The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLC mid-sized SUV made its long-awaited world premiere tonight in Germany, meaning the Stuttgart-based marque finally has a proper global rival for the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
A replacement for the GLK (a left-hand-drive car that never came here, much to Mercedes-Benz Australia’s chagrin), the GLC in many ways takes elements from the hugely successful C-Class and applies them to a crossover body-style.
And unlike the GLK, the GLC will very much be sold in Australia. It will arrive in December 2015 with the Q5, X3, Land Rover Discovery Sport and even the Porsche Macan in its sights. The luxury mid-sized SUV market is up 26.7 per cent this year alone and has been growing steadily for years.
In fact, the GLC is shaping up as probably the single most important launch for Mercedes-Benz Australia since the C-Class. The brand's lack of a player in this part of the market has been burning it, though it reigns as our market’s most purchased luxury car brand anyway.
"This is one of the most important vehicle launches in our most recent history in Australia," said Mercedes-Benz Australia manager of public relations and product communications, Jerry Stamoulis.
He said the brand is expecting a similar effect as to when the brand introduced the A-Class range (plus B-Class, GLA and CLA), in that it brought an array of new buyers to the brand.
The GLC’s styling comes as no surprise, given we’ve been running spy images for ages. It combines the clean, rounded lines of the C-Class and S-Class, with the upright proportions of the GLA.
Up front is a short overhang, upright, three-dimensional radiator grille with a twin louvre and centrally positioned brand star. The side view showcases the almost coupe-like greenhouse, while the rear is characterised by the broad, muscular shoulders.
Mercedes-Benz says it “favours sensual purity and a modern aesthetic over the classic off-road look”.
Likewise inside, where is gets the sparse interface of the C-Class, with the floating 8.4-inch dashtop display, round aviation-style vents, clean and uncluttered lines of ventilation controls and the rotary dial-based multimedia control system running along the transmission tunnel.
In comparison to its predecessor GLK, the GLC is substantially more spacious for front and rear occupants alike. The load capacity behind the rear bench increases by 80-110 litres, to a total of up to 580L. In all, the GLC is able to transport up to 1600L with the seats flipped — identical to the X3. Funny that.
These include the GLC220d 4MATIC, powered by a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine making 125kW/400Nm and consuming as little as 5.0L/100km, and the GLC250d 4MATIC, using an uprated version of the same engine with 150kW/500Nm.
The petrol-powered GLC250 4MATIC uses a 2.0-litre turbo four with 155kW/350Nm that propels the car from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds.
Rounding out the range is the high-tech GLC350 e 4MATIC plug-in hybrid, in what is a market first. This pairs the 155kW/350Nm 2.0 engine with an 85kW/340Nm electric motor and an 8.7kWh, 80Ah lithium-ion battery pack and a 7G-tronic auto.The rated system torque output is a thumping 560Nm.
It’s performance figures are impressive, with a 0-100km/h time of 5.9 seconds and claimed fuel consumption of 2.6L/100km (still 0.7L/100km shy of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s claim). Pure electric range is 34km, with a V-Max before the engine jumps in of 140km/h.
Interestingly, all internal combustion GLCs have great braked towing capacities (on European ratings, Australian ones may change) of 2400kg. The plug-in hybrid is 2000kg, which is still impressive.
The new GLC offers a DYNAMIC SELECT handling control system with five driving programs as standard. In addition to the ECO, COMFORT, SPORT, SPORT+ and INDIVIDUAL settings which are familiar from other models, there’s also an Off-Road Engineering package.
This comprises up to five programs including Slippery and four off-road driving programs. Off-Road mode is automated for easy off-road terrain such as gravel or sand tracks. Incline boosts climbing capabilities. In conjunction with optional air suspension, the additional Rocking Assist program offers the last resort should the vehicle get stuck by raising the driving level by 50 millimetres and the upping wheel-slip control thresholds. The fourth off-road program, Trailer, is designed for optimum trailer towing off-road and facilitates moving off on wet grassland, for instance.
Mercedes-Benz is talking up the 4WD-only GLC’s off-road abilities, not that many Australian buyers will likely use them. It has a breakover angle of 19.7 degrees with the optional Off-Road pack and adjustable air suspension fitted, a climbing ability of 70 degrees and a fording depth of 300mm.
It's too early to say if the Off-Road pack is going to be sold in Australia, and the company has stated that if it were to be available, it would take it.
Almost all of the driver assistance systems which are familiar from the C-, E- and S-Class are available for the new GLC, including autonomous braking, automatic headlights, pedestrian detection, lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, and automated parking assist. There’s also a head-up display. Australian specifications await.
“Our new GLC represents a further, systematic step in the implementation of our successful SUV philosophy,” says member of the Management Board of Daimler AG and responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development, Thomas Weber.
“It combines the ultimate in driving comfort with a sporty touch, impresses on the road and – more than ever – off it as well, and appeals to the eye with the new design and equipment line.”
Full Australian pricing and specifications remain to be seen and will be confirmed closer to the local launch. Expect the company to offer both petrol and diesel engines.
It is currently unclear if the plug-in version will be sold here. Stamoulis said the prospects for that car remain unclear.
"At this stage it's not available, and it could be right-hand drive specific - but there might be some more news earlier next year but at this stage it's a no." he said. Buyers after a C-Class-based plug-in hybrid could instead opt for the C-Class Estate, which launches around November.
Pricing should kick off around $65,000, broadly in-line with the Q5 and X3, and the brand's own C-Class Estate.
Click on the Photos tab to see a full range of Mercedes-Benz GLC images.