Unnecessary (but real) car shopping with CompactLuxuryFan

We all daydream about our perfect 5 car garage and waste countless hours in online configurators. But over the last couple of months, my desire for a newer, probably brand new (!) car to putz around in has turned into something more. It’s been intensifying in me like the unstoppable hormonal surge of puberty. Enter this long-honored Oppo tradition.

My current two car garage meets my every need and is relatively cheap to keep around, even when things go very wrong:

  • The A4 (2005.5 2.0T quattro Avant 6-speed) is around 101K miles and just got a new clutch and flywheel
  • The 335i (2009 6-speed) is coming up on 94K

I’m never left needing more no matter which one I choose to drive, but I do with sometimes they would magically combine into one car. As such, what I’m looking for should have everything these two have combined, and more:

  • relatively fun driving dynamics, including decent acceleration
  • good visibility
  • a relatively luxurious interior
  • not black, white, or gray exterior
  • not gray or beige interior, prefer brown over black
  • auto-dimming mirrors
  • bluetooth audio streaming
  • HID headlights
  • parking sensors/camera
  • hatchback or liftback
  • six cylinders or electric
  • all-wheel drive
  • good automatic transmission or a manual
  • a good dealer experience in San Francisco

With all those requirements in mind, I’ve been gathering some unsurprising candidates and going on test drives.

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First up, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.

While looking at Mercedes’ website and pricing one out, the GLC 43 seems to be perfectly aligned with the competition. However, once I actually started looking at dealer stock and reaching out, I found that 1) GLC 43s are pretty rare on lots, 2) all of them are loaded to the gills, and 3) they will barely deal on these relative to the competition. Other brands will get back to you with prices well below MSRP with just an email, but Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco came back with MSRP on a nearly $70k blue over brown one I inquired about.

With just the bare necessities of life
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Uh, thanks?

Add in sales tax and registration, and you’re knocking on $77,000's door. Completely nuts! That said, I was happy to find pretty much exactly what I would spec right on a dealer lot. MB dealers don’t as shy about speccing non-white/black cars with interesting options, especially considering how few AMGs they seem to keep around. So I set up a test drive, and off I went in the rather menacing blacked out one pictured above.

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With options such as $1,000 21" wheels, $975 AMG carbon fiber trim, $200 AMG Night Package, and the ridiculous $500 illuminated star, this was clearly not a car I would be taking home. However, I was excited to experience the saddle brown interior in person.

As you walk up to the GLC 43, you immediately get a sense of seriousness you don’t get from most cars. Everything about it looks and feels beefy and solid, the massive wheels and tires showing a lot of metal behind them and the doors having a lot of heft. I felt kind of intimidated, not knowing if I would even want to own so much hardware.

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As the saleswoman navigated the big SUV down the dealer’s packed parking structure, I was shocked to experience plenty of “crabwalking”. I’m quite familiar with the feeling of tire skittering over concrete since my A4 sometimes does it, but I can only imagine what somebody who just dropped damn near 80 grand on their new luxury SUV would think! It turns out GLCs are well known for crabwalking, and MB forum members are none too pleased about it!

Having read some reviews and comparisons of the GLC 43 and its Coupe sibling, I had some idea of what to expect once we were out on the street. Pretty much everything you’ll see written is true. The interior is beautiful, with great materials. You sit with a commanding view of the road (something I’m not really familiar with and find myself not really preferring, having rarely driven SUVs), but you never feel unstable. Power is always plentiful and there are no untoward behaviors. I am of the opinion that the 43 cars’ V6 sounds awesome, so I was very pleased with the soundtrack.

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I was also pleasantly surprised by the good visibility and maneuverability. I felt very comfortable navigating the streets of San Francisco in it. The powertrain and brakes especially are set up more towards aggressive driving (no mush), but I enjoyed them. And I cannot understate how these things take off like a scalded cat! Zero lag from a standstill. Incredible how such a heavy-feeling vehicle got moving.

Now for some negatives (besides the price):

  • The infotainment didn’t really wow me, although it was very easy to use. I know it’s not the latest and greatest from Mercedes, and I can’t understand why they’re taking so long to update their bread and butter SUV.
  • Piano black all over the center console will definitely become a mess quickly
  • The ride was firm, which I was fine with, but the unnecessarily large wheel/tire package made noises I could do without over San Francisco’s rough streets. It just felt like they detracted comfort without adding anything.
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So there you have it, my first test driving experience of what I’m sure will end up being a very long process. Stay tuned for the next one!

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