Mercedes GLC review
The Mercedes GLC is the brand's first UK model to rival the Audi Q5 and BMW X3
For UK buyers, the Mercedes GLC has been a long time coming. Its predecessor, the GLK, was never available in right-hand drive – forcing premium mid-size SUV buyers to shun Mercedes and look towards the BMW X3 and Audi’s hugely popular Q5 instead.
Available only as a five-door SUV for the time being, a sleeker BMW X4-rivalling GLC Coupe is expected at a later date. Hybrid and petrol versions are on sale in the US, Europe and China, but the UK gets a diesel-only line-up for the time being.
That means a choice of GLC 220d and GLC 250d, both of which use the 2.1-litre diesel engine from the Mercedes C-Class saloon. With 168bhp and 201bhp respectively, neither will set the pulse racing – but both offer impressive refinement and best-in-class fuel economy of up to 56.5mpg. A nine-speed automatic gearbox is standard across all UK models.
No AMG-GLC 63 has been confirmed yet, though a GLC 350e plug-in hybrid will arrive in late 2016. That car does 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds yet emits just 60g/km of CO2, meaning rock-bottom company car costs and free road tax. It also boasts an all-electric range of 21 miles.
Specs are extensive and a little confusing, with basic SE, Sport and AMG Line cars also available with SE Executive, Premium or Premium Plus packages. All cars get an automatic tailgate, reversing camera, privacy glass, DAB and keyless go. As with other Mercs, the Sport and AMG Line cars get bigger wheels, more aggressive styling and bespoke interior options, as well as park assist, sat-nav and heated front seats.
Our choice: GLC 220d Sport
Engines, performance and drive
If you want a sporty SUV, take a look at the BMW X3 or Porsche Macan. The Mercedes GLC majors on comfort and refinement, and as a result, isn’t particularly dynamic – despite having a rear-biased torque split, meaning that while it's four-wheel drive, more than half of the power goes to the rear wheels.
That’s not to say it’s bad to drive. While it may not be particularly playful, it is calm and composed on all but the very worst roads – and thanks to the standard 4MATIC four-wheel drive and raised ride height, can hack it in the rough stuff if you give it an opportunity.
Granted, the only cars we’ve driven were on air suspension, but all UK cars will get steel springs and adaptive dampers as standard. The former allows you to switch through Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, with even the latter offering a decent level of comfort over rutted surfaces and potholes. The steering is well weighted and direct, and the diesels pack enough punch for mid-range overtaking.
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We wouldn’t bother with the more powerful GLC 250d, as the 220d is almost as fast and costs less. The latter will do 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and hit 130mph flat out, while the 250d cuts this to 7.6 seconds and adds an extra 8mph to the top speed. Theoretically, the higher-powered car should be more fun to drive, thanks to its 31:69 front-rear torque split, but in all honesty you’ll struggle to tell the difference between this and the 45:55 separation on the GLC 220d.
Both use the 2.1-litre diesel from the C-Class, with 168bhp and 201bhp respectively, while the more powerful model also packs an extra 100Nm of torque. It is livelier when you floor the throttle, but the standard car should be enough for most people.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Despite being a mid-sized SUV, Mercedes claims both diesel models will return more than 50mpg. In fact, no matter which you go for, both quote identical fuel economy and emissions numbers.
That means both cars will do 56.5mpg and emit just 129g/km of CO2. An Audi Q5 2.0-litre TDI Quattro will return 50.4mpg and 147g/km, while a similarly-specced BMW X3 xDrive 20d does 52.3mpg and 142g/km – meaning the Merc should trounce them on day-to-day running costs.
There’s a plug-in hybrid 350e on the way, too, although it won’t arrive in the UK until late 2016. That car will do 109mpg, and emit just 60g/km of CO2 for free road tax. It’s a shame we won’t get it here for such a long time because the cheap bills and tax benefits would be a massive plus for company car drivers.
Servicing and maintenance costs should be on a par with the BMW and Audi, and the fact it shares a number of parts with the C-Class saloon should bring down costs in the long term.
Interior, design and technology
Undeniably recognisable as a Mercedes SUV, the GLC gets the distinctive family face, jacked-up suspension and a high-quality interior. Although UK buyers were never offered its predecessor (the GLK) the GLC is altogether more curvaceous, ditching the boxy styling for sweeping lines and a more fluid rear end.
The purposeful grille and LED daytime running lights give the GLC an imposing nose, and it's longer than the outgoing GLK. This plus the high roofline means decent practicality, while the S-Class Coupe-style rear lights add a touch of class to the overall design.
All cars come with 17-inch alloy wheels, an automatic tailgate, tinted windows and a reversing camera, while mid-range Sport models add larger rims, heated seats, Garmin sat-nav and a new interior lighting package. Range-topping AMG Line cars are expected to be popular, adding a unique bodykit, 19-inch wheels, sports suspension and AMG details for the interior.
On top of the basic cars, you can also spec a series of optional packages, adding more desirable kit to each trim level. The SE Executive Package adds heated front seats, park assist and sat-nav to the base SE, while the Premium Package gets memory seats, a panoramic roof ambient lighting and keyless entry. Premium Plus builds on this, with all the aforementioned kit plus online connectivity, road sign assist and a high-end Burmester stereo.
Inside, all cars feel suitably upmarket, with loads of well-finished surfaces and top-notch materials. Anyone who has driven a C-Class will find the familiar steering wheel-mounted gear lever intuitive to use, while the central infotainment controller is really neatly designed, with pinch-to-zoom capability that makes rival touchscreens look outdated.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Mercedes GLC sits perfectly alongside rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. The 550 litre boot is exactly the same size as the BMW’s and 10 litres bigger than you’ll find in the Audi. Fold down the standard-fit 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats and you’ll reveal a 1,600 litre boot – again identical to the BMW.
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Rear seat space is pretty good too, with plenty of head and legroom. There’s a rather large transmission tunnel thanks to the four-wheel drive system, but with large footwells, there’s enough room either side to spread out and get comfy.
Storage spaces are plentiful, with a decent-sized glovebox, roomy doorbins and nets in the boot. There’s also a handy cubby in between the front seats, and another ahead of the infotainment selector.
Reliability and Safety
Mercedes pulled out all the stops to ensure victory over its German rivals in the 2015 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey.
An 11th place finish saw it top BMW, Audi and Volkswagen – with owners praising their Mercs for ease of driving, performance and build quality. Practicality and running costs were two of the worst categories for Mercedes, though the spacious and frugal GLC should provide better results in 2016.
Because the GLC is such a new car, it didn’t feature in the run-down of the top 200 models. The C-Class came an impressive 42nd – though there were questions remain over the car’s reliability, finishing 188th overall.
In terms of safety, the GLC should be one of the top cars in its class. While we’ll need to wait until Euro NCAP put the SUV through its stringent crash tests, we already expect it to surpass the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 thanks to its plethora of safety systems.
All GLCs get ESP with Dynamic Cornering Assist, Crosswind Assist and Collision Prevention Assist Plus. Of course, like many new cars there’s a host of airbags, seatbelt reminders and ABS brakes, while buyers can also spec Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot. This allows drivers a degree of autonomy – with the car able to accelerate, steer and brake of its own accord in busy motorway traffic.