NEW YORK, Aug 8 ― When Ferrari announces it has made some Faustian bargain to start making SUVs, you know that segment must make a lot of money. So. Much. Money.
Why else would a storied Italian racing brand even entertain the idea of such a departure from its tradition of sports cars?
If the automaker doubled the volumes from the roughly 8,000 vehicles it sold last year, “we could blow the hell of out of the Ebitda margins of Hermes,” Ferrari NV chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne said in a Bloomberg report.
It’s a numbers game. But if Ferrari really wants to succeed, it’ll have to go through Mercedes-Benz, first.
Yes, any cavallino rampante SUV will undoubtedly cost much more than the 2018 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43 that I recently drove for a week around New York. It will be more exotic-looking and have more power, too. With a name like Ferrari on the badge, it has no alternative.
But Mercedes’s near-perfect crossovers like this one leave me wondering if I’d even want what Ferrari will offer.
The crossover Coupe
Don’t be confused by the name. Mercedes lists this vehicle as the “GLC Coupe” in some of its verbiage, and it’s based on the same platform as the C-Class, but it’s no two-door sports car. With four doors and a high driving stance, it competes directly against the BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Audi SQ5, and Porsche Macan.
The one I drove had a 362-horsepower, AMG-tuned V-6 engine capable of zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. That’s not quite as dashing as Porsche’s 4.6-second, US$77,200 (RM330,686) Macan Turbo, but it’s well within range — and, at a base price of US$60,400, not as expensive.
Fuel efficiency of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 24mpg on the highway compares favourably, too, with the Macan’s 17mpg and 23mpg, respectively.
As for how it drives: Again, the best-in-class Macan probably has the edge for intuitive cornering and light-footed attention to the road. But the GLC 43 AMG has the ambition you don’t feel with the others in the class. It’s the player that wants to be there.
Mercedes uses a nine-speed automatic transmission that moves so fast it’s virtually undetectable when it shifts; AMG sport-steering and paddle shifters come standard, as do Sport and Sport+ modes that make the engine crackle and growl in the most amazing way. The adaptive and predictive braking systems instil great confidence, even when coming down from high speeds. The electromechanical power steering with dynamic cornering-assist system is just fun, because it allows you to drive much smoother and smarter than you might otherwise. With that all-wheel drive and AMG Sport Suspension, you feel deep and in touch with the ground at all times.
What a stunner
I love the styling of this car, both inside and outside. The chrome diamond block grille with the matte black facade is thrillingly 3D — rather than just a badge slapped on some metal. The 21-inch AMG twin five-spoke wheels with black accents make everything else that’s black on the car pop. They accentuate the sporty, wide stance that helps give the AMG GLC 43 its athletic prowess.
Some have criticised the smaller-than-expected trunk in the rear, but I’d suggest that anyone who chooses a crossover literally labelled a “coupe” isn’t buying it for the massive storage space. Nonetheless, there is ergonomic, perfect seating for five and ample head- and legroom throughout — yes, even for us tall folks.
I’d choose the major parking and camera packages available, the in-car Wi-Fi, and the US$350 smartphone integration system, too.
I had so much fun driving back from Long Island alone one night, with my friend texting me rap lyrics that were received via Apple CarPlay and subsequently read over the car’s speaker — in a lady robot voice. It’s hilarious to hear Jay-Z’s iconic words and suggestive phrases translated via computer. The car has unfettered sightlines; modern, easy, and elegant technology; and a chic design inside. Would Jackie O drive it? For sure.
The SUV segment originated back in the 1990s as a luxury option for soccer moms who wanted something more refined and flexible than a minivan. Mercedes seems to believe it owes its drivers something even more than that: Something fun. ― Bloomberg