IT HAS BEEN A WAIT, BUT, AT LONG LAST, THE MERCEDES-BENZ GLC RANGE IS HERE.
It’s not that Mercedes-Benz didn’t have a medium SUV in its stable, its just that the predecessor to the GLC wasn’t built in right-hand-drive, Meaning Mercedes-Benz Australia could only stand by and watch while the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 surged ahead in the fast-growing segment.
But, not anymore - the C-Class based GLC is finally here, ready to stake its claim in the goldmine known as the medium SUV market.
Vehicle Style: Premium medium SUV
Price: $64,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 125kW/400Nm. 2.1-litre turbodiesel 4cyl | 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.6 l/100km | tested: 6.6 l/100km
As per the new Mercedes-Benz naming convention the GL part describes go-anywhere capability (Geländewagen means cross-country vehicle) while the C links to the medium-sized C-Class with which the GLC shares mechanical components and platform.
Currently, Australia has a choice of three GLC models: the GLC220 d diesel that opens the range, and the more powerful GLC250 and GLC 250 d (petrol and diesel respectively).
All three feature the same 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and nine-speed automatic. We've decided to dissect the base model to see what Merc’s medium SUV is made of.
Quality: If you’re familiar with the current C-Class, then the GLC will feel right at home. The styling and trim is all but identical, and the finish and feel is distinctly upmarket, exactly as you’d expect from a luxury manufacturer like Mercedes-Benz.
The black ash open-pore wood finish lends a modern high-end feel, as does the subtle use of ambient lighting from beneath the wood panelling of the console and doors.
Free of squeaks and rattles, firmly fitted with tight shut-lines, and with soft-touch surfaces extending all the way under the dash, the GLC imparts a premium feel, through and through.
Comfort: A funny thing about the GLC - while it looks like a decently lofty SUV from outside, the cabin floor is quite low for a vehicle of its class. Meaning you either have to take a wide step over the standard side steps to settle inside, or climb up on them and then drop down into your seat.
Aside from that though, once you’re in, the GLC is very comfortable with plenty of room front and rear. Standard Artico seat trim imitates real leather, but if you’d like the real thing you need to step up to one of the GLC250 models.
Those relegated to the rear will find extra sprawling space thanks to the GLC’s extra headroom. The rear bench is also slightly wider and positioned further back, compared to a C-Class estate, adding a little extra versatility to the GLC.
Equipment: Even in base trim the GLC comes with powered front seats, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, satellite navigation, auto lights and wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, a powered tailgate, remote rear seat folding, 19-inch alloy wheels, and LED headlights.
Options fitted to our test car included the Vision Package ($3069) which adds a panoramic sunroof and head-up display, and the Comand Package ($2300) which includes 13-speaker Burmester audio, a larger 8.4-inch infotainment screen, 10GB inbuilt hard drive, DVD player, and Linguatronic voice control.
Storage: Head to the rear and a 580 litre boot lurks beneath the powered tailgate. One-touch switches in the rear drop the seatback, extending cargo space to 1600 litres.
The cabin features deep door pockets, a console and glovebox that feel a little snug, and a lidded centre stack that’s big enough to function as a holder for a box of Favourites chocolates - if that’s not 'road-trip ready' I don’t know what is!
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The same 2.1 litre turbodiesel engine powers both the GLC220 d and GLC250 d, but in a different state of tune. In the GLC220 d the engine produces 125kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque between 1400 and 2800rpm - 25kW and 100Nm less than the 250 d.
It is well up to the task, though it can feel a little relaxed lolling about town on the school run or work commute - you can extract a decent turn of speed from it, but you’ll need to be firm with the throttle to do so.
Linked to Mercedes-Benz’ new generation nine-speed automatic, gear changes are smooth and swift, and while it doesn’t overpower itself, the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system can be felt shifting grip around in response to changing levels of grip.
Out of town the combination of plentiful torque and quick-thinking transmission, means the GLC220 d doesn’t break a sweat running uphill, or overtaking.
And if looking for a bit more urgency, there’s also Sport and Sport + drive modes to sharpen gear changes, steering, and throttle response.
Refinement: For a diesel-powered model, the GLC220 d is smooth and quiet. At idle, there’s barely a hint of engine clatter, while throughout the rev range vibration is minimal.
Isolation from outside disturbances like road and wind noise are kept to an absolute minimum, and the only time the engine intrudes is if you opt for ‘maximum attack’ and rev it hard.
Ride and Handling: For some inexplicable reason, Mercedes-Benz has given the GLC a suspension tune that’s at odds with its role as a family freighter. On anything but glass-smooth roads the GLC220 d has a choppy ride, stuttering over even the most minor surface imperfections.
Entering driveways or cross speed humps can result in a crash on compression and a swift kick on rebound at anything above an absolute crawl. At freeway speeds, things seem better sorted, with the GLC settling better into its stiff-jointed suspension.
Light and easy variable steering makes wheelwork around town a cinch, while firming up for open road cruising, free from on-centre nervousness.
Braking: Like the suspension, the brakes aren’t always their best around town. From a cold start you can expect a decent amount of brake squeal when braking lightly, and, when slowing to a standstill, there’s usually a grunt and shudder from the pads just before coming to a complete stop.
That said, there’s a huge reserve of brakeforce for emergency stops, with the GLC easily able to arrest its 1845kg kerb weight.
ANCAP rating: The Mercedes-Benz GLC is yet to be tested by ANCAP.
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.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Mercedes-Benz offers capped price servicing for thee years/75,000km on the GLC range, with 12 month/25,000km service intervals. The first service is priced at $496, with the second and third services set at $892 each.
Consult your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for the full range of terms, conditions, and exclusions.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro ($62,600) - Audi’s Q5 is now the oldest in its class, but that hasn’t stopped it from selling its socks off. A well presented interior and handsome, if conservative, exterior certainly helps.
From behind the wheel the smooth driving and comfortable Q5 cements its position as a city-centric SUV with family duties in mind. (see Q5 reviews)
BMW X3 xDrive20d ($64,700) - The dynamic leader of the medium premium SUV class, even in its less powerful xDrive20d form. Plenty of room inside, but the interior isn’t quite as nouveau-luxe as the flashy Mercedes. (see X3 reviews)
Lexus NX 300h Luxury AWD ($59,500) - Lexus, like Mercedes-Benz, is a little late to the medium SUB party with its NX, but suffers slightly by being smaller, and having to make do with a petrol-electric hybrid in place of a diesel engine.
The smaller size might suit some owners in tight city quarters, but the busy interior, and uninspiring performance (particularly compared to the turbocharged NX 200t) make this version an unnecessary distraction. (see NX reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Thanks to its extra space in the rear, particularly for rear seat passengers, the GLC makes a clear case for itself, despite competing alongside the C-Class wagon for the attention of buyers.
Certainly, with a full suite of safety features, a well-equipped interior, and a smooth and hushed drivetrain, the GLC220 d is very likeable. Its ride quality does let it down however - something that may deter some family buyers.
While it is absolutely a car Mercedes-Benz Australia needed to plug a gap in its product portfolio, the GLC won’t be a vehicle for all tastes.
The popularity of the Mercedes-Benz marque ensures it will find lots of buyers, but we’d suggest making sure it is the right fit for you before taking the plunge.
MORE: Mercedes-Benz News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mecedes-Benz GLC220 d Showroom - all models, prices, and features