Mercedes’ rival to the BMW X3 and Porsche Macan is now on the market. But how does the new GLC 300 stack up?
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|Inline 4cyl, turbo, 1991cc||242bhp @ 5500rpm||370Nm (273lb ft) @ 1300–4000rpm||6.5secs||236kph||1815kg (133bhp/ton)||$51,900|
Okay, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC might well be a raised C-Class, but it’s still, nevertheless, a crucial model for our beloved Stuttgart powerhouse. With the crossover segment being more popular than ever, the GLC is facing fierce competition from its Bavarian rivals in the form of the Porsche Macan, BMW X3 and Audi Q5, and standing out among this company is not as easy as you may think.
As a replacement to the GLK, the new GLC is both longer and more spacious than its predecessor. At the core is an extended wheelbase, meaning more room across the rear seats, which can now accommodate two adults comfortably, plus a larger boot space boot. Perhaps more significant though is the weight, the GLC having undergone a crash diet and received additional bracing to make the crossover, in theory at least, more nimble. And it is. Sort of.
Mechanically, what’s new about the second generation GLC ?
Based on the C-Class chassis, the GLC now features multi-link suspension at all corners (four-link at the front, five at the rear), which compensates the high gait and keeps bodyroll well maintained. Consequently, road going is blissful, with quick directional changes and a great feeling through the pristine signature Mercedes: the steering won’t bombard with feel or weight, thanks to the additional power-assistance, but it’s fairly forgiving for a mid-sized mini SUV. It’s a road-holding demeanour that’s all the more impressive when you consider the ground clearance, which can vary from 181mm to 225mm depending on the selected five-way driving modes.
In terms of technology, there’s little left on the options list on our test model, but those 5-star Euro NCAP ratings don’t come easily, meaning adaptive cruise control, lane changing alerts, blind spot detection, and a gazillion airbags all feature prominently. Something needs to be said about the infotainment system though. It’s not great. Bluetooth connection is touch and go, you can only have one phone connected at a time, and why Mercedes felt a touch pad on top of the rotary dial that controls the system would be a good idea is anybody’s guess (don’t be too surprised if, with one slip of the pinkie, you end up in one of seemingly hundreds of sub-menus).
Another highlight is the new nine-speed 4MATIC automatic transmission, which…I mean, that has to be some kind of record, right? Eat that, Audi and BMW, more is always better. Especially when the gear changes are so quick and subtle as on this car. Impressive stuff. Or it would be, were it not for the engine…
Tell us about the drive…
At the heart of our GLC 300 is a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 242bhp and 273lb ft of torque, moving more than two tons of metal (plus the organic bit behind the wheel) and an admittedly intelligent four-wheel drive system that rarely lacks traction. When driving by nine – again, NINE – gears though, even the turbocharging rarely adds spice to the acceleration. Simply put, the power is never there when you need it: try to overtake traffic on the highway, and you’ll need to wait a few extra seconds while the transmission shuffles down several gears for top revs. All with a screaming, mechanical four-cylinder soundtrack to emphasise just how hard it is working.
Bear in mind you can shift manually using the paddle shifters – which eliminates the two top gears – but the linear acceleration will still feel comparatively lacklustre.
Of course, it would be foolish to get too bogged down with that: there are cars you want to hustle by the neck and others you need to take you from A to B comfortably, and the GLC 300 undeniably is one of the latter. Inside the cabin design is standard Mercedes and thus, quite Germanic in terms of character. Having said that, the layout is ergonomically sound, the driving position is as good as in any Merc of late, and while that suspension can withstand bodyroll impressively, Mercedes hasn’t ignored the value of smooth ride comfort either. A little more rear visibility wouldn’t go amiss though: that sculpted exterior design has taken a negative toll on the rear window.
So, to sum up. Yes, the turbocharged powerplant on the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 lacks guts – despite a reasonable 238bhp – compounded by the smooth but lackadaisical nine-speed transmission. Body control is impressive for a vehicle of this size, but don’t expect to be inundated with feeling through the steering, and the chances of actually WANTING to throw Mercedes’ new crossover around by the scruff of the neck is limited. Fortunately smooth ride comfort, a very comfortable cabin and surprisingly impressive practicality mean Mercedes hasn’t forgotten the GLC’s main selling point. And on that note, boy oh boy, it’s a big one. At $60K ($52K without options), our GLC 300 is nearly $11K more than the equivalent C-Class, though admittedly even this is not quite into the upper echelons of a Porsche Macan or BMW X3. For even its smallest of quibbles, surely THAT is what potential customers will lean on as the crossover segment continues to increase in popularity.
Enjoy our Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 test drive?
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- Technical specifications available on page 2