BASED ON THE C-CLASS PLATFORM, THE 2016 MERCEDES-BENZ GLC IS MERC'S ANSWER TO THE BMW X3 AND AUDI Q5.
It may be late to the mid-size party, but the knockout interior and efficient yet punchy engines make this car one to put on your shopping list.
We put the new range to the test and came away convinced: the new GLC range from Mercedes-Benz is going to shake up the premium mid-size SUV segment. It might just be the best choice there.
Vehicle Style: Premium medium SUV
Price: GLC 220d - $64,500; GLC 250 - $67,900; GLC 250d - $69,900
GLC 220d - 125kW/400Nm. 2.1-litre turbodiesel 4 cyl | 9spd automatic
GLC 250 - 155kW/350Nm. 2.0-litre turbo petrol 4 cyl | 9spd automatic
GLC 250d - 150kW/500Nm. 2.1-litre turbodiesel 4 cyl | 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed (tested): 220d - 5.6 (7.0) l/100km | 250 - 7.2 (11.0) l/100km | 250d - 5.7 (7.3) l/100km
But, with the arrival this week of the GLK's replacement, the GLC,that situation has now been rectified.
Merc's new naming convention uses the last letter to denote the platform from which the SUV has been spawned. Thus, GLA (A-Class), GLE (E-Class), GLC (C-Class).
And it has been engineered from the start to be a right-hand-drive car.
Mercedes-Benz isn't bashful when it comes to its expectations for the GLC: "Demand will outstrip supply," it says. So, does it have the clout to take on the established players in the premium medium SUV market?
- Standard features: Dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, cruise control, LED headlamps electric front seats, leather (on 250 models), synthetic leather (220d), rear air vents, electric tailgate, electric flip fold rear seats, lockable storage under boot floor
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch infotainment screen, CD with MP3 and iPod support, Garmin mapping, Bluetooth audio and telephony, digital radio
- Cargo volume: 508 litres (sets up) 1600 litres (seats folded)
The GLC's basis is evident as soon as you open the door - if you're thinking it looks virtually identical to the C-Class, that's because it is. From the dash layout to the seats and the doors, it's all very familiar territory.
No problems with that, as it means very high quality materials, beautiful presentation and a huge, clear screen up front.
Opt for the COMAND package and you even get the tremendous Burmeister sound system, with its trademark machined metal tweeter covers.
Look throughout and the seat design is the same as the C-Class, as is the revised COMAND system.
So, why not buy a C-Class Estate? In a nutshell, size. The GLC is 60mm taller inside, 20mm wider and the rear seat is set 30mm further back.
The front seats have plenty of room, of course, though the transmission tunnel is quite large, pushing your left leg across a tad. The rear seat is brilliant, in every respect. Legroom, headroom - it's all plentiful. And because the middle seat isn't too high, three across the back row is easy.
The boot space is excellent, at 580 litres, and, with the press of a switch in the rear, the back seats electrically unlatch and fold down revealing 1600 litres of space. It means carrying bulky items can be achieved very quickly indeed.
The interior is certainly a cut above both BMW and Volvo, while Audi matches material quality but doesn't have the same presentation. Round one to Mercedes-Benz, then.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.5/5
- GLC 220d: 125kW/400Nm 2.1 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- GLC 250: 155kW/350Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- GLC 250d: 150kW/500Nm 2.1 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Four-link front, and five-link rear suspension
- Steering: Electro-hydraulic steering
Our launch drive began with the GLC 220 d, beginning on the freeway then onto rural secondary roads. At freeway speeds, the GLC is dead quiet, save a little wind noise from the mirrors.
With 125kW and 400Nm, it has ample underfoot for threading the traffic, but it's certainly no powerhouse. The nine-speed auto however is excellent, choosing gears decisively and responding rapidly to throttle inputs.
With light steering in comfort mode and a slightly heavier response in Sport and Sport+, its an easy vehicle to manoeuvre at any speed, and its turning circle and standard 360-degree camera make parking a cinch.
