Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - GLC - range
Sporty chassis, strong engines and transmission, generous equipment
Room for improvement
Fussy suspension on rough surfaces
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1 Dec 2015
MERCEDES-BENZ is yet to officially confirm it, but the new GLC range will be joined by a Coupe version to match the GLE and GLE Coupe large SUV pair, as well as a hotter twin turbo V6 and V8 brace, but until then we have a trio of variants to tuck in to.
Kicking off the critical small SUV range is the GLC 220d, which packs a 2.1-litre diesel engine combined with a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic four-wheel drive.
While it is common to find the most affordable version in any particular range a little underwhelming, that certainly isn’t the case with Mercedes’ new offering, and we are pleasantly surprised at how well equipped and appointed the base version is.
Its Artico synthetic leather upholstery is virtually impossible to distinguish from the type requiring animal sacrifice, its Black Ash satin wood trim is classy and understated and toys including electric seats, driver assistance systems and a posh stereo are all included in the base price of $64,500 before on-road costs.
Performance is not disappointing either, and although 125kW may not sound like much, 400Nm of torque is very handy. Acceleration from standstill is spritely and most overtaking opportunities are feasible propositions in the 220d.
Most surprising though, is the GLC’s handling. The genetic bloodline between the GLC and C-Class is most obvious when throwing the SUV at a corner with lightning-quick turn-in, minimal body-roll and tons of feedback through the nicely weighted steering.
On perfect surfaces, the GLC is a real hoot, carving up winding roads efficiently and enjoyably. The chassis tune has certainly been developed with driving enjoyment in mind, but that comes home to roost when encountering less than perfect roads.
The tail end of the GLC is a little fussy and has a tendency to skip and shuffle on corrugated surfaces at no point did it feel unsafe, just surprising.
Mercedes has gone to lengths to minimise noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and to that end, the engineers have done a first class job. On well-maintained roads the GLC is eerily quiet with no discernible engine noise, negligible wind noise and minimal road roar.
Its four-cylinder diesel might not be quite as silky or refined as some of its six-cylinder rivals, but neither does it share their thirst for diesel, either.
Our test car returned a figure not far from the official figure of 5.6 litres per 100km.
If more grunt is required, customers can upgrade to the GLC 250d which has the same sized engine fitted with two-stage turbocharging, pumping power and torque up to 150kW and 500Nm.
We value the extra dollop of performance, especially when overtaking or if a load of people or things were on board. The extra power only ups fuel consumption by 0.1L/100km, so if you can stretch to the $69,900 (plus ORCs) asking price, we would recommend the pokier diesel.
The 250d also gets extra kit for the cash, with real leather interior, 20-inch wheels in place of the 19-inch 220d hoops, more driver assistance features and privacy glass to name a few.
We find that the extra weight of the GLC 250d somewhat irons out the suspicion flutter on rough surfaces and the bigger wheels are no less comfortable than the lower profile 19-inch rubber.
Later on in the day we sample a diesel which has been fitted with the optional AMG Line pack which adds a more conspicuous bodykit, 15mm lowered suspension and a unique 20-inch wheel design.
The result is a firmer feel, but the more involving ride ironically also produces the most predictable behaviour over imperfections. If you can sacrifice the ride height, the AMG Line kit is worth the $2990 (or $3490 when added to the GLC 220d).
All versions of the GLC get Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission, which is a very sophisticated piece of engineering. In Eco or Comfort modes, the transmission shifts cogs smoothly and intuitively, but in Sport or Sport+, the gear changes are fast and aggressive.
We particularly enjoy pushing the 250d a little harder and using the steering wheel paddles to click through the tight ratios.
Finally, we hop aboard the sole petrol version of the range, the GLC 250, which has 155kW and a hearty 350Nm at its disposal from 2.0 litres of familiar turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
With the free-revving engine and the fastest acceleration of the range, the 250 is the driver’s pick of the line-up, especially as it is the lightest, weighing about 100kg fewer than the diesel twins.
That lighter front end can be felt in corners, and although zealous driving can still make the front tyres howl in objection, the point at which the lateral grip begins to fall off is harder to find than the diesels.
From a standing start the turbo is relatively lag free but completely so when going from overrun to acceleration at speed. Throttle response is very fast and the handling of the petrol GLC is the liveliest of the lot.
Whether you go for one of the excellent diesel pair or the more fun-focused petrol, all GLCs come with a versatile, well-screwed together interior, lots of space, family-friendly features and bags of Mercedes desirability.
When it comes to the small SUV segment, the German car-maker has been chained in the stalls for an agonising period of time, but with this well rounded and attractive package, the GLC is going to come out at a gallop.
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