2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43: The 'AMG' stands for AM-azing performance

As my drive partner and I pulled on to the Autobahn near Stuttgart, Germany, in the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43, I found myself giddy with anticipation. Although I was just a passenger, the thought of legally speeding over 100 mph left me feeling like a little school girl when she sees her crush: nervous but with a pleasantly rolly tummy.

Traffic was fairly heavy as my drive partner accelerated past trucks and smaller economy cars. The twin turbo V6 engine puts out 362 horsepower, plenty to push the speedometer needle to 150 kilometers per hour, then 160, and quickly to 170 before we settled in with the flow of traffic at 180. That would be 111 miles per hour here in the states, a few steps below the GLC43's electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.

The crossover handled the speed like a champ. Wind noise is minimal and when speed limit signs appeared, which happens in populated areas or at interchanges, the brakes grabbed nicely without being too touchy. Keeping the GLC43 in Comfort mode on the well-maintained Autobahn kept the ride smooth and easy. Frankly, it felt like we were going much slower and I could have easily taken a nap.

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43

The car formerly known as the GLK-Class is all grown up now, with its own performance-oriented AMG trim.

Mercedes-Benz

The GLC43 is a midsize SUV with plenty of room for five passengers. The AMG moniker points to a performance version of the standard GLC300, which gets a peppy though not particularly zoomy 2-liter engine with 241 horsepower. Visually the AMG GLC43 differs from the base with a shiny starpoint grille and some extra body pieces. Twenty-inch wheels are standard on the AMG but you can get 21-inch wheels if that's your bag. The AMG also comes with wider, staggered tires, giving the performance model an aggressive stance.

Inside, the cabin is taken mostly from the C-class, but the AMG GLC43 gets sport seats with contrast stitching. The Comand infotainment system features an 8.4-inch color display with optional digital radio, navigation with traffic information and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The Comand system is fairly intuitive, save for a few functions like radio presets, but it's been around for a while and was last updated for the 2015 model year.

Country roads, take me home

I enjoy corner carving more than straight line speed, so was happy to take the wheel when we got to back roads.

The AMG GLC43's standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive system puts 69 percent of the torque to the rear wheels by default, for a more sports car-like drive, but shifts torque based on wheel slip for wet roads and snow. The ride and steering firm up in Sport and Sport Plus modes, but it is far from harsh. The steering has a good weight to it and the wheel feels thick and sturdy, but the electric power steering doesn't offer a lot of feedback. Still, turn-in is sharp and the chassis is eager to change direction, especially for a heavy crossover.

The nine-speed automatic transmission shifts super-fast and skipped gears on the downshift as I dove into a turn. I had to merely brake, point the car and get back on the gas and the 384 pound-feet of torque brought me through the turn quickly, the transmission not upshifting until it got to the red line. Paddle shifters are standard if you'd like more control, but I found the computer did a fine job of predicting my desire for high revs.

The final driving delight is a growly exhaust note that even gives out a few pops to let the neighbors know this ain't some granny-shifting crossover. This is AMG, baby.

The 2017 Mercedes Benz AMG GLC43 starts at $55,825 and a coupe version debuted at the Paris Motor Show this year. Mercedes-Benz certainly does have it's work cut out for itself, going up against the BMW X3/X4, the Jaguar F-Pace, and the stunning Porsche Macan, but with the presence of performance behind it, the AMG GLC43 is a fine contender.

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