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Long-term tests

Long-term test review: Mercedes GLC SUV

Final report: It’s time to say farewell to our Mercedes GLC, a car that shows Merc is back doing what it does best

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Mercedes GLC is precisely the sort of refined, comfortable and sophisticated family SUV that Mercedes should be making. It’s large enough to cope with a small family, and frugal enough to deliver decent real-world running costs. I’m really going to miss it.

Mileage: 7,500Economy: 42.0mpg

After several years without a proper rival to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, Mercedes plugged the gap with the GLC. This car’s predecessor, the GLK, wasn’t offered here, so the GLC has filled a yawning chasm in Mercedes UK’s line-up. And the best news of all? It’s done it while staying true to Mercedes’ values.

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There was a time, you see, when Mercedes went through a bit of a jealous phase. Perhaps frustrated at the progress being made by its more sporty rivals, Audi and BMW, the three-pointed star decided to try to join them in offering ‘focused’ road cars. The results were far from positive.

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Mercedes is back on form now, though – and I reckon few cars illustrate this more effectively than our GLC.

It’s partly because of the comfort. The GLC sits on the same platform as the C-Class and, perhaps afforded a bit of extra suspension travel by the higher ride height, it arguably rides even more sweetly. On 18-inch wheels and with the £1,495 optional air suspension, it did a great job of soaking up urban road scars and potholes.

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However, the GLC isn’t a one-trick pony. That suspension set-up did an admirable job of keeping body roll in check through the twisty stuff, even if the GLC isn’t quite as sharp or responsive as a BMW X3. On motorways, the car was really in its element. The nine-speed gearbox meant it was the consummate cruiser, with the revs hovering at little more than idle.

The other factor that made the GLC such a good long-distance companion was its fuel economy. Given its chunky 1,845kg kerbweight I wasn’t expecting much, but the 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine has been around for a while now, and is pretty efficient. I regularly saw north of 44mpg, which was an excellent return on a car that spent the majority of its life nudging its way along the A40 into and out of London.

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Indeed, the only thing I’d have wished for was a teeny bit more power. I imagine the ‘walk up’ to a GLC 250 d, which brings an extra 33bhp, is a relatively modest one when you look at the monthly payments. And a smidgen more grunt would help the GLC to get up to that comfortable cruise more easily – and possibly more quietly because it would be working less hard. The diesel growl under load is a big flaw.

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However, the rest of the package behaved perfectly. The classy and comfortable cabin stayed rattle-free, muddy toddler footprints wiped off easily, and while a few extra  millimetres of legroom in the rear seat area wouldn’t go amiss, the GLC coped perfectly well with my family’s life.

Mercedes GLC: fourth report

Mysterious low-speed judder is holding the Mercedes GLC SUV back

Mileage: 6,503Economy: 41.5mpg

It’s no surprise Auto Express readers are right in tune with what we’re experiencing with our test cars, as I’ve discovered. In recent weeks I’ve actually found something on our Mercedes GLC 220 d that bugs me – and it seems some of you have been having the same issue.

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For the most part, the GLC has been an excellent companion for nearly six months now. It’s comfortable, refined and surprisingly economical for an SUV of its size. It’s even coped well with my family’s clutter, too.

However, undertaking a few low-speed manoeuvres in car parks recently, I’ve noticed quite a bit of what I can only describe as ‘front-end shunt’ through the tyres. Put simply, the front wheels judder when I ask the GLC to go forwards under full steering lock – and in extreme cases, it feels as if the rubber is no longer gripping the road surface, but rather scrabbling across the top of it.

Of course, the speeds are so low that it’s not really an issue of control. It’s more that the noise of the battle between tyres and tarmac, resonating back up through the front structure of the car and the steering column, is pretty jarring and unpleasant.

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It turns out a few readers who own GLCs have already contacted our consumer editor Joe Finnerty over what sounds like the same issue. Many of you have raised the matter with your local dealer, while some have gone further still and spoken to Mercedes’ national customer service centre about it.

I’ve also been in touch with the brand, and it seems the issue is more widespread on vehicles with larger wheels than our car’s 18-inch alloys. It’s apparently related to cold weather, harder-compound summer tyres and the front suspension geometry of the GLC (and the C-Class, we’ve been told). On full steering lock the front tyres can break traction and skip across the asphalt. This is causing the shuddering I’ve been hearing.

Mercedes is at pains to point out that the symptom impacts upon comfort rather than safety – and it’s true that the speeds involved are incredibly low. But you wouldn’t be alone in wondering how it could have made it all the way through the GLC’s development without being picked up.