The 19-inch wheels on the 220d certainly give the ride a softer feel even with the standard runflat tyres. It is still, however, somewhat firm down below and can get a bit ruffled by bad surfaces, particularly at speed. Around town though it's quiet and easy to drive.
Move up to the 250 and 250d models, and the increase in wheel size (by one-inch) adds a little more feedback through the wheels (and a little more 'edge' to the ride) but certainly makes it feel more surefooted in tight bends. Plus both the 250s are decidedly quicker than the 220d, meaning if you enjoy a little more responsiveness, you'll opt for the higher-specced cars.
The smoothness of the GLC 250 petrol is immediately apparent. This 2.0-litre four is a gem, and while it doesn't sound as sporty as other 2.0-litre petrols around, it's quiet and gets on with the job of propelling this 1735kg car to 100km in a zesty 7.3 seconds.
Its smoothness is particularly apparent when the stop-start fuel-saving system comes into play. It's almost imperceptible in the petrol car, whereas the two diesels are a little less refined when kicking back into life.
If it wasn't for the fact that it likes a drink when really pushed (our highway loop returned 11.0 l/100km), the 250 petrol would be the pick of the bunch.
If you want low fuel use but enjoy a bit of grunt, it's the 250d which you'll want.
With 150kW and a very punchy 500Nm underfoot, an increase of a not-insignificant 100Nm over 220d, and a fuel consumption penalty of just 0.1 l/100km, it’s fair to say the 250d has a decent advantage over the 220d.
Sure, it does cost proportionally more than its less-powerful stablemate, asking an extra $5400. But, in addition to the extra power and torque, you also get leather, privacy glass, and those 20-inch wheels.
Though the 250's ride (petrol and diesel) is typically Teutonic - in other words, with a firmer initial compliance - things can get the better of it, especially when pressing on through sweeping corners with broken bitumen. The dampers can struggle to keep things settled, giving it a tendency to skip and stutter across the surface.
It holds its line well enough and if you push it too far the electronic safety net takes over and reins. We'll have to put it up against the 'Air Body Control' version to see if that improves things, but there is another handling option involving three famous letters...
The GLC 250d with the AMG Pack.
It brings cross-drilled brakes and coloured calipers, stiffer springs, different shocks and lowered ride-height. The resulting suspension package reacts far quicker and virtually eliminates any skipping.
Remarkably, it doesn't destroy the comfort, simply stiffening up a little and yielding greater body control.
It also gives the steering a more meaty feel. So for those who enjoy their driving, and without having tested the air suspension, we'd say the AMG package is a must have.
ANCAP rating: The GLC is yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: As standard, the GLC gets nine airbags, collision prevention assist plus, pre-safe and blind spot sssist. There's also traction and stability control as well as braking assistance and brake force distribution, plus seatbelt pretensioners.
GLC 250 models also get a 'driver assistance package plus' which includes distronic plus with steering assist, pre-safe brake and pre-safe plus, BAS plus with cross traffic assist, active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The GLC's interior is what sets it apart from all of its rivals, with tonnes of room and beautiful quality. But it's still not as enjoyable to punt around as the X3, nor is it as pretty as the Evoque.
But with the current crop having been in the market for quite a while now, even with various updates, a fresh competitor with plenty of cachet is always going to catch the attention of buyers.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL
The GLC has certainly been worth the wait. Though the we question the standard suspension tune (we're eager to try the Air Body Control when it becomes available), the rest of the package is superb.
The presentation and build quality, typically Mercedes, is beautiful.
There is also heaps of space, and it's laden with safety gear and up-to-date technologies. There's even an off-road package available which brings more capability and brings the great outdoors even closer.
Our first taste of the GLC has been a good one. With even higher powered models to join the line-up later on, this medium SUV is loaded with appeal and has a lot of potential.
If the price of entry is not too much of a hurdle, this premium mid-sized SUV almost buys itself. Take a look, and we think you will agree.