Endless appeal from Mercedes-Benz’s latest high-riding family wagon.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC is the marque’s entrant into the popular mid-size SUV segment, a market that had been surviving without a three-pointed star for some time. Knowing how crucial it is to nail this end of the market, Mercedes-Benz didn’t waste any resources in the development of the GLC, with the whole thing presenting a truly coherent package. Looks good, it’s practical, and it has all the appeal a Mercedes-Benz should. What’s not to like?
Being completely forthright, this isn’t Mercedes-Benz’s first foray into the segment. The brand produced a left-hand drive only GLK SUV of similar size for the North American market, and its offering there likely helped shape the GLC that succeeded it. As a result, there’s a certain resoluteness that the GLC offers that’s hard to beat, even among its more seasoned rivals. We put the GLC to the test, and see if it stands up to rigour.
“It’s a smart looking car, perhaps more conservative than some, but it’s clean, classy and immediately identifiable as a Mercedes.” - CarAdvice
Mercedes-Benz has sort of come into its own of late with its designs, and the GLC sits very neatly in the modern Merc lineup. It’s instantaneously recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz, but it wears its suit naturally and organically, rather than the sloppy cut-and-paste job of the current-generation GLE. It’s neat and handsome, and attractive overall without having to resort to anything outlandish. Even without the AMG Line trim, the GLC’s design is just really very cool.
The GLC, admittedly, looks best in AMG Line trim. It looks incredibly aggressive and sits more squarely on the road, and the bigger optional wheels really set the whole thing off. There are Designo and metallic paint finishes to choose from, so there’s no excuse for choosing the wrong colour. The standard-fit LED headlights and 19-inch wheels means that even the base GLC220d won’t look like a base model, making it surprisingly good value.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The GLC range has three models, two powered by a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine, the third a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol motor.” - CarsGuide
The GLC’s engine lineup is pretty easy to understand. There’s one diesel engine in two states of tune, and a turbo petrol for those who want more power rather than torque. The 2.0-litre turbo petrol in the GLC250 produces 155kW and 350Nm, and does the century sprint in just 7.3-seconds. And while the general assumption is that the petrol would be the more refined power plant, the GLC throws a bit of a curveball: The petrol engine is raspy and a little harsh, and doesn’t provide the linearity you’d expect of something running the good stuff.
As a result of the petrol GLC250’s unrefined nature, the oil burners are suddenly more interesting. The power plant here is a 2.1-litre turbodiesel, from the older generation of Mercedes-Benz turbodiesel engines. The GLC220d puts out 125kW/400Nm, while the GLC250d puts out a healthier 150kW/500Nm. The 250d is a real star, with the refinement and usability both in town and on the motorway. Urban fuel consumption figures across all three engines are broadly similar, but the quieter diesels also return better mileage over longer distances.
“Estate agents would call it tastefully furnished, and they’d be right.” - TopGear
Mercedes-Benz’s biggest design improvements, arguably, have taken place in the cabin. When the C-Class was first revealed, critics and journalists marvelled at how gorgeous the interior was, drawing parallels to the (much) bigger S-Class. As such, the GLC’s cabin (which is almost a total carryover from the C-Class on which it’s based) is a wonderful place to be in. Employed materials are great, and the overall design is pleasing in a minimalistic way that gives Volvo’s ‘Series 90’ cars a run for their money. You don’t get the button-fest that you would in a BMW X3 or Audi Q5, but from an aesthetic perspective, that’s totally fine.
Comfort and practicality are of note, as well. The boxy exterior design, remaining true to the SUV ethos, means there’s bags of headroom and plenty of cargo space (550l with the seats up, 1810 with the seats flat). Speaking of the rear bench, it’s split 40:20:40 and they can be lowered individually with buttons in the boot. There’s also useful storage spaces under the floor thanks to the GLC riding on run-flat tyres as standard, though those who traverse difficult terrain on a regular basis will not appreciate the lack of a spare wheel (though 24-hour roadside assistance is offered for free through the duration of the vehicle’s warranty).
