► Mercedes takes aim at BMW’s X4 off-road coupe
► Diesel only, initially; PHEV and AMG to follow
► Air suspension option worth ticking
Cast your gaze across the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, a smaller, svelter sibling to the manatee-mimicking GLE Coupe.
This newcomer’s plugged a gap you probably didn’t even know existed in M-B’s ever-expanding portfolio of both SUVs and coupes, essentially being a sleeker-bodied derivative of the still-fresh GLC SUV. Got that?
Oh please, it’s hardly a coupe, is it?
That depends on how you’re defining the word. Is this GLC a rakish two-door with a pair of tighter-than-usual rear seats, like the C-Class Coupe? No. With four passenger doors, a large electrically operated tailgate and space inside – just – for five adults, it’s patently more practical than that – but sitting 42mm lower than its SUV sibling, the GLC Coupe’s roofline has been ‘cut’ to return to the French origins of the word.
Doubtless, use of the ‘C’ word today is much more liberal than it once was, but the notion of coupes featuring rear doors is nothing new: witness the 1962 Rover P5 Coupe and the 1989 Mitsubishi Galant 5-door Coupe from the motoring annals (okay, that last one was really a hatchback in everything other than name).
Perhaps ‘fastback’ would be a more appropriate term for the GLC, but seeing as that word’s slipped from the collective automotive lexicon, coupe it is.
Okay, moving on – how does the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe drive?
As standard, the GLC Coupe comes with the stiffer sports suspension that’s optional on entry-level versions of its SUV sibling. European editions are also available with adaptive versions of the mechanical suspension arrangement, but that’s not available in Britain.
Instead, we’d spend the requisite £1495 and upgrade to the fully adaptive Air Body Control set-up. Using the familiar Dynamic Select rotating drum on the centre console, you can easily flick between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings, with conspicuous step changes between each mode.
There’s something reminiscent of Citroens of old in the way the Mercedes’ air springs devour ruts and asphalt imperfections when the GLC’s in Comfort, but Sport is the most appealing compromise: it’s supple enough not to telegraph the harshness of the road conditions to passengers’ posteriors but delivers enough feedback to inform the driver about how the car’s behaving. Roll’s kept adequately in check, too, and the GLC Coupe feels significantly more agile than its 4732mm length suggests would be possible.
Some more chatter through the wheel to the palms of your hands wouldn’t go amiss, though, but at least the combination of standard 4Matic all-wheel drive and a torque-vectoring effect of directing less power to the inner wheels when cornering grants rapid exits from tight bends. Pile in to a bend too exuberantly and the GLC will err towards understeer.
Browse Mercedes GLC for sale
Presumably there’s a lusty powerplant under the bonnet?
There will be, eventually. Both a gutsier GLC350d V6-diesel and the petrol-chewing AMG GLC43 will be on sale by the end of 2016, but the launch range consists of two editions of the venerable 2.1-litre four-pot oil-burner.
Mercedes expects the GLC250d tested here to be more popular than the GLC220d, thanks to greater power (201bhp instead of 168bhp) and performance (7.6 seconds 0-62 versus 8.3sec), yet with the same official efficiency figures of 56.5mpg and 131g/km of CO2 if you stick with 18-inch rims.
Higher up the rev range there’s no escaping the gruffness of the engine as it works its way up slickly through the standard nine-speed autobox, but the majority of the time the sound-deadening effectively annuls the agricultural accent. The new 2.0-litre diesel already in service in the latest E-Class can’t come soon enough...
We briefly tested a GLC350d version, too; while it felt significantly smoother, the additional performance on offer from the 254bhp unit didn’t make it feel meaningfully quicker.
So is the GLC really a practical coupe?
Mercedes has got archetypal well-heeled young families regularly on the school run directly in the GLC Coupe’s crosshairs and in reality it doesn’t lose out much flexibility-wise to its higher-roofed SUV stablemate.
Taller adults will be able to sit in the back – with only the occasional hairstyle-headlining interface – and statistically, at 500 litres, the boot’s only 50 litres shy of the SUV version’s. The reality’s a little different, with an awkwardly high loading lip and a removable, lockable boot floor that effectively bisects the cargo capacity.
The manual, recoiling luggage cover is also a monumental faff to use in a hurry – why a fixed piece couldn’t have been attached to the tailgate, Audi TT-style, isn’t clear.
A stylish alternative to the most convincing SUV in Mercedes’ line-up the GLC Coupe may be, but one thing’s for sure: you’re going to have fallen unconditionally head-over-heels in love with the looks to justify its £3000 price premium.
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