The structure and patterns of variability of the southern Benguela coastal upwelling system are investigated with a high-resolution regional model forced by QuikSCAT winds over 1999–2003. The relevance of this global wind product is tested, at first, for the specific nearshore southeast Atlantic; then, the wind products are spatially or temporally degraded from the original 0.5° daily fluxes and are used to diagnose the main scales of the surface dynamical forcing variability. Time resolution appears as a crucial factor in the wind stress to retrieve the patterns of interannual anomalies in sea surface temperatures in a good agreement with independent NASA Pathfinder observations. Various upwelling indices are also calculated in the model to study specific warm or cold coastal events whose circulation schemes are detailed from a Lagrangian interpretation of the model time-varying three-dimensional velocity field. Our study emphasizes the connections established between the Benguela upwelling and the large-scale circulation in relation with, for instance, the Agulhas Current retroflection and associated ring shedding.