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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - GLC - 250

Our Opinion

We like
Interior ambience and technology, slick dynamics don’t compromise ride comfort, creamy-smooth engine
Room for improvement
Shallow boot, doors need a good slam, some cabin creaks, occasionally clunky transmission

Mercedes-Benz logo26 Jan 2016

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Price and equipment

THE 250 petrol represents the mid-point of the GLC range at $67,900 plus on-road costs, nestled between two diesels.

All are pretty generously specified as standard, with the 250 featuring dual-zone climate control, keyless start, power tailgate, adaptive LED lighting with high-beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, autonomous parking, Garmin satellite navigation, leather upholstery with electric front-seat adjustment, 20-inch wheels, privacy glass, illuminated sill plates, black ash wood trim, self-dimming interior mirror, collision prevention assistance, Pre-Safe braking assistance and blind spot monitoring and a 360-degree camera view accessed through the dash-mounted screen.

The 250’s standard Driver Assistance Plus pack comprises a range of safety equipment including active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking and lane-keep assistance that can provide short periods of hands-free driving.

Five driving programs comprise Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and a customisable Individual setting.

Our test car was optioned with the $3990 Vision Pack which includes a head-up display, panoramic sunroof and upgraded navigation plus the $2990 Comand Pack that ups the infotainment screen to 8.4 inches, adds hard-drive-based sat-nav, 10GB of digital music storage, a DVD player, additional Bluetooth and voice recognition functions, onboard internet access and a 13-speaker, 590W Burmester surround-sound audio system.

Vehicles with the $2490 optional Air Body Control suspension have adjustable spring rates and additional switchable settings including Slippery, Off-road, Incline, Rocking Assist and Trailer.

The Off-Road Engineering pack adds Gemtex reinforced underbody protection, reprofiled bumpers for greater approach and departure angles plus hill descent control for $3490.

At the other end of the usage spectrum is the $2990 AMG Line pack that fits a bodykit and lowers the suspension by 15mm over an exclusive AMG 20-inch wheel design.

Interior

Mercedes-Benz has successfully transplanted the benchmark C-Class interior into an SUV architecture, creating what is both a classically luxurious ambience and a tech-fest of features that were considered science-fiction not so long ago.

It leaves ageing rivals such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 looking blandly functional at best.

Plenty of attention to detail, quality finishes and natty design touches mean the look and feel is properly premium too, even down to the richly carpeted boot and the neatly laid-out emergency equipment, storage aids and user manual pouch stored beneath its false floor.

Up front it takes the most searching of eyes and hands to find a hard plastic.

Unfortunately it comes in the form of some uncomfortably sharp edges around the steering wheel adjuster (reach and rake are available).

Rear passengers get some hard plastic on parts of the door trims that are squishier at the front, but the textures match exactly and everything else is just as fancy. Especially the gorgeous metal speaker grilles of the excellent-sounding optional Burmester audio system fitted to our car.

Apart from a rather shallow boot that feels smaller than its 550 litres would suggest, there is plenty of storage space aboard the GLC. There are so many highly effective options for keeping drinks vessels upright that we won’t list them all here. Thirsty? Buy a GLC.

The glovebox is a decent size, as is the area beneath the front central armrests, which includes a smart-device tray, two USB sockets and an elastic strap. Rear passengers also get storage in the central armrest along with map pockets, big door bins and more.

Space all round is generous, with ample headroom despite the optional panoramic glass roof fitted to our test car and good seat comfort and legroom for all five positions – even the central rear seat is tolerable for adults.

Ventilation back there is great too, with two adjustable vents and plenty of flow from up front.

Visibility is good, the head-up display keeping eyes on the road and high-res 360-degree camera views plus parking sensors all round help ensure manoeuvring bingles are a thing of the past.

The optional Comand package brings the central screen size to 8.4-inch (from 7.0-inch) and upgraded satellite navigation system, among other audio features.

The latest combination of rotary controller and laptop style touchpad reminded some passengers of the 80s sci-fi movie Flight of the Navigator.

We found the whole system easy to use, with attractive, crisp graphics and accurate voice recognition. The number of shortcut buttons is just right and the off button that kills both audio and the display is a feature we’d like to see on other cars.

Dashboard dials are clear and attractive, while the central multi-function trip computer displaying a logical combination of data on each of its many menus.

The GLC interior is classy, quiet and pretty hard to fault, so it was a shame that some particularly rough road surfaces revealed a few cabin creaks.

Engine and transmission

The GLC250 deploys a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol that sends 155kW and 350Nm to all four wheels and does duty across much of the small and mid-size Mercedes-Benz line-up. It is just as impressive here for its quietness, smoothness, refinement, willingness to rev and enthusiastic throttle response.

Lag is all but eliminated and from 3000rpm and up, it does a great impressions of a naturally aspirated unit as it responds sharply and spins freely toward the redline.

In Sport and particularly Sport+ mode this is significantly amplified, doing a great job of hiding the GLC’s 1735kg heft and resulting in a mid-range punchier than a dinner-deprived former Top Gear presenter.

At all other times there are plentiful reserves of power befitting a luxury vehicle.

Combined fuel consumption is officially rated at 7.2 litres per 100km, a figure we failed to achieve even during a clear motorway run, which resulted in 7.8L/100km. During our week of mixed driving we averaged 10.5L/100km, which was disappointing considering we got less than 9.9L/100km from the much larger and more powerful Volvo XC90 T6 petrol.

