Last month, Anand came back from his drive up to Matheran all gaga about the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé. Everything about the car was outstanding. Outstanding grip from the tyres. Outstanding control thanks to its 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Outstanding power. A born sceptic, I was quick to dismiss his enthusiasm with an “over” prefix to the word. But somewhere I suppose, a bug had come to life. You know, the one they call curiosity.
I have always known Anand to be a properly grounded sort of guy whose opinion you could always take to the bank. The kind of guy who wouldn’t stick his neck out and make a random claim unless he really meant it and knew it to be true. So, why was a man who was all about solid conviction going out on a limb praising this SUV-coupé? I wouldn’t have questioned things if it were a GT in question or a supercar. When a man goes looney over those, it’s understandable. And we all know there’s only one cure to curiosity. So at the next possible opportunity I decided to find out for myself what exactly it was about the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé that had made Anand go moony eyed.
But where to head to? The hill town of Mahabaleshwar, just about 120km away from Pune, popped up as an easy answer. This of course was met with staunch resistance back at the office since Gaurav said there’s hardly a place to shoot on the way up, too much traffic, narrow roads, and so on. Not one to back down, I added a few kilometres to the route plan and told him we would head to Mah’Bee alright but not via the usual route through Panchgani. We would get into the hill station from the back, climbing up the Medha ghat. A distance of 158km, majority of which would be done on the flat open Pune to Bangalore highway. It was only the final 30km of the narrow and twisting turning mountain road that was of interest to me.
The 362bhp peak output and 520Nm of max twist force from the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé’s 3-litre V6 biturbo reduces the 90km distance from Pune to the turnoff at Khed Shivapur-Panchwad effortlessly. By then we’ve already had a taste of things to come when we crossed the blissfully unidirectional Khambatki ghat. Dicing through the crawling truck traffic the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé felt super nimble and responsive, completely belying its bulk. A sign of things to come? I couldn’t wait to find out.
What no amount of research had told me was how narrow the Medha ghat really is. Most of the turns are blind and the drops, sheer. And there are more than 25 of these turns. Save its narrowness the climb from Medha to Mahabaleshwar is exactly the kind of place I was looking for. A genuine hill climb with the ability to offer genuine Thrill of Driving.
The climb started on a note of slight trepidation, for I really was not sure how this 2096mm wide and 4728mm long SUV-Coupéwould behave on a road that could just about accommodate two of these side by side, with some skill. Three corners, that’s all it took really. Three corners to dispel all my scepticism and exchange my incredulous frown with a nice bright smile that by the end would become a grin.
Even in Sport+ mode, the AMG steering felt nice and light at slow and medium speeds, weighing up nicely as speeds rose. There’s plenty of grip from those fat tyres, so you’re never worried about running out of adhesion on these narrow roads that are thankfully not damp as well. Come around the bend and get on the gas and what you experience is a fabulous shove thanks to a lovely mid-range as that coupé-esque behind squats, the nose rises and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé barrels ahead. Stomp on the brakes before the next turn, swing that leather wrapped wheel in your hands, straighten out and plant your foot on the throttle. Repeat as you enjoy the numerous pops and crackle coming from under that stout bonnet. It’s a recipe that will have you grinning in widening increments till your head risks running out of space. It’s quite addictive really.
The road itself is nice in that there is no traffic and there are some spectacular views to be enjoyed. But a much too late receding monsoons had left the roads with patches of potholes between stretches of smooth tarmac. And it is here that the duality of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé shines through. Despite its sporty intent, the tyre profile chosen by Mercedes-AMG is a practical one where the tyre actually works to cushion some of the road impact instead of acting just as a rubber layer over the wheel. Plenty of ground clearance means you’re no longer driving gingerly over the first shallow bump you see on the road. You can pretty much rest assured that the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé’s under-body will remain unscathed through the journey. I’m not even going to go in to the other practical bits to this car. And of course with that unique silhouette, boy, it sure does attract attention – all of the right kind. Small wonder then that the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé is on the shortlist of everyone who wants a fun-to-drive fast car that will also accommodate the needs of the family. As Anand said, “Everyone who likes driving fast cars to work is eyeing the GLC 43 AMG. Everyone who wants more vacation time is lining up at AMG dealerships. Anyone who wants to go places in a quick family car, wants this crossover. I suppose, everyone except the showoff weekend breakfast orgy types wants this car. That’s already a win for AMG.”
By the time I’m half way up Medha, Anand has already been vindicated and gained a strong supporter to his claims. I enjoyed the experience enough to do all the multiple runs that Gaurav wanted without complaint. Even asking at some point if he would like another run. Shoot over, I go for a random spin up the hillside. It’s a marvellous feeling to hear the sonorous engine note echoing off the mountain walls as I chuck the SUV-Coupé from corner to corner. At the top of Medha, I paused for breath and a sip of water. Gazing over the cliff, resting my back on the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé I suddenly realise that you don’t really need to have a big open road to enjoy a big sporty car like this one. The agility, the power and the vehicle’s ability to inspire confidence with each passing turn is far more critical to The Thrill of Driving than the width of the tarmac. And on this count I can only borrow my friend Anand’s word to describe the experience of driving up to Mahabaleshwar from Medha. Outstanding.