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A quiver full of arrows. That's not just the title of a Jeffrey Archer book, but also a statement of preparedness. An answer for every question. It is a position now held in the most part by Mercedes-Benz, who complete their passenger-car armoury with the final missing piece, the medium-sized SUV. Meet the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC.
From afar, the new GLC does look like a slightly lifted C-Class Estate. And while the GLC does stand taller by about 200mm, the SUV is actually 46mm shorter and 80mm wider than the C-Class wagon.
There is more room inside the GLC too, with its extra height allowing for more voluminous hair-dos in the rear seat (31mm over the C-Class Estate). The GLC also rides 130mm higher.
Importantly for an SUV, cargo volume is 550 litres with the seats up and 1600L with the rear seats folded flat – an increase of 60L and 90L respectively over the wagon.
On offer are two 2.1-litre diesel models, the 125kW/400Nm GLC 220d and 150kW/500Nm GLC 250d, and one 2.0-litre petrol, the 155kW/350Nm GLC 250. Mercedes-Benz Australia says they are expecting supply to be the GLC’s biggest challenge, and on the face of it, they might be right.
It’s a smart looking car, perhaps more conservative than some, but it’s clean, classy and immediately identifiable as a Mercedes. There are 12 paint colours available, including the rather striking Hyacinth Red (a $2990 Designo option), but the car you see in the majority of photos is Tenorite Grey (a $1990 option).
Ranging from $64,500 to $69,900 (before on-road costs), all variants feature side steps and roof rails and there is an optional $2990 AMG pack that adds different wheels and revised front and rear bars.
In standard trim the GLC is priced slightly higher than medium SUV offerings from BMW and Audi, but the level of standard equipment does a great job at shifting the value equation in the Benz’s favour.
Adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, surround-view parking camera, automatic parking, keyless entry… the list of standard goodies goes on. As an example, to equip an equivalent BMW X3 to the same level as the GLC 250 requires some $13,000 worth of options to be added. Granted, BMW have a tendency to package options more competitively at the point of purchase, but for pure retail figures the value argument is hard to ignore.
The GLC shares the same modern cabin as the C-Class saloon and wagon and with the extra headroom and higher point of vision, is a very pleasant place to spend time. Though, we will say that the door sills are quite high and resting an elbow on the edge is a tad awkward.
The rear offers plenty of room and creature comforts, although the second-row bench itself is a bit short for taller passengers and not as comfortable as it could be. There are no specific 'family' features like the integrated booster seat seen in the Volvo XC60, but the air vents, pockets, cup holders and arm-rest cubby should keep little hands adequately busy.
Out back, there's a power tailgate, quick-fold buttons for the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats and, thanks to a lack of a spare tyre of any sort, clever underfloor storage (including a handy compressible crate).
All GLC models use run-flat tyres and come with 24-hour roadside assist for the duration of the warranty period, but it’s worth being aware of the missing spare, particularly if you have a spirit of adventure or a knack for knocking sharp kerbs.
We got to spend time with all three engine options at this week's local GLC launch, taking in a mixture of suburban and country roads in Victoria’s Yarra Valley (including a car fitted with the AMG suspension package). We also spent a couple of days prior to the launch with the GLC 250 in urban Melbourne.
None of the initial crop of GLC models will set the world on fire in terms of straight-line performance, but they are all zippy enough for common daily duties. The SUV has a 190kg weight handicap over the C-Class Estate and as a result does feel a bit more sluggish off the mark.
The 125kW 220d doesn’t feel markedly different to the 155kW 250d at urban speeds, but takes longer to pick up from 80km/h during country overtaking for example. Again, something to keep in mind of you are a regular tourer. Both are responsive from around 2000rpm and tend to reach and hold speed without any problem.
The GLC 250 petrol is a bit punchier when pushed, but is noisier under load than the diesels and thirstier around town. That said, both petrol and diesel cars achieved 7.4L/100km on our launch test loops, the petrol climbing to around 9.5L/100km for the wholly urban drive.
With its combination of low-down response and better fuel consumption, our pick of the range would be the GLC 250d. Given current tax concessions on diesel cars too, the $2000 list-price premium is negated in the driveaway calculation, so both 250’s end up costing the same out the door.
The GLC is pleasantly quiet, with the diesel seemingly more hushed than the petrol, although all cars exhibited noticeable wind noise from the A-pillars and wing mirrors at 80km/h and above.
On the move, the GLC offers five driving modes, 'Eco', 'Comfort', 'Sport', 'Sport+', and 'Individual', which change throttle response, steering weight and suspension dampening rates.
There is a noticeable change between settings, but nothing too extreme. We'd be tipping that changes between Comfort and Sport will likely form the basis of most owner behaviour, but having the Individual setting to configure (our preference of) the Sport suspension and Comfort steering is a welcome addition. Sport+ is largely pointless for the most part – let's save that for the AMG version.
Fair to note too that constantly switching modes can make the car try to relearn your driving style and result in the occasional clumsy shift or shudder from the driveline when coming to a halt. Keep it in one mode and the experience is much smoother.
Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic automatic transmission suits the GLC's engine lineup and is, for the most part, smooth and accurate in its gear selection. Kick-down for overtaking can serve up a small delay as you hear the car adjust more than once, and the whole shebang isn’t as smooth as the driveline alternatives from the likes of BMW or Audi, but that’s a small criticism in an otherwise solid setup.
The extra suspension travel and more ‘SUV-centric’ tune of the GLC gives a more compliant ride than the C-Class sedan. Being a Mercedes, though, it errs toward the softer side, resulting in more body roll and rebound oscillation than in say a BMW X3.
This can be reduced somewhat by selecting Sport mode, but that really is only if you are driving the GLC. Around town and on the majority of urban surfaces, the default Comfort setting provides a very usable mix of ride satisfaction and response. Steering is more light than lightning, but it makes the GLC a breeze to deal with on all the less glamorous driving tasks, such as parking.
If Comfort isn’t comfortable enough for you, keep in mind that there is an optional ($2490) air suspension package available to take away some of the sharpness from those run-flat tyres and, in the case of the 220d, 19-inch wheels (both 250 models roll on 20s). Interestingly the ride quality doesn’t suffer much with the AMG wheel and suspension package, making it more a style choice than a dynamic one, and likely a more popular choice because of it.
For a first step into the medium SUV segment in Australia, Mercedes have come out of the blocks charging. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC really is an easy car to like. A combination of premium sensations and sporting undertones mated to practical packaging and solid value.
It may not be the best in any one area, but it's very good in almost every way. That’s a formula that has worked for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and given the SUV’s extra popularity and more impressive value, it makes the Mercedes-Benz GLC another potential winner for the three-pointed star.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.