We also scratched our heads regarding the nine-speed transmission. In addition to a few thumps and clunks in urban driving, especially pulling to a halt, the ninth ratio is all but redundant in Australia.

Again, Sport+ mode brought things to life, the transmission swapping cogs rapidly whether instructed via the paddle-shifters or by its own software – the latter impressing us on twisty roads with its intuitiveness and ability to be in the right ratio at the right time.

Most of the time, the transmission just did its thing unobtrusively in the background and only due to the GLC’s high overall refinement levels did the occasional driveline hiccup slightly spoil what is otherwise a silky smooth driving experience.

Ride and handling

Considering it rolls on 20-inch 255/45 run-flat tyres, the GLC generally does an excellent job of ironing out road imperfections and minimising tyre roar, even on concrete, coarse-chip bitumen or gravel.

Initial impact absorption is excellent and the edge is expertly taken off speed-bumps and large potholes, making life comfortable at urban speeds. Only the worst excesses of patchwork road maintenance regimes or rippled, thinly-spread country lane tarmac result in any wobbliness or vibration through the cabin.

The comfort-oriented set-up bottomed out or thumped heavily on a couple of occasions, for example on a bump at the bottom of a dip where the suspension was already quite compressed or hitting a lump with a rear tyre under hard cornering.

For any car, a double-crest on our test route can cause some rear-end bounciness and the GLC was one of the worst offenders here, while hitting larger obstacles anything other than straight-on also caused a bit of pitching.

But under these extreme conditions the GLC doesn’t squirm, steadfastly holds its line and quickly recovers composure. Its steering is also blissfully isolated from mid-corner ripples and faithfully tracks the car on its driver’s intended course regardless of surface.

Despite the luxurious ride and high centre of gravity compared with a C-Class, the GLC still handles exceptionally well. We preferred the steering in Comfort mode over either of the Sport modes, which add on-centre heaviness that masks the GLC’s sharp turn-in and seems to remove initial feel.

It took a couple of corners for us to fully exploit that turn-in and impressive grip due to a touch of steering vagueness, combined with some initial body-roll owing to the GLC’s height and ride comfort.

Once over that, this Benz feels decidedly rear-drive and wonderfully balanced with a pleasing resistance to understeer and an ability to carry some serious speed into and through corners. It’s pretty precise for an SUV and only on sharper turns can the stability control get a bit intrusive, making it hard to feel what we suspect is quite a playful chassis through the soft, smooth but assertive interventions.

Traction was never an issue with the four-cylinder firepower on offer, but the GLC has a promising amount of twisty road talent that the inevitable AMG variants will be able to fully exploit.

Now that is something to look forward to.

Safety and servicing

The GLC has not been rated by ANCAP but Euro NCAP has awarded it a maximum five-star rating, with 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 82 per cent for pedestrian protection and 71 per cent for safety assistance features.

Complimenting the usual Mercedes-Benz alphabet soup of electronic safety and stability aids, the GLC 250 comes with 360-degree cameras, nine airbags, collision prevention assistance, Pre-Safe braking assistance and blind spot monitoring.

Under Mercedes-Benz capped price servicing, which lasts up to three years or 75,000 kilometres, maintenance intervals are 12 months or 25,000 kilometres, with the first visit costing $496 and the subsequent two $892 apiece. The warranty lasts three years with unlimited kilometres.

Verdict

The GLC is like that competent and confident colleague who does everything well – and at the company Christmas party reveals hidden talents on the dance floor (accessed in this case through one of the Sport modes).

It’s smooth, quiet, comfortable and has a knockout interior, all adding up to make this aggressively positioned premium SUV feel more luxurious than its price-tag would suggest. Even with options bringing our test GLC to almost $77,000 plus on-road costs, it felt more special than some cars costing far more.

Great in town and on the motorway while being surprisingly capable on a twisty road, the GLC is a seriously complete package. Flaws are few and far between – and forgivable.

On sheer merit, it deserves to outsell all rivals and poach customers from other segments too. And early indicators suggest it already has.

Rivals

Land Rover Discovery Sport Si4 SE from $59,590 plus on-road costs
Like the GLC, the Disco Sport amassed huge pent-up demand. Until the GLC came along, it was the segment’s biggest seller, too. GLC’s off-road option pack notwithstanding, it’s the only car here that can properly go off-road. The lower-spec Si4 SE is the only petrol variant but Land Rover’s notorious options list will happily spec this car as high as you like.

Lexus NX 200t Sport Luxury from $72,110 plus on-road costs
One of the most modern competitors to the GLC and packed with equipment, with a great and very Japanese interior. Styling is polarising and it doesn’t manage to feel as complete or as special as the Benz. Everything’s thrown at this top-spec turbo variant the only option is premium paint.

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Quattro from $63,210 plus on-road costs
Dating back to 2009, the Q5 is ripe for replacement. But drive one and continual running changes, along with a 2012 facelift have enabled this desirable Audi to more than tread water against increasingly stiff competition.

BMW X3 xDrive 28i from $74,600 plus on-road costs
Struggles to rival the GLC for its tech-fest credentials, ride comfort and, even at this price, equipment. But what an engine and transmission combination!

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