Coupe de grass
If imitation truly is the best form of flattery, then Mercedes-Benz must like BMW a lot more than it seems on the surface. Let’s rope Porsche into the fan club as well because both Stuttgart-based outfits now have their own iterations of the polarising BMW X6. Who would have thought that Munich’s SUV-coupe thingamajig would be so influential?
Rich folk have an odd affinity for off-roaders with sloping rooflines. It’s something BMW has continued exploiting with smaller versions of the pioneering X6 in the form of the X2 and X4. Its competitors have followed suit. And you know they’re serious about these niches when a player as big as Mercedes-Benz Malaysia commits to assembling a car like the GLC 300 Coupe locally in Pekan.
To say that we were thrilled about a CKD version of the baby GLE Coupe would be a lie. We were never fans of the C205 C-Class’s rear profile to begin with; its taillights were particularly unconvincing. Putting a similar pair of lenses on a GLC that looked like it just narrowly escaped the stomp of a giant doesn’t make things any better. Sure, looks are subjective. But we still find the concept of an SUV that wants to be a coupe objectively unusual.
The GLC 300 Coupe is no exception. But it did grow on us after a couple of days, mainly because it didn’t feel too different from a regular GLC; not when you treat it as a daily driver around city roads anyway. Both iterations ride and steer about the same, which is a good thing. Their footprints are nearly identical too, making the GLC Coupe as easy to manoeuvre around busy neighbourhoods and narrow parking spaces as its conventionally-drawn sibling. And it gets a little better from here.
Crack the whip on the GLC 300 Coupe on the open straights and it becomes crystal clear that this is Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s most driver-oriented non-AMG GLC, Coupe or not. This is partly because a regular GLC 300 is no longer part of the local line-up. But there is dynamic merit in the Coupe’s lower centre of gravity; there’s a lot less body roll which makes it surprisingly engaging around the bends, especially with the powertrain buffed up in Sport mode. And you don’t have to give up too much practicality for this added entertainment.
Sure, the little slit of glass in the back – one that lacks a wiper at that – is a sorry excuse for a rear windscreen from the driver’s viewpoint. Headroom and outward visibility in the rear aren’t as good as in a GLC either. But these are very marginal compromises for supposedly better looks – we’ll leave that one up to you. If anything, the liftback-style automated tailgate has a wider aperture. There’s a neat compartment hidden beneath the boot floor too. Our only gripe here is that the boot floor itself sits a touch too high up; there’s space for big cargo, but getting it in can be a task too laborious for expensively pedicured fingernails. And we aren’t just talking about the women.
At the end of the day, anyone driving the GLC 300 Coupe will be expecting a posh experience that justifies the size of the three-pointed star adorning the front grille. It’s a mighty refined car in that respect – the drive is smooth and the ride is pliant – but its showroom appeal is compromised by features carried over from the pre-facelift W205 C-Class. The cabin looks especially dated when compared to the colourful, digital cockpits of newer Mercs like the A-Class. Put simply, it doesn’t feel current enough by the lofty standards of its own brand.
Some other markets are already enjoying facelifts of the GLC and GLC Coupe as we speak. Until they arrive in Malaysia, the GLC 300 Coupe remains a highly unique proposition for just under RM400k, all of its quirks considered. It’s an attractive entry price to a niche once reserved for the ultra-rich. The only problem here is that BMW Malaysia recently raised the game by pricing the locally-assembled X4 lower than its obvious rival by RM35k; that’s roughly the cost of a brand new Proton Saga right there. Can you resist Munich’s call?
Put simply, it doesn’t feel current enough by the lofty standards of its own brand.
|Refined ride and powertrain. Practicality isn’t compromised by sloping roof line||Old infotainment makes cabin feel incredibly jaded beside newer Mercs|
Newer, cheaper, better?
The creator of the SUV coupe would like your attention please
Unveiled globally just last year, the second-generation X4 (codenamed G02) is evidently a much more current product than the pre-facelift GLC Coupe Mercedes-Benz Malaysia still peddles locally.
This is especially obvious once you compare the cockpits; the X4’s 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and full-colour head-up display are but a few features that look and feel a generation younger than what you’d get in the GLC 300 Coupe. And age isn’t the Bimmer’s only advantage.
It’s substantially cheaper price tag is bolstered by a five-year free scheduled maintenance package BMW Malaysia provides for all of its brand new cars. This is something you still don’t get with the three-pointed star, not outside promotional periods anyway.
Performance stats are close, but the X4’s extra 7bhp does get it to 100kph in 0.2 seconds less than the Merc.
However, we can only provide a sound conclusion on which compact SUV-coupe mashup is better to drive once we’ve had a go at the new X4 on Malaysian tarmac. As things stand, BMW holds better showroom appeal. And that’s often reflected in the sales charts.