Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - GLC - 250
Enthusiastic powerplant, intelligent automatic, front-end styling, safety systems, optional sound system
Room for improvement
Rear vision, rear headroom, noisy fan, convoluted controls for centre screen, no touchscreen
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15 Aug 2017
MERCEDES-BENZ was a little late to the compact SUV party but it is making up for it now.
Having been one of the mainstays of the next segment up, it now has a solid foothold in the smaller end of the prestige SUV market, which has stabilised this year after solid growth in 2016.
Benz, which can lay claim to being a pioneer in the four-door coupe segment with the swoopy CLS, has translated that to its compact SUV brigade but the coupe currently represents less than a third of the GLC’s overall volume, down slightly year-on-year in part due to the arrival and growth of Jaguar’s F-Pace, but slao, according to Mercedes, because of issues with supply.
The GLC squares off against the BMW X3/X4 range, with diesel and petrol mainstream models as well as an AMG 43 performance model, but it’s the mid-range petrol and diesel models that do the heavy lifting in sales terms.
Price and equipment
Buyers of the Mercedes-Benz GLC250 Coupe are being asked for an extra $10,600 over the regular GLC equivalent for the sloping, tapered rear end, which does erode headroom and cargo space (more on that later) as well as an equipment bump for the $81,211 pricetag.
Sitting on 20-inch alloy wheels, the GLC250 Coupe wears some of the AMG catalogue’s body trim add-ons for the front and rear, as well as plenty of exterior chrome trim bits, leather trim, keyless entry and ignition, “privacy” tinted rear windows, a comprehensive trip computer, powered opening and closing rear tailgate, power-folding, adjustable and heated mirrors, cruise control, active parking assistant, power windows, somewhat-extraneous aluminium side steps with rubber studs (it’s not that tall) and puddle lights.
Filtered dual-zone climate control with rear vents and a noisy fan, ambient interior lighting with a choice of colour and brightness are all standard, as well Bluetooth phone and audio link, two USB inputs in the centre console, for the digital-radio and a sat-nav-equipped five-speaker infotainment system.
An electric park brake is a welcome feature – foot-operated park brakes are not yet extinct sadly – with power-adjustable front seats and powered release for folding 40/20/40 split rear seat backrests (a nice feature for long cargo being quickly loaded).
Among the options fitted to the test vehicle was Iridium silver metallic paint (for $1990), while the two-tone red/black leather trim is standard.
The Comand package was fitted to the test car, which upgrades the infotainment system to include internet access via the larger 8.4-inch colour display, with upgraded satellite navigation display and real-time traffic info, the touchpad, a single disc CD/DVD player (fast becoming a rarity on features lists), a 10GB music storage hard drive, Bluetooth phone and audio link, voice activation and the Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers (with nine-channel DSP amplifier and 590-watt output) for an extra $2990.
Also fitted was the Vision Package, which adds an insulated glass sunroof and a head-up display (with what Benz calls a ‘virtual image windscreen projection’) for $3590, but the head-up display is still not fond of allowing polarised lenses a complete view without cocking your head like the RCA dog.
Also on the test vehicle was the $490 Night Package, which adds black plastic exterior trim bits and changes the 20-inch alloys to AMG multi-spoke versions and the $590 sports exhaust package, all which took the as-tested price to just over $90,000.
As the footprint and roofline would indicate, the cabin is a snug fit for anyone beyond the norms of height and width, with footwell width and headroom (particularly in the rear) the most pressing of space concerns.
The rear roofline has been cut to allow as much headroom as possible, which allows a 191cm driver to – just – sit behind their own driving position.
But for average-sized adults or children the rear room will be more than adequate, as will the air flow with air vents (but no 12-volt outlet) in the console.
Quality leather trim on quilt-stitched sports seats and wood trim abound throughout the comfortable cabin, which is also endowed with a good-sized centre console, great storage in the doors and AMG floor mats throughout.
The driver is presented with a grippy leather-wrapped steering wheel with chrome shift paddles and a flattened bottom for a hint of sportiness.
That intent is reinforced by the brushed stainless steel AMG sports pedals with black rubber studs in the bottom of the narrow footwell.
The GLC Coupe has plenty of open terrain on the centre console as the German manufacturer continues to put its gear-selector on the steering column, which can result in Neutral selections for the driver going for the indicator.
The dash is dominated by the large screen that sits stop the centre stack (looking for better or worse like a tacked-on tablet), controlled by the dial and buttons on the tunnel and a touchpad – the latter also prone to the occasional mis-selection from the heel of the hand.
Combined with the centre display between the speedometer and tachometer there’s no shortage of information on offer, but it feels a little convoluted in operation.
The boot lays claim to 500 litres of space, with a 12-volt outlet lockable storage compartment beneath the floor, increasing to 1400 litres with the rear backrests folded via the powered folding function, although a flat loadspace is never quite achieved.
The options list action that adds the Burmester sound system alone is worth the extra cash, delivering crisp sound at anti-social volumes.
Engine and transmission
The relationship with the C-Class continues with the powerplant, with the GLC Coupe getting the 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit and nine-speed auto, but driving all four wheels.
In the SUV coupe the enthusiastic engine produces 155kW and 350Nm, the latter spread for effective thrust between 1200rpm and 4000rpm.
Tipping the scales at 1785kg, the little turbo four-cylinder is being asked to haul an extra 320kg when doing duty in the SUV than when it’s propelling a C-Class sedan.
The nine-speed auto makes effective use of the outputs, but while it sounds (through the optional sports exhaust) full of intent and spirit, the results are swift at best, without being stunning.
