What is it?
The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLC, which rivals the likes of the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, has been tested by our sister publication, Autocar UK. The predecessor to the GLC, the square-edged GLK, was never produced in a right-hand-drive guise owing to difficulties in packaging the driveshaft for the front axle. As a result, the German carmaker has been unrepresented in the segment in RHD markets.
The arrival of the GLC fills this void in Mercedes' line-up. This smart-looking SUV is based on the same platform as the latest C-class, but receives a 33mm longer wheelbase than its sedan sibling. The tracks have been widened by 31mm at the front and 47mm at the rear over the new C-class.Although it is larger than its predecessor, Mercedes says the GLC is 80kg lighter than the GLK. This has been achieved through the use of hot-formed high-strength steel in the body structure, and aluminium for the front wings, bonnet and roof. The GLC 250d tested here weighs 1,770kg.
The GLC 250d uses Merc’s turbocharged 2.1-litre four-cylinder powerplant that makes 201bhp and 51kgm of torque. It’s mated to a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox with the latest fuel-saving functions, including automatic stop-start and brake energy recuperation. It also gets the 4Matic four-wheel drive system as standard.
The GLC rides on a four-link front and five-link rear suspension set-up featuring adaptive damping. It is offered as part of a standard Dynamic Select system that gives the driver the choice between Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual modes. The suspension system, which is claimed to be 5kg lighter than that used by the GLK, also comes with optional Air Body Control rear air springs. The air springs feature a new three-chamber design and can be combined with a so-called Off-Road Engineering package, which offers five off-road driving modes – Slippery, Trailer, Off-road, Incline and Rocking Assist. It also adds hill descent control, underbody protection and adjustable ride height.
What is it like?
In this top-of-the-line avatar, the GLC makes for a very desirable family car with space for up to five, and a large 550-litre boot.
Positive impressions are made the moment you enter the cabin. The familiar-looking dashboard, instruments, steering wheel, free-standing infotainment monitor, controls (including the rotary wheel between the front seats) and trim applications are all shared with the latest C-class. Although there are some hard plastic surfaces, overall material quality is quite high and better than that of any direct rival.
The driving position is sound, with raised seats affording good visibility all around. The front seats are fairly flat in the squab, but the more contoured backrests offer good lateral support. The rear seats split 40/20/40, with two full-sized outer positions and a narrower central seat that’s partly compromised for legroom by the central tunnel. Sizeable door pockets, a lidded bin and drink holders in the front section of the centre console provide plenty of storage.
With 201bhp at 3,800rpm and 51kgm from just 1,600rpm, the GLC 250d’s longitudinally mounted engine proves to be both punchy and flexible. It is also impressively hushed for a diesel, with little chatter evident in the cabin at low to mid revs. The standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, which uses a column-mounted stalk instead of a more conventional centre-mounted lever, provides a strong standing start and in-gear acceleration, given the broad spread of ratios on offer. Mercedes claims a 0-100kph time of 8.3 seconds and a 211kph top speed. The shifts are quite smooth and proficient in Comfort mode, although it is sometimes recalcitrant on downshifts in Sport Plus mode. The new gearbox really shines on the motorway, with a ninth gear providing calm and relaxing cruising qualities.
The GLC comes close to the X3 for its sheer agility. There is always sufficient traction out of slower corners to allow you to make full use of the strong low-end torque. The constant varying of drive to the front and rear axles, along with excellent body control and the electro-mechanical steering system, provides the GLC with pleasingly cornering traits despite a nominal 227mm ground clearance, in combination with the optional air springs fitted to the test car.
On winding roads, understeer is effectively suppressed. You can build up a good deal of momentum before the front end eventually runs wide and the stability control steps in, making the new Mercedes engaging and enjoyable to thread down a winding road. With the air springs fitted at the rear, the GLC also rides with aplomb. It delivers impressive compliance at speed, with low levels of tyre roar. If there is a dent in its armour, it has to do with its ability to handle transverse ridges, which tend to send a shudder through the structure, especially at lower speeds. Mercedes knows that few potential GLC customers will seek true off-road capability. However, this has not deterred the carmaker from providing its new SUV with impressive ability in the dirt. With approach and departure angles of 30.8deg and 24.8deg respectively, along with a breakover angle of 19.7deg and tipping angle of 35deg in combination with the optional Off-Road Engineering package, it goes places few rivals, save perhaps for the new Land Rover Discovery, are likely to take you.
Should I buy one?
Expected to go on sale in India in the second half of 2016, the GLC will be priced around Rs 50 lakh. It seems like a well-rounded combination of style, quality, performance, handling, ride, economy, practicality and off-road ability. For people looking for a capable luxury SUV, the Mercedes GLC might be worth the wait.