MERCEDES-BENZ HAS STUCK, FOR NOW, WITH A RELATIVELY SIMPLE THREE-MODEL RANGE FOR ITS GLC SUV.
Don’t expect things to stay that way for long though, as there’s sure to be more joining the range soon. Right now, if you’re after a petrol powered model, there’s only one - the mid-range GLC250.
Utilising a tried-and-tested engine from the C-Class, but with 4Matic all-wheel-drive and Mercedes’ latest nine-speed automatic, the GLC offers prestige motoring with typically superb interior accommodation.
Vehicle Style: Premium medium SUV
Price: $67,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 155kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 9.4 l/100km
With a three-model range, the Mercedes-Benz GLC doesn’t have the same bewildering number of variants you'll find in among the Audi Q5 or BMW X3 range - particularly at the top end where there are performance-models aplenty.
For the time being, all Mercedes-Benz has is the GLC250 - not exactly a performance offering, and although just a fraction faster than the diesel powered GLC250 d, the petrol GLC250 scrapes in at $2000 less.
So it’s a mid-range offering, and, realistically, it will hold more appeal to more buyers than a snarling AMG model would. However, if you’d like the performance 'look', the optional AMG Line appearance package (as fitted here) amps up the visuals without disturbing occupants,
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, power adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, cruise control with speed limiter, trip computer with colour multi-function display, remote folding rear seats, LED ambient lighting, 20-inch alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch display, COMAND rotary controller, single disc CD player, AM/FM radio, USB and Aux inputs, five-speaker audio plus FrontBass system, satellite navigation
- Options fitted: Vision package - panoramic sunrrof, head up display $3990, Comand package - 8.4-inch screen upgrade, Comand Online services, 10GB music hard drive, internet access, 13 speaker Bermester audio $2,990, Seat Comfort package - additional electric adjustment, heated front seats, memory function $1290, AMG Line package - Sports steering wheel and pedals, sports suspension, multi-spoke alloy wheels, privacy glass, AMG floor mats, AMG front and rear body styling $2990
- Cargo volume: 580 litres minimum, 1600 litres maximum
The circular design theme of Mercedes-Benz’ most recent vehicles carries over to the GLC, with a horizontally-divided dash punctuated with circular vents for a spacious and contemporary feel.
The interior designers at MB have obviously invested a lot of time and effort into giving the car a high quality look and feel, with high end materials that give a first-class impression.
Both front and rear seats offer plenty of space. Fronts featuring power adjustment and an additional Seat Comfort package adds seat heating, additional power adjustment, and memory function.
In the rear, the GLC benefits from a higher roof and extra legroom over the C-Class wagon it shares its underpinnings with, making the rear bench feel more hospitable.
Those relegated to the rear don’t miss out on any of the nice surfaces up front, with the same open-pore wood, alloy speaker grilles (part of the Burmester audio upgrade included with the optional Comand package), and ambient lighting as fitted up front.
Infotainment, navigation and vehicle settings are operated by the central COMAND system, which comprises an 8.4-inch screen and rotary controller mounted on the console, combining a click-wheel topped with a touchpad surface.
It’s a little jumbled, can be difficult to operate accurately, and if you’re right handed or have diminished motor skills, it becomes frustrating to make even simple adjustments.
Cabin storage is quite generous with a pair of massive front door-pockets, a huge lidded-bin in the centre stack, a fair amount of space in the centre console but a slim glovebox.
The boot offers 580 litres of storage, and the 60:40 split rear seat features a one-touch release and can be folded from the rear doors or the boot, opening up 1600 litres of storage.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 155kW/350Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Four-link front, five-link rear suspension
- Steering: Electro-hydraulic steering
Under the bonnet of the GLC250 lies the same M274 turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder as used in the C-Class and E-Class, producing 155kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque in a diesel-like spread from 1200rpm to 4000rpm.
Thanks to a 1735kg kerb weight, the GLC250 doesn’t exactly feel like a powerhouse, and you need to push it to extract the most out of it.
It can dash from 0-100 in a claimed 7.3 seconds, but unless you nail the throttle to the firewall it feels lethargic.
Commuting around the city and suburbs it’s a competent cruiser - if overly firm down below - and easily poked around tighter carparks.
Out of town though, it loses some of that settled feel. The nine-speed auto constantly shuffles between seventh, eighth, and ninth gear when keeping the GLC up to speed on longer climbs or winding roads.
That said, with all those ratios and a willing 350Nm of torque on hand, it won't leave you high and dry when overtaking.
It’s a good thing then that the transmission is as smooth as they come. There is no interruption or hesitation from the gearbox, it simply flicks up and down shifting between the ratios with ruthless efficiency.
A drive mode selector allows Eco, Comfort Sport and Sport+ modes to alter the drivetrain and steering responses. While Sport and Sport+ pick up the pace incrementally, Eco softens throttle response further, as well as trimming the air conditioning.
There’s also a set of gearshift paddles on the back of the steering wheel, and while they’re fun to have a play with, the transmissions electronics are usually a step ahead of the driver, if left to sort itself out.
Larger 20-inch alloy wheels are fitted to the GLC250 and take the place of the 19-inchers fitted to the entry-level GLC220 d. The AMG Line package also adds sport suspension.
It doesn’t diminish ride quality as you might expect, but the GLC range starts from a low base. The standard ride is already disappointingly firm, so it's hard to pick where the AMG suspension differs.
Around town, the GLC bucks over speed humps and makes rolling over cat’s eyes and train lines an uncomfortable experience. As speed picks up the ride becomes more composed, but is never fully settled, niggling away at even small surface changes.
Refinement is otherwise at a level you’d expect. The engine operates with a muted tone, wind and road noise are kept at bay and there’s little in the way of vibration or harshness.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars.
Safety features: All GLC models feature nine airbags (dual front, curtain, thorax for front and rear outboard passengers, and driver’s knee), load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners, Attention Assist fatigue detection, electronic stability and traction control with crosswind assist, ABS brakes with brake assist, active bonnet, and Collision Prevention Assist Plus autonomous braking.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A more dynamic feel on the open road is the BMW X3’s hallmark; it also rides firmly, but not as harshly as the GLC. Australia’s favourite premium medium SUV is the Audi Q5, with a good balance of comfort and features, even if it is starting to feel a little dated.
Lexus offers a segment-straddler with the NX range, and is the only manufacturer to offer a hybrid alternative in the category so far. And, for those looking to make a design-led choice, the Range Rover Evoque provides sharp style with a concept car-like interior.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Well featured, with a beautifully-crafted interior, the GLC250 looks good on paper, and the showroom impression will likely leave you feeling more warm and fuzzy than either an X3 or Q5.
But even with its torquey turbocharged petrol engine, the GLC250 doesn’t feel as though it's delivering its best - there were even times on the drive where we thought the parkbrake might have been dragging, but that wasn’t the case.
Its firm suspension is also something that you might wish to factor-in if you do a lot of country driving, or live in a particularly pock-marked suburb.
To be truly happy with your new GLC, we’d suggest upgrading to the GLC250 d. It means having to deal with an oily diesel pump, and it’s a fraction slower, but it counters by being more frugal, while offering more torque on demand.
The GLC250 feels every bit the premium SUV on the inside, it’s just waiting for a premium engine to match its svelte looks and clever drivetrain.
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