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The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC is the latest in an ever-growing portfolio of capable off-road vehicles that also features the driving refinement of a passenger sedan. Based on the widely acclaimed C-Class platform, the GLC’s all round ability and ride quality is really no surprise.
In motoring terms, it wasn’t that long ago that the first ‘luxury SUV’ was introduced to the off-road world - in the form of the now iconic Range Rover. Critics were many and the British manufacturer was roundly criticised for trying to introduce a sense of luxury and refinement to a segment that had never needed or asked for it. Things have changed in the time since, that’s for sure. Now, the luxury SUV market encompasses so many brands and segments it’s hard to keep up.
CarAdvice has been impressed by the GLC during initial testing, and with time comes the opportunity to step into specific models to take a closer look at their various strengths and weaknesses. On test here we have the Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, which starts from a base price of $64,500 plus the usual on-road costs. Our test vehicle has been optioned with the ‘COMAND’ package ($2300) and the Vision Package ($3069). That brings the final price to $69,869 plus on-road costs.
You can read our Mercedes-Benz GLC international launch drive here.
You can read our Mercedes-Benz GLC local launch drive here.
You can read our Mercedes-Benz GLC pricing and specification story here.
The 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine fitted to our test model belies its diminutive capacity with solid outputs of 125kW and 400Nm. The chunky torque figure was especially noteworthy during our daily driving routine as it ensured the 220d never felt underpowered. Modern, small-capacity turbo diesel engines are a marvel in the way they generate and deliver their power and torque, and this engine is a shining example of that.
If you desire more grunt but diesel is still the favoured option, you can step up to the 150kW/500Nm 250d. There’s also a petrol model, but after a week behind the wheel of the 220d (mainly around town), we found it hard to argue against the oiler, with a real world fuel usage figure of 7.5 litres/100km. Even considering the impressive fuel consumption figures of the 220d, the 250d does remain the CarAdvice pick of the range.
While the listed starting price is slightly higher than a comparable offering from fellow Germans BMW or Audi, Mercedes-Benz argues the level of standard kit on offer from the GLC more than makes the case for that slight price discrepancy. That factor rings true in the real world too, with none of my passengers during my testing realising they were actually being ferried around in the ‘base’ model.
We like the exterior styling, which is equal parts lifted C-Class and classic Mercedes-Benz SUV. There’s no doubt the GLC is a stylish SUV despite erring on the side of conservative. The jacked up styling isn’t just about design though, with the lifted ride height making entry and egress easier than it would otherwise be in a sedan, while the load height in the cargo area is easier to access, especially when you’re moving heavier items. That’s made even easier by the powered tailgate, which is standard across the range.
On the subject of cargo, the GLC offers 550 litres of storage with the second row in use and 1600 litres with those seats folded flat. The clever electric switch mechanism makes dropping the seats easy, and the GLC easily accommodated a full-sized road bicycle with 40 percent of the 40:20:40 split fold second row dropped down during our test.
The cabin features signature ‘Benz build quality, fit and finish and cosseting. It matters not that the GLC we’re testing is an entry-level model, as the cabin feels as luxurious and insulated as any other more expensive Mercedes-Benz model. The leather trim is beautifully executed, and the door-mounted electric seat adjusters have that signature touch of quality too. We liked the matte dark wood panel look throughout the centre console - it’s a vast improvement on piano black finishes that highlight dust and fingerprints. An Aussie summer means we didn't call on the seat heating function, but the seat cooling works well, making for smooth cruising on hot, humid days.
The driving position strikes an admirable balance between sedan and SUV, with solid all-round visibility and enough adjustment in the seats. If you have properly long-legged occupants up front there won’t be massive amounts of legroom in the second row - the GLC is a medium SUV after all. CarAdvice Founder, Alborz Fallah reports that with two child seats fitted in the second row, there's basically no room left over, so if you have two young children, that could be a potential deal breaker. Still, the GLC never feels cramped or claustrophobic in the cabin, even when you’re running round four up, meaning the GLC does remain a very sensible family SUV outside the baby seat issue. The C-Class, which has been going gangbusters in Australia, might strangely have found its fiercest competition in the form of a stablemate.
