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Images by Alameen Merchant
The simple explanation is, go hard into a hairpin, transfer the weight on that GLC AMG coupe’s left front tyre, turn in with a quick right yank of that AMG steering wheel and lo and behold, you get the AMG tripod. Tripods, as any photographer would tell you, provide stability. But that’s because a tripod goes one better than the two legs a photographer is shooting from. When you lose one contact patch to the atmosphere though, and all the grip is needed on a damp winding road, you’d better hope the rest of them are properly glued in.
And glued in they were in the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé, or I would not be up to such antics as we climbed our way up through the winding roads of Matheran. Matheran of all places, I asked myself, during our blitzkrieg on the Mumbai-Pune expressway? I wouldn’t honestly bother to venture out there. It is almost like a ghost town now, and for those who are familiar with the hill station that’s just a couple of hours from both Mumbai and Pune, will know that vehicles aren’t allowed in here. There’s a steep winding road that ends at a parking lot where you park your beloved better half under a tree, then walk to or take a horse ride to a resort that is about half an hour away from the parking lot. The devil must be laughing.
I’ve done it once as a kid, and I promised myself that I’ll never do it again. When your heart sinks a little while handing over the keys of your car to a valet, a 30-minute walk to your car is heart failure. Back then, the expressway didn’t exist so single-day return journeys were like saddle sore challenges. No one did them. Now, you can drive up to Matheran, spend some time to enjoy the sights and drive back before lunch. I wasn’t driving just any car though. The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé is arguably the most sought after speed freak of the year. Everyone who likes driving fast cars to work is eyeing the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé. 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 show-off weekend breakfast orgy types want this car. That’s already a win for AMG.
Speed used to be a rare commodity back in the day. We used to have slow cars that everyone bought and some fast cars that very few bought. There was a clear distinction between the two and the paths of people who owned either of the two types, never crossed. When you heard a loud rumbling engine, you expected its owner to be loud and rumbling too. These gaps are vanishing now. The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé straddles this space with its brute of a bi-turbo V6 making 362 horses and 520Nm work their arses off to get the all-wheel drive AMG to 100kmph in under five seconds. A coupe that comes out of an SUV is challenging sportscars. See that middle ground?
What is great about the package is that the wheels don’t run on wafer-thin sidewalled tyres, the suspension is genuinely compliant and it’s as much about comfort as it is about performance. A fast car in India needs that balance for the everyday petrolhead. So let’s get back to when we decided to teleport to Matheran.
If you leave Pune before the sun rises, the twisties of Lonavala are like a race track by the time you get there. That all-wheel drive grip allows you to get into corners hot, and you can even dare to brake while turning, shave speed quickly and accelerate harder and earlier out of an exit than you would in a rear driven car. The speed limits are a laughable 80kmph so I made sure we never went below 70kmph. Always stick to the rules I suppose. That mid-range is explosive, and the V6 has a nice roar to it, not too loud and full of pops and crackles but still quite sonorous. The GLC doesn’t plan to overwhelm you in any way, an essential attribute of an everyday fast car. Roads like these are ideal for a car of this size but unfortunately, we had to exit the expressway for the old highway.
The old road is gold, still running tar roads and not the low grip concrete surface that modern highways use. The traffic has eased out too around here so a short patch down a smooth old highway is good fun. It doesn’t last long as you have to make a right towards Karjat and then commences some light off-roading on what is actually a state highway. In Maharashtra, once you get off the national highways, no one gives a flying f*ck about the rest of the roads. The AMG is surprisingly capable here despite the power it packs and its core competence. 4WD SUVs on their favourite battleground were relishing these potholed carnivorous patches but we weren’t doing too bad ourselves. I was loving it. The expressway was swallowed and shat by the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé without a sweat, but this appalling state highway too was taken well in stride. We turned up the road at Neral to the start of our hill climb towards Matheran.
From fast and open roads to slow and broken roads, we had seen it all. I was hoping for a good set of twisties to the summit but my childhood memories failed me. We drove up in cars that were half the GLC’s size – the Fiat 1100 and the Maruti 800, cars that would leave enough space for a similarly sized oncoming car. You hoped an Ambassador didn’t come your way because there would be no place to go. Here the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé was hogging the entire road. Matheran isn’t the sought after tourism hotspot that it used to be. Few people go here now and so there is little traffic.
The roads have deteriorated too and are not suitable for a fast car. The versatility of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé makes the shot-in-the-dark hill climb worth the effort. There are some stunning spots where you get to see waterfalls cascading down the rocky mountain slopes in the monsoons, the lush green landscape down below from the final hairpin of the hill climb and the numerous narrow gauge railway tracks you cross along the way. It’s a few hours worth of views but that is it. Go to the top, turn around and get back after a single-day road trip. In something that’s got so much accessible speed, you could take a half day off work for it. Explaining all that you did in just one morning would be a challenge though.