Mercedes-Benz recently updated the big-selling GLC mid-sized SUV in a bid to upsell existing owners and to keep others away from the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60.
The version tested here is the most accessible in the range, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC200. At $66,100 before on-road costs, it's quite accessible for a family wagon rocking the coveted three-pointed star badge.
Only true aficionados will spot the design changes outside, with the most obvious cues being the new grille that tapers more at the bottom, sleeker new LED headlights, and a different wheel design.
Of course, there was never much wrong with the way the GLC looked. While many competitors want their SUVs to look overtly butch or sporty, the Benz rocks a rounded car-like look that honestly conveys the brand's intentions.
There are more substantial changes inside, headlined by a bigger 10.25-inch centre tablet and new 12.3-inch digital instrument display ahead of the driver that can show maps, audio settings and driving data. There's also a rather fetching new steering wheel.
The infotainment also runs the new MBUX software found on other Benz models from the A-Class to the Sprinter van, with conversational voice command inputs ("hey Mercedes, please change the temperature to 22 degrees" or "Hey Mercedes, please call Mum"), plus a new touchscreen, a laptop-style trackpad instead of a rotary dial, and little touchpads on each steering wheel spoke.
The only downside is that the MBUX system in the latest all-new Mercedes models tends to be displayed on two big screens mounted side-by-side, not on two separate display hubs like in the older GLC.
It's still a pretty handsome cabin, with black ash open-pore wood grain trim, silver inserts on the dash and doors, beautiful speaker covers and switchgear that I just kept pressing for no reason other than a tactile one, signature electric seat adjustment buttons on the doors, a split centre console lid, turbine-style round air vents, real stitching everywhere, and well-bolstered seats. It feels as premium as it should.
The back seats offer excellent leg room and head room for two adults or three kids, and amenities include cupholders, grab handles, air vents and two USB-C points.
The boot is accessed by an electric tailgate and is a hefty 550L including under-floor storage, and the back seats flip-fold 40:20:40 to squeeze in longer items if needed. There's also a neat pull-out luggage cover. The standard tyres are run-flats, hence no spare.
Standard equipment on this 'base' model includes hard-wearing Artico fake-leather seat trim and electric adjustment, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting with 64 colours to choose from, sat-nav with live updates, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, and access to the Mercedes me Connect smartphone app that lets you track your car and manage servicing, among other functions.
Safety features include nine airbags, camera-based traffic sign assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree camera with auto parking software, and Active Brake Assist autonomous emergency braking that detects pedestrians, cyclists and other cars.
Its ANCAP crash rating is five stars with a 2015 date stamp. When it was tested, the GLC scored a near-flawless 95 per cent adult occupant protection rating, and 89 per cent for child occupant protection. Rear top-tether and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points are obviously standard.
We have to stop and make a detour here before continuing to the drive. Our 'base' GLC200 test car might wear a tempting sub-$70K price, but that's before you start ticking options boxes. And our press-fleet loaner had rather a lot of those. Nearly $17,000 worth after taxes.
These included the $2000 Driver Assistance Package (active cruise control, steering assist built into the lane-departure warning system, active blind-spot monitoring that stops you erroneously merging or lane-changing, and evasive steering assist).
Other options included the $1000 Seat Comfort Package (memory presets, heating, nicer headrests), $538 Night Package (black exterior bits and roof rails), $4000 Vision Package (sunroof, head-up display, Burmester surround-sound system), $3846 AMG Line Package (20-inch wheels, AMG bodykit, mats and pedals), and $769 aluminium-look running boards with rubber studs.
Here's the thing. The GLC300 version that sits one rung above the GLC200 costs $11,600 more, but adds a number of extras such as a wireless charging pad for your phone, 20-inch wheels, aluminium running boards, a much-needed proximity key, multi-beam LED headlights, privacy glass, the Driver Assist package, and a more powerful drivetrain with AWD. In other words, it's a better buy.
Providing power for the GLC200 is a revised version of the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine making 145kW and 320Nm, up 10kW on the outgoing 200 (the GLC300's version makes 190kW/370Nm).
Unlike all other GLCs, the 200 version is rear-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive, meaning it doesn't even pretend to have rough-road chops. It uses a column-shifter 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission, with the extra cog or two over most competitors simply challenging the control unit rather than giving meaningful performance differences.
It's fairly efficient for a SUV this size (4669mm long and weighing 1813kg), with a claim of 7.8 litres on the combined cycle from the 66L tank. The downside is you must run it on 98RON premium fuel. It provides plenty of punch, dashing to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds and offering plenty of mid-range torque. The stop/start system for urban use is also very smooth.
The steering is quite light, making the car simple to twirl around town, which is helped by the high driving position. And while it's not as sporty as a BMW X3 or Alfa Romeo Stelvio in corners, it's arguable that target buyers mind.
The standard suspension comprises passive dampers, but you can pay extra for adaptive ones linked to the driving modes to make the ride softer or firmer by the touch of a button. Pricier again is the option for air suspension if you seek to take control of height adjustment.
The ride on standard 19-inch wheels may be okay, but on the optional 20s as tested the car had a tendency to ride too stiffly over sharp hits such as road joins or potholes, detracting from the otherwise premium experience.
From an ownership perspective, you get a three-year warranty, which is starting to look pretty short compared to mass-market brands with five or more years of cover. Servicing intervals are annual or every 25,000km, and you can pre-pay for three services for $2150 all up.
So, there's a revisit of the entry-grade Mercedes-Benz GLC. The new infotainment and displays, revised engine, and familiar practical and stylish interior layout mean it still fits the mould that has made it such an enduring sales success. As far as updates go, it's neither minor nor major, but somewhere in between.
Were I recommending a friend keen on buying one, I'd be urging them to find the extra cash for a more appetising GLC300. Or at the very least, asking them to fit adaptive dampers and steer clear of 20-inch wheels. Ride comfort is a premium-car prerequisite, after all.