego. The SUVs of today take on a broader definition. Think of them as the triathlete or Bradley Cooper of automotive — they are pretty much good at everything. Coping with all of life’s little bumps (literally), these all-rounders tout enough speed and sexiness to keep them from fading into the background of a crowded parking lot in Bukit Tunku.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC Coupé delivers everything you need plus the features you want. The AMG badge alone gives anyone a huge confidence boost if you want to exploit its performance and handling. Granted, this is still an entry-level manifestation of the “One Man, One Engine” philosophy with a 3-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, but couple that with an authoritative seating position and you have a practical vehicle that nails a grocery run as triumphantly as a race on the circuit. And that is not a sentence you read every day.
Conditioned by decades of seen-it-all cynicism, Malaysians have got used to driving in a bruising, divisive time. An unsuspecting pothole in the asphalt is just lurking in a corner to blow out a tyre. So, imagine our utter delight when our GLC 43 skimmed unruffled over the most tortured of tarmacs with its all-conquering, aerodynamically optimised 21in, twin-spoke light alloy wheels. En route to Ipoh, it channels the remorseless appeal of an intimidating SUV when pottering around town but turns quietly compliant when it hits the highway.
This mid-size SUV does take a while to hunch down on its rear axle before scuttling towards the horizon but once its rev rises, it takes a mere 4.9 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100kph. Although thrill-seekers will miss the V8 soundtrack, as expected of an AMG lineage, they will find plenty else to rejoice in: The Air Body Control suspension with Adaptive Damping System communicates and smoothens out the imperfections going on beneath you; the well-weighted steering is tight and reassuring; while the multiple downshift function that responds lithely allows for more spirited driving.
This may be a car lavishly endowed with oodles of power but many will simply never warm to the idea of a coupé-SUV body type. Allow us to convince you otherwise: The sloping roofline already sets it apart from the boxier GLC while the accentuated side sill panels (key features of the coupé) give an optical illusion of elongating the whole vehicle. Inside, seats with distinctive upholstery in Artico man-made leather provide improved four-way power lumbar support, which made our journey up north preternaturally comfortable. The cargo area, however, is hardly what you would call generous, but the rear seats can fold in a 40/20/40 split with just a click of a button.
As with most compact SUVs, the turn of pace is entertaining but once you have exhausted all their extroverted elements, the adrenaline may wear thin. For a real party piece that acts and looks the part, the new E 300 AMG Line Coupé is a svelte and sensuous machine with an immensely satisfying 2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine at your disposal. The German carmaker claims that the elevated addition to the E-class firmament is “the most emotionally appealing representative in the Mercedes-Benz dream cars collection”. We happily concur, if you count swagger as an emotion.
If an SUV makes you feel like a selfish brute sometimes, a coupé flirts like a heart-skipping fairytale character: one part beauty, one part beast. A surface-accentuated design with reduced lines emphasises the sportiness of the E 300 AMG Line Coupé, all bolstered with a diamond radiator grille with pins in chrome and the signature AMG styling for the front spoiler that looks impatient to charge off into the future. Having said that, you may be tempted to cruise a little slower or sit up a tad straighter, and indulge in the scene of passing drivers nodding appreciatively.
Driving back to Kuala Lumpur in this supple ride — despite being longer and wider than its nimbler predecessors — is still a cinch because it fires along the straights, embraces corners with glee and resists rolls better, thanks to its wider track and an entirely new steering wheel that bristles with feedback.
Interior-wise, there is nary a moment of boredom even when you are stuck in a traffic-choked highway. Tinker with the car’s latest-generation MBUX multimedia system (NTG 6), panoramic sunroof and ambient lighting with 64 colours and three zones to create a host of individual highlights. Or puzzle out Drake’s rap lyrics — through a Burmester surround system, no less — should the scenery outside get dull.
Although both the GLC 43 and the E 300 AMG perpetuate the old-age gripe of having to clamber into a vehicle (the latter is a two-door after all, not a miracle), this niggling problem seems beside the point when the driving leaves you unflustered. These models do not quite vault the German marque further up the automotive hierarchy, especially when they are measured against more athletic coupés, but they are bred to consume miles and cut a dash among their stablemates. The brand’s reluctance to submit to the convenience of convention is precisely why it continues to chalk up stars, and bragging rights too.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC Coupé is available for RM498,722.77, and the E 300 AMG Line Coupé comes in at RM495,071.47. For more information, see here.
This article first appeared on Dec 6, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.