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Perhaps it’s down to the fact that UK cars usually spend all year on summer tyres, whereas in continental Europe owners tend to run all-weather rubber or switch to a set of smaller wheels with winter tyres in colder conditions.

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Either way, Mercedes UK is working with engineers back in Germany on a fix; we’d expect this to involve a change of tyre brand at least, or perhaps adopting all-weather tyres.

Mercedes GLC: third report

Mercedes GLC SUV is measuring up well as a family all-rounder

Mileage: 6,000Economy: 42.3mpg

Visit your local car dealership these days and you’ll struggle to find anything that’s not an SUV. These cars come in all shapes and sizes – everything from baby models such as the Nissan Juke up to seven-seat behemoths like the new Skoda Kodiaq. The Mercedes GLC I’m running is roughly halfway between these extremes, bang in the middle of the ‘family crossover’ zone.

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As my car’s departure starts to loom large, I’ve finally come to recognise the GLC as a pretty stellar bit of kit. This didn’t happen immediately, though; not because it feels cheap (it doesn’t) or because it hasn’t been economical (it’s averaging 40mpg-plus on the commute), but because of what came before it. I was previously in charge of our fleet’s frankly epic Skoda Superb Estate, an aircraft hangar on wheels that managed a holiday run to Belgium with all our clutter stowed neatly under the tonneau with room to spare.

The GLC is a very different animal – the cabin is smaller, for starters – so I was a little concerned at first with its potential to cope with what family life would throw at it. Things didn’t start brilliantly, either, as it became apparent that my lad’s baby seat would be close enough to the back of the passenger seat for him to kick it. He’d have needed stilts to do the same in the Skoda.

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However, as time has passed, the Mercedes has gone a long way towards proving itself on the practicality front. Sure, Henry has scuffed the seatback, but it’s made of robust plastic so the marks just wipe off. The boot is big enough for large loads, too, easily carrying a pair of suitcases or the classic mix of a child’s balance bike and a buggy.

And when I’m on my own, the GLC is a refined, luxurious cruiser, with a nicely finished dash, relaxing ride and bags of storage space inside. The central bin between the front seats has been a useful dumping ground for all sorts of clutter, allowing me to close the lid and maintain a comforting charade of tidiness.

Of course, there’s a price to pay for the GLC’s extra capability, but I think it’s worth it. Sit down with a salesman to discuss finance deals and you’ll soon realise this. Mercedes’ representative 10,000-miles-per-year PCP on the 220 d AMG Line model that sits above our Sport is based on a deposit of £7,126, with 36 monthly payments of £419; by contrast, a smaller GLA 220 d 4MATIC AMG Line (same trim with similar power and four-wheel drive) would cost £4,358 down and £349 per month.

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The reason? The GLC is bigger, of course, but it’s also in demand, while GLAs are – let’s put this kindly – more readily available.

Mercedes GLC: second report

SUV proves it's not just a pretty face by tackling a hair-raising off-road course

There comes a point – when the nose of our GLC appears to be pointing directly into the ground – when I begin to wonder if putting the Mercedes’ SUV credentials to the test is really a good idea.

We’re at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands in Surrey. Brooklands is the home of the world’s first purpose-built racing circuit – but it’s also the site of Mercedes UK’s ‘customer experience’, a centre where punters can be immersed in the brand, get their regular car serviced and, if they want, thrash an AMG performance version around the handling track.

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It’s a quiet Monday afternoon, yet at weekends Mercedes-Benz World is a busy place, attracting everyone from executives researching their next car to families putting their kids through driving lessons long before their 17th birthdays. Punters can also take a car off-road, using the same 10-acre course where we’ve taken our GLC. It’s a natural flood plain, so while there are a few man-made obstacles – big hills and huge V-shaped channels, mainly – the mud tracks and deep pools of water are pretty natural.

Truth be told, though, the Brooklands experts aren’t sure if a GLC has ever been round the place. That’s because customers aren’t expected – or allowed – to take their own vehicles on to the course. For the most part, the 4x4 experiences (which cost about £100 for an hour, Christmas shoppers) are tackled in more expensive and sophisticated GLEs, complete with proper centre diffs.

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The GLC is quite a bit milder. It has the 4MATIC four-wheel-drive system, of course, and our car also boasts the Off-road pack (which raises the ride height and includes extra driving modes) as well as air-suspension, which gives us even more control. Before we go anywhere near the rough stuff, therefore, we switch the GLC into its most extreme setting, with the ride height raised by a full 50mm and our top speed ‘soft-limited’ to 12mph.