The physical size of the GLC contributes to that sensible family angle too - it’s big enough to be spacious and comfortable, but it's not so big you’ll be struggling to negotiate tight laneways and underground carparks. If you live anywhere in or near a large city and you must have an SUV, there’s no doubt this is the size you should be considering.
If you’ve never owned a Mercedes-Benz before, you might take some time to become accustomed to the column-mounted gear selector. It’s not immediately the most intuitive setup, but it quickly becomes so, and quick manoeuvres like three-point turns or reverse parking won’t get any easier than they do with a column shifter. Mounting the shift lever on the column has a more significant design and ergonomics advantage as well, as it cleans up the centre console area. While that means less switchgear and gadgetry in that region, it also means the Mercedes-Benz infotainment system controls are even easier to use than they would otherwise be.
Three different control modes mean you can use your voice, the rotator dial, or touchpad to access the infotainment menus, and the system is user-friendly and easy to learn. We found that Bluetooth connected quickly and stayed connected. Callers reported handset levels of audio clarity from the Bluetooth system even when the GLC was on the freeway. The propriety Mercedes-Benz satellite navigation system is excellent as well, being both accurate and easy to use.
One polarising feature of the GLC interior is likely to be the way the tablet-like screen is mounted atop the dash fascia. I don’t love it, but some people think it’s the greatest thing in audio entertainment systems. The materials used to build it aren’t cheap or tacky and the screen is crystal clear, but I just think it looks a bit like an afterthought that’s been added on. Regardless, it does the job it needs to do.
With one or two occupants in the cabin, we found the GLC’s ride to be comfortable enough around town, although it definitely errs on the side of firm at the outer edges of its travel. It follows the recent SUV trend of blending sedan-like ride with extra ground clearance, and while that works in theory, the result is an SUV that can’t quite soak up really poor road surfaces and imperfections like a typical SUV.
With three hefty blokes on board (yes I was one of them), the GLC actually bottomed its suspension out on sharper speed platforms and angled speed humps. It’s a minor niggle sure, but it’s a factor that will make itself known to buyers accustomed to a softer, more absorbing ride. Standard 19-inch rims and run-flat tyres probably don’t help matters, although they do look stylish, which can be more than enough for most people. Over the usual city fare the GLC is comfortable enough and composed, with only the sharper surfaces unsettling the comfort factor. Mercedes-Benz’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system (split 45:55 for the 220d) means you’ll feel safe and assured over any surface, even slick roads during a rainstorm.
The turbo diesel engine is a solid performer around town or on the highway up to 110km/h. In fact, there wasn't a single occasion where I was left wanting the larger 250d diesel engine while piloting the GLC on test. The 2.1-litre is enthusiastic enough to get the GLC up to speed rapidly, with torque in reserve for roll-on overtaking or cruising up to freeway speed. The engine never feels stressed or overworked either, a fact borne out by the efficient real world fuel figure.
Paired to an extremely smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox, the engine just ticks along while you remain in near silence inside the cabin. There’s only the tiniest hint of road and wind noise that enters the cabin at around 100km/h on coarse chip surfaces, but otherwise, the GLC is the epitome of calm. The steering exhibits some of the numbness we’ve seen with various electrically assisted systems, but you’ll definitely appreciate the lightness at low speed.
It can be argued that people are buying SUVs when they don’t really need them. I've personally held this opinion myself. Regardless, that trend doesn’t look like tailing off any time soon and the result is a market that is now bulging with different SUV’s that mostly claim to do all things for all people. The GLC might just be that SUV, though. It’s big enough without being too big, and it offers plenty of standard equipment across three engine variants. The end result being an SUV that is thoroughly pleasurable to live with day-to-day.
I personally won’t be rushing out to buy an SUV for running around town anytime soon, but if you are, and affordable luxury is a key, motivating factor, the GLC mounts a compelling case. While the more powerful 250d might be the CarAdvice pick of the range, after having spent a week behind the wheel, I think it would be hard to go past the 220d. It’s a very solid all-rounder at a very attractive price.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Christian Barbeitos.