Mercedes premieres GLC Coupe crossover

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
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New York — Mercedes-Benz introduced the 2017 GLC Coupe crossover here Tuesday night — a sporty version of its popular GLC “small SUV.” Unveiled on the eve of New York auto show media days, the GLC Coupe continues German manufacturers’ expanded menu of SUVs as they try to feed America’s unquenchable thirst for luxury utes.

For the first time in the United States, Mercedes is also showing performance “AMG43” versions of both the GLC Coupe and regular, boxier GLC. The often-confusing, alphamumeric alphabet soup differentiates the luxury maker’s products in the SUV and sedan classes. “GL” designates crossovers, while “CLA” refers to Mercedes’ entry-level sedan — followed by larger C-, E- and S-class sedans.

“AMG” meanwhile, designates Mercedes’ performance models. So an AMG GLC43 SUV refers to the performance version of the brand’s small ute.

Adding to the confusion, the eye-catching GLC Coupe is not a two-door “coupe” in the classic sense, but a four-door with a coupe-like appearance. The GLC has similar lines to the larger, GLE Coupe. It comes with an available array of driver assist and safety systems — including thorax/pelvis side air bags for the front seats and an optimized window bag extending over both seat rows. The GLC Coupe will come standard with Mercedes’ signature 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Dynamic and compact in appearance, the Coupe is more than 3 inches longer and some 1.6-inches lower than the GLC — with which it shares a platform. The front end is distinguished by a steeply-raked, diamond-radiator grille with Mercedes star logo implanted in the center. Large lateral air inlets add a sporty visage. That sportiness continues in the car’s profile with a high belt line, wide shoulders and sloping roof line that tapers at the tail. Huge 21-inch wheels are available when the vehicles debut in showrooms early next year.

GLC Coupe’s interior sports a single-piece, vertical console with Mercedes’ signature triad of aviator vents. An infotainment screen on the dash tops off the ensemble. The base GLC300 Coupe receives a flat-bottom steering wheel; the upscale AMG comes with an optional Sport Package.

Consistent with its sporty appearance, Mercedes’ aluminum-intensive suspension promises the SUV will have good handling propelled by a 241-horsepower turbo four-cylinder with 241 horsepower. The AMG Coupe (like the AMG CLA43 also on display) will get an injection of steroids — a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 with 362 horses that promises zero-60 mph in under 5 seconds.

The GLC will compete with BMW’s similar X4 “coupe” — and expand a ute lineup that boasts five SUVs including an even smaller, GLA-class, compact crossover. Along with similarly formidable lineups from BMW and Audi, Mercedes is well-positioned in the hot SUV market while Detroit luxury automakers Lincoln and Cadillac have struggled with three and two SUV models, respectively.

Not to be left out, Mercedes’ small, entry-level CLA-class sedan will debut minor upgrades.

The more significant face-lift appears on the performance AMG 43 model, which gets matte-titanium gray splitter inserts in the splitter and high-gloss black canards at the corners. Around back, the rear diffuser gets vertical fins, too. The CLA expands its standard equipment offerings with a rear camera and Active Brake Assist. And Mercedes catches up with Ford’s hands-free, “kick-me” trunk open feature as an option.

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