High-speed cruising is the automatic’s forte, as the tallest two gears are unlikely to get much work on Australian highways without risking the ire of the highway patrol on the other side of 120km/h.
The 250’s claimed combined cycle fuel economy number is 7.4 litres of 95RON PULP per 100km from its 66-litre fuel tank, but our time in the coupe – which covered metropolitan duties as well as some country cruising and back road blasts – had the trip computer showing 11.5L/100km at an average speed of 57km/h.
Opting for the sportier of modes will help limit any hunting between gears using the paddles is fun for DIY enthusiasts, as the torque spread doesn’t require a lot of gear changes to maintain decent momentum.
The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system runs a slight bias to the rear axle, which offers some assistance in the bends.
Ride and handling
The addition of adjustable damping to the steel-sprung suspension – Dynamic Body Control in Benz speak – offers some level of choice for the varied sealed surfaces.
Comfort mode gives some relief to the occupants when the vehicle is dealing with the degraded road surfaces that are fast becoming the norm, but the level of control seems to have been sacrificed a little in search of ride comfort the target wasn’t completely reached but it does the daily tasks with minimal complaints.
The Sport mode feels the best option for most suburban terrain, with the ride on the firmer side but not beyond the realms of tolerance, leaving Sport+ for the winding country road, something which the GLC Coupe is not averse.
With the sharper ‘Direct-Steer’ speed-sensitive and variable-ratio steering system, the sharp helm takes some getting used as it is very direct.
Punching the hefty coupe into a series of bends can be done at an indecent pace and there’s no doubt about the overall ability, but it falls short of segment-leading for steering feel.
More often than not it is the low-profile 285/40 Michelin Latitude Sport tyres relaying ruts and bumps than any fault of the suspension, which when pushing in Sport+ mode does well to keep bodyroll in check as the nose fires into a corner via the sharp steering.
The variable-ratio set-up takes some familiarity but once accustomed to the minimal turn from the wheel to match the bend radius, it’s a constant source of amusement as to how direct the helm is.
It’s only drawback is a lack of feel and feedback for the driver, something that it loses out to the BMW X4 on when the pace is approaching “press-ahead” levels.
Safety and servicing
Long the headline act for the three-pointed star, the safety features list is extensive, starting with the active safety of all-wheel drive backed by nine airbags – front, front and rear side, full-length curtain and a driver’s knee airbag.
The line-up also includes the driver attention monitoring, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, active lane departure and blind spot warning systems, auto-locking doors, hill start and brake drying functions.
The GLC Coupe has the full suite of active stability (which includes cornering and cross-wind assistance), anti-lock brakes with cross-drilled front discs, collision prevention, collision preparation and active cruise control systems, as well as pedestrian detection and the active bonnet system for reducing the severity of pedestrian impacts.
The driver also gets the overhead view camera system, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors front and rear, an auto-dimming centre mirror and decent side mirrors – all of which are required given the poor rear vision.
The same can’t be said for the view out the front windscreen, which aside from the thick A-pillars (an industry-wide issue) is good and illuminated nicely at night by the LED ‘intelligent’ headlights with ‘Adaptive High-beam Assist Plus’, which not only aims the lighting into corners for earlier illumination of the road and potential hazards but adapts the spread of light to the type of driving being undertaken.
The bugbears are few beyond the restricted rear vision, apart from the head-up display being not easily viewed through polarised sunglasses.
The non-coupe version of the GLC has been awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.
Warranty coverage is three years and unlimited kilometres, with scheduled maintenance monitored on-board by the car’s “ASSYST” service indicator for condition-based servicing.
The system won’t let it go any longer than 12 months or 25,000km without asking for a service, which is delivered under a capped-price regime starting at $496 for the first service and then $892 for the remaining two services within the warranty period.
The GLC asks a little more than its German and British opposition (the Range Rover Velar too will be aiming for a slice of the segment when it arrives) but if safety gear tops the list of wants, then the three-pointed star fits the purpose well.
Not as svelte or swift as the styling might suggest, the muscular little Benz takes a step back from the performance priority of the BMW and Jag combatants (in particular) to fill the all-rounder’s shoes nicely.
BMW X4 xDrive35i from $90,910 plus on-road costs
Certainly more snow bunny than trailblazer, the X4 follows the segment pioneer X6 to deliver chassis manners for sealed road bends and aesthetics for the private school carpark. Prettier than earlier incarnations of the ‘sports activity coupe,’ the 35i has 225kW and 400Nm on tap from the 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder, usefully ahead of the xDrive20i with a 135kW/270Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. If a four-door SUV coupe is what you’re after, then the pace of the 35i makes it worth the extra outlay.
Jaguar F-Pace 2.0 R-Sport from $81,787 plus on-road costs
The big cat has had an impact on the segment since it sunk its claws into the SUV market, even if its off-road skills are limited to fast dirt and snow like the Beemer and its ride is on the firm side. The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel offers 184kW and 365Nm with an eight-speed auto, but the beefy V6 turbo-diesel is the engine that makes the most of its road manners, but that asks closer to $90K.
Range Rover Velar 2.0 S from $81,762 plus on-road costs
The F-Pace’s Green Oval cousin has more off-road bits on offer and asks plenty even before those boxes are ticked on the options list. It shares the Jag’s driveline and, as is the case with its sibling, the V6 turbo-diesel offers the sort of brawn to rapidly shift the near-two-tonne kerb weight, but its asking price is on the other side of $90K.
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