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We start off with some gentle water-splashing for the cameras, then a deep gravel run where a front-wheel-drive car would have really struggled. Before I know it, we’re tackling what look like near-vertical inclines – with my guide for the day, Brooklands expert Barry Salmon, giving me plenty of encouragement. Going up the slopes is all about maintaining momentum. Coming down them is all about preventing it.

Sure enough, as a finale, we park up at the off-road track’s highest point to allow our snapper to take a static pic, and then come back down via one of the course’s steepest slopes. This time, I’mtold, it’s best to simply crawl down in tiny increments, and use the GLC’s off-road tricks only when all hope is lost. Gulp!

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I’m halfway down and teasing the brake pedal to keep progress steady but slow, when Barry informs me that even at this point – with a 58 per cent gradient showing on the GLC’s COMAND readout and my palms getting somewhat sweaty – we could stick a GLE into reverse and go back up.

That’s not an option in our car, so I wait until I feel the wheels sliding on the soaking-wet stones beneath us, then release the brake pedal to allow the GLC’s Hill Descent Control to bring us safely down to level ground. It requires focus, sure, but it also feels remarkably straightforward.

Do models such as the GLC really get used in this way? Most of them barely get dirty, let alone anywhere near terrain like we’ve experienced at Brooklands. But it’s fascinating to see how the car can indeed cope; it managed better than I’d expected, in fact. And even though the off-road experts at Mercedes-Benz World would never admit it, they may have been a little surprised, too.

Mercedes GLC: first report

Can the Mercedes GLC live up to its promise as one of 2016's most eagerly awaited new SUVs?

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There’s never been more choice if you’re in the market for an SUV. Mainstream or premium, every car brand on the planet seems to have a new offering.

Even so, it’s taken Mercedes a surprisingly long time to add a car like the GLC to its line-up. The company’s previous rival for the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the GLK, was never engineered for right-hand drive – so UK buyers wanting a family SUV from the German marque were left disappointed.

There was pent-up demand for the GLC, then. Thankfully, Mercedes delivered, as the GLC made it into our recent list of 2016’s best SUVs. Now we’re going to put one through six months of family life, just to confirm our view that it should be on your shortlist if you’re after a premium 4x4.

Apart from the twin-turbocharged V6 AMG GLC 43, Mercedes only offers the car with diesels in the UK. In fact, the range is basically just one engine – a four-cylinder 2.1-litre unit, available in GLC 220d form with 168bhp, or as a 201bhp GLC 250d. All versions get 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Luckily, there’s a bit more variety in the trim levels.

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Entry-level SE covers most of the basics, with 17-inch wheels, a reversing camera, climate control and a colour infotainment display. Sport spec adds extras like sat-nav, as well as 18-inch alloys and LED headlights. 

The peak of the normal range, AMG Line, upgrades to sports suspension and 19-inch wheels. It’s a debatable move on British roads, so we’ve gone for a Sport model.

A GLC 220d 4MATIC Sport costs £37,575 before you’ve ticked a single box. Our car has a few extras, though, including the off-road package, which brings raised suspension, a wider range of driving modes, downhill speed regulation and a sportier front bumper. This is £495, which doesn’t look bad if you think you’re going to get your GLC dirty.

Other options on our car are more pricey; the Premium Plus pack eschews the Garmin-based standard navigation for the brand’s proper COMAND system, and adds a sunroof, keyless go, ambient LED lighting and a Burmester sound system, but is a hefty £2,995. The Driving Assistance pack brings blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control with steering assistance for nearly £1,700. Throw in air suspension (£1,495), metallic paint and a tow bar, and the GLC 220d’s price rises to £45,650. 

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That sounds expensive – because it is. But if you’re trading in a decent car and buying the GLC on finance, the ‘walk up’ isn’t so bad. 

Assuming you’re putting in Mercedes’ representative deposit of £6,557, and opt for a three-year/30,000-mile PCP deal, the monthly price for the added spec will rise from £399 as standard to £586. A £187-per-month hit isn’t manageable for everyone, but if you’re in the market for a car like this, it’s a reasonable price to pay for all those toys. 

Early impressions? On the road, the 220d doesn’t feel like it will rip up tree stumps, so it’s easy to see why many buyers will opt for the 250. But it’s refined, with suspension as comfortable as on any recent Mercedes and a premium-feeling cabin. It’ll be interesting to see if it holds up over six months’ family use.

*Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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