New Mercedes GLC 2019 review

The new Mercedes GLC has been updated for 2019 to keep it competitive against the likes of the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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The revised Mercedes GLC takes what was already an accomplished SUV and adds to the appeal. Buyers are sure to love the improved on-board tech, while the engines are more refined and stronger than ever. However, question marks over the economy of this powerful diesel version mean that the six-cylinder BMW X3 xDrive30d might still be a better alternative. We’ll confirm once we’ve tried the new GLC in the UK, but we expect the cheaper 220 d might remain the pick of the range.

This is the refreshed Mercedes GLC. Through its mid-life facelift, the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 rival has been treated to new engines, updated tech and some subtle styling tweaks.

We’ll start with the design changes, because without a little help, they’d probably go unnoticed. From the front, the headlights are slimmer and feature a new lighting signature. The grille is new, too and, as before, its shape depends on which trim level you go for. Below, there’s a tweaked bumper.

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There are minor tweaks to the back bumper, too, while the tail lights get new graphics. The changes are completed by extra chrome bits along the sills and new wheel designs up to 20 inches in diameter.

At first glance, the interior looks similar, too, but it’s the changes to the tech that are most significant. The GLC now adopts Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, which means a new widescreen 10-inch display sits – still rather incongruously – on top of the dash. It can still be operated using the laptop-style touch pad on the centre console or, for the first time in a GLC, via touchscreen. 

All but the basic Sport trim (only available in the UK on the cheapest diesel model) now have digital dials, too: a seven-inch screen is standard, while an optional 10-inch display offers greater customisation. Just ahead of it sits an S-Class-like steering wheel, which gets touch-sensitive pads to allow little thumb swipes to move through on-screen menus. It’s much more intuitive, and the new tech looks fantastic, too.

Save for some minor trim pieces and colours, the rest of the interior is just the same as before. That means that it boasts a classy dashboard layout that’s up with the Volvo XC60 as one of the nicest driving environments in the class. It also means that it’s not quite as spacious as an Audi Q5 in the back (unless you’re carrying three, in which case it’s slightly better), but overall even tall adults will be more than happy.

Perhaps the biggest changes for the GLC come under the bonnet. The engine line-up has been overhauled, and of the five new units offered in Europe, the UK will get just two 2.0-litre diesels from launch – each lifted from the updated C-Class range. The 220 d makes 191bhp – only slightly down on the previous GLC 250 d – and 400Nm of torque, while the more potent 300 d driven here makes 242bhp and 500Nm. 

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At a later date, UK buyers will also be offered the 254bhp GLC 300 petrol. A revised turbocharger and cam timing help to heat up the exhaust particulate filter more efficiently, while a mild-hybrid system recovers energy that would be otherwise lost under braking and deploys it under acceleration. A plug-in petrol-electric hybrid will arrive later, but the hydrogen-powered fuel cell variant, will not.

It’s hard to argue against the two diesels, however. The 300 d unit is as smooth and refined as the 300 petrol alternative, yet the useful extra torque means that it feels much more muscular in the real world. We’ve yet to try the less potent 220 d, but given that it’ll still sprint from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, we’ve got a hunch that it’ll be more than adequate for most buyers – and the likely be pick of the range.

We’ll need to spend a little longer in one to get a definitive word on real-world fuel consumption, but the GLC 300 d’s on-paper figures of 39.2mpg and 157g/km aren’t all that promising. The BMW X3 xDrive30d, which offers more power and performance from its brilliant six-cylinder engine, delivers identical CO2 emissions and comparable fuel economy, too.

The BMW manages to edge the Merc for fun, as well. It’s thanks in no small part to the GLC’s steering: it’s not that it’s unduly heavy, but the slow rack makes it seem as if negotiating a corner takes a lot more effort than in the X3. However, once it’s committed to a turn, the GLC stays stable and grips well, and there’s less body roll than you’ll get in the Q5, or the XC60 in particular.

Of course, comfort is likely to matter more to most buyers, and yet the GLC doesn’t quite top the class here, either. There are three suspension variants through the range: steel springs and dampers, the same springs with adaptive dampers, and a fully air-sprung system. We tried the last of this trio, and while it remains comfortable for the most part, it doesn’t quite float over the worst bumps in the way an Audi or the Volvo might.

Prices for the revised GLC range start from £39,420 for the GLC 220 d Sport. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, heated front seats and a reversing camera. For an extra £1,750, the AMG Line adds 19-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, AMG seats and other sporty styling trinkets. 

Above the AMG Line there is the AMG Line Premium trim (adding multibeam LED headlights, 20-inch wheels, the larger 10-inch digital driver’s display and augmented nav), Premium Plus (adding a panoramic roof and a Burmester sound system) and Premium Plus Ultimate (with air suspension). The car tested here is the range-topping GLC 300d AMG Line Premium Plus Ultimate, which costs £54,210.

Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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