Behind the Wheel
“With its energetic engine, quick steering, saloon-donated seating position and discreetly elevated ride height, the model embraces its inner C-Class in much the same way that an Audi A4 Allroad never quite stops being an A4.” - Autocar
Being based on the C-Class saloon means that the GLC benefits from the same plus points that the saloon does. The steering is precise and reactive, and though the cabin seating heights are slightly lower than some of its more utilitarian rivals, it feels more cozy and enveloping than most SUVs. Aiding this is the length of the car, which is actually shorter than the C-Class estate, meaning that the whole car feels a little more agile.
The GLC is incredibly refined, even in the diesels, but it isn’t perfect. While the front seats are supportive and sculpted, the rear bench is slightly short, meaning that thighs go without a little bit of support. The relatively flat bench also means that corners can sometime result in some seat-surfing, with passengers sliding from side to side (which we admit is easily remedied with seatbelts), but it lacks the lateral support you’d find in a BMW X3’s rear-half. Lastly, due somewhat to the quietness of the diesels, the GLC suffers above-average wind noise intrusion around the A-pillars and mirrors at higher speed.
Safety & Technology
“The Mercedes GLC earned a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP’s industry standard crash tests, outscoring its rivals in every key area.” - Telegraph UK
Knowing that the GLC would largely be used to ferry about small families, Mercedes-Benz engineered a lot of safety into this high-riding wagon. Standard features include nine airbags, PreSafe technology (which primes the car when it detects a possible collision), the usual smattering of electronic stability and traction systems, hill start assist, and ISOFIX fittings on the passenger’s seats.
Mercedes-Benz’s latest COMAND (yes, with one ‘M’) system features here, and it’s getting progressively better at doing its job. Some would argue that nothing can quite match BMW’s iDrive system in terms of interface, but the new COMAND comes pretty close. The various driver assistance features are here too, with lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control on the 250 models, but even the base 220d benefits from blind-spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking. For those who want the last word in on-road pliancy, we suggest opting for the Airmatic air suspension system, which helps make polish off the ride no matter how big the holes (or indeed, wheels).
Mercedes-Benz continues its winning streak with the GLC, combining excellent design inside and out with a chassis and drivetrain that shows off its strengths brilliantly. The sumptuous interior, paired with the brawny exterior leave very few wanting, and for the use 90% of GLCs will weather with their owners, it’s perfectly fit for the job.
We would recommend the GLC250d, which has the best blend of spec, performance, and economy, though the GLC220d makes a very good case for itself it you’re willing to spec a handful of options. Steer clear of the petrol though, as its character doesn’t really fit the GLC. Its weirdly-noisy nature is also a particular bugbear, and steers our opinion toward the diesel.
CarAdvice - 85/100 - “It’s about time the company offered a medium SUV, and as we might have suspected given the quality of the C-Class, it’s rather knocked it out of the park. The GLC feels properly premium, it looks fantastic in the flesh, it’s a joy to sit in and comfortable on the road while surprisingly capable off it. Its drivetrains are respectable though not show-stoppers, but the range of offerings will grow before you know it.”
WhatCar? - 80/100 - “The Mercedes GLC might not be as good an all-rounder as some SUVs, but it's still worth considering – as long as you spec it right.”
Autocar - 80/100 - “Rating its overall desirability, though, is far easier: there’s much of it, and some diligence with the option boxes ought to produce a rounded and luxurious family 4x4 that is well suited to the mature palate.”
TopGear - 70/100 - “Smooth, good-looking new Mercedes rival to the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.”
Telegraph - 80/100 - “It might be a bit late to the party, but the Mercedes GLC is a credible rival to the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, and if you can make do without seven seats it’s a stronger package than the Land Rover Discovery Sport, too.”
Motoring - 78/100 - “A strong contender in the two-horse wagon-based SUV race.”
CarsGuide - 80/100 - "A good looking vehicle that's practical and carries the prestige of the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star at the front. It's hard to see the new GLC being anything other than a big success in the sales race.”
AutoExpress - 80/100 - “The Mercedes GLC is a late arrival to the UK compact SUV market. The brand never engineered its older GLK 4x4 model for right-hand drive, so the GLC is its first entry into this lucrative class on these shores. However, it has everything we've come to expect from a modern day Mercedes, with beautiful interior quality, stunning looks and strong performance.”