Sporting prowess redefined.
It’s what’s inside that counts.
Oh yes, the getting-to-know-you stage. There’s no shame in admitting it – the first time you met and the sparks flew, it was your date’s good looks that reeled you in, even left you open-mouthed. But as is so often the case with these things, it’s what’s inside that counts. A cliché? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true; such are the foundations on which a smooth relationship is built – for cars as much as for people.
Aside from all the computer-controlled drive programs, what is it that separates one of our four-wheeled friends from the next? Every car has its own personality, that’s for sure. But what kind of character is the GLC Coupe? An SUV? A sports coupe? Or something new altogether? And when all is said and done, do these differences actually important anymore? Isn’t it what you can do that matters, rather than what you claim to be?
“In its element on any terrain”.
The GLC Coupe’s aim in life is easy to put into words (“In its element on any terrain” is its motto), but we’ve arranged a two-day trip with the plug-in hybrid GLC 350 e 4MATIC to provide some practical clarification. This is a car that makes a statement the moment you set eyes on it. The synthesis of coupe and SUV is totally harmonious; indeed, it produces a well-proportioned whole. Those compromises that leave everyone unsatisfied are conspicuous by their absence.
The GLC’s low, crouching silhouette stretches out over the ground as if preparing to pounce. It’s an enticing car alright, one that beckons you to get in and get going. The narrow, split tail lights, extending well into the rear end, are visibly inspired by the S-Class Coupe. Taking center stage inside is the sensual clarity we’ve come to know and love in the new C-Class. The dominant, freestanding display, a small number of buttons, and the familiar touchpad in the center console provide the driver with full control over the assistance systems going about their business, if so desired, behind the scenes. Ask the Lane Keeping Assist and Distronic proximity control systems to do their thing, and the car will drive as if on rails.
No more excuses.
Vanessa has joined us up front. Skin baked brown by the sun, her body might once have been described as “wiry”, but is now very clearly in “ripped” territory. Vanessa is a trainer for Freeletics, a fitness company that has come up with a very 21st-century take on physical fitness, complete with drills you can do anytime, anywhere with the help of a smartphone app. That fits in very nicely with the GLC Coupe’s profile, which is why Vanessa is along for the ride. We want to find out not only if the car is “in its element” on any terrain, but if we on board can shape up to similarly fine effect in any surroundings. “There’s no excuse anymore for not keeping fit,” challenges Vanessa, doing her best “coiled spring” impression. The training program that awaits us as we head towards the Alps is clearly not one that can be taken lightly.
We’ve long since left the highway behind, our journey now taking us over country roads through one village after another. All of which reveals the breadth of character imbued in the GLC Coupe by the optional Dynamic Body Control system, with its steel springs and continuously adjustable damping. Firm, powerful, and dynamic strike us immediately as the right words to describe the car at this moment. The question is, can Vanessa help the humans on board trigger similar associations?
The straightforward Freeletics concept is proving popular, with more than ten million users around the world having downloaded the app so far. “Feeling better has become a lot more important to people,” Freeletics CEO Daniel Sobhani says by way of explanation for the app’s success. “It’s based on the firm belief that everybody has it in them to be the best they can be. Which is easier said than done, of course.”
Master of all.
Training till you have squeezed the last drop of energy from your body is, in a nutshell, what this is all about – pushing yourself to the limit, and very nearly beyond it. The only piece of equipment you’ll be using is your bodyweight. Pull-ups from a high branch – why not? Burpees on the beach? But of course! Knee bends in forest or field? Absolutely! Tree stumps are transformed from annoying obstacles into welcome challenges. “You’re building not only your physical power but also your mental strength,” says Vanessa, as breathtaking suddenly takes on a much more literal meaning.
We drive on towards the Germany-Austria border. The landscape offers a bit of everything here, the GLC devouring with great enthusiasm the narrow, meandering roads and the constantly changing rhythms offered up by the corners.
In plug-in hybrid guise, the GLC Coupe can go about its work in three ways. All-electric mode – which gives a range of up to 34 kilometres (21 miles) on a full battery – feels almost unreal in its smoothness. Or you can allow the 155 kW four-cylinder combustion engine to take the strain, while the battery regains some of its charge. And then there’s that moment when you push the accelerator to the floor for kickdown. “Boost” pops up on the display’s energy flow diagram, and red lines show where the car is drawing its power from; this is when the electric motor sends its 85 kW into the fray alongside the engine, firing the GLC Coupe forward as if propelled by an enormous rubber band. Even Vanessa has to brace herself. This, though, is also a car that is quite happy to glide along, near enough replicating the driving feeling on board a luxury sedan during those quieter moments. This sporting coupe is definitely not a niche model, then, but an impressive all-rounder.
Quickly and always in control.
The GLC Coupe is almost eight centimetres (3 in.) longer and four centimetres (1.5 in.) lower than its SUV sibling. As well as having a clear visual impact, these dimensions also allow the driver to see far and wide – and yet you never have the feeling of losing touch with the road.
This is a good time, then, for Vanessa to take over at the helm. It turns out she drives like she trains: quickly and always in control. As the car comes to a halt, she makes time for a quick selfie in front of the dashboard. Which is reminiscent of another key element in Freeletics – keeping a constant record of your progress. The fitness app’s motivating calls might well come from an automotive engineer’s handbook. “There’s no success without hard work! Quitting is not an option!”
The world as a drill ground.
“In fitness, as with driving, it’s all a question of mentality,” sums up Vanessa: “What can you achieve, and what do you want to achieve?” There’s no question that we want to cut a fine figure wherever we are: downtown, with its frustrating stop-start traffic, through the hinterland, where the farm vehicles – travelling in convoys along the edge the road – present the largest possible obstacles, and on to the off-road sections of the journey, which these days have to be carefully sought out. Here, you can get down and dirty, and here, too, the GLC Coupe shapes up pretty well.
Suddenly, the world through the windshield is a different place – like one huge exercise area, a playground even. So can you really combine sportiness and comfort without having to lower your standards for both? After an all-too-brief encounter with the GLC Coupe, the answer would have to be a resounding yes. It’s quite simple really. It’s not a question of taking a little of everything,