Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - GLC - range
Strong powertrains, sporty handling characteristics, comfortable ride despite large alloys, MBUX addition, comfortable seats
Room for improvement
Tablet-style touchscreen, harsh reaction to large bumps in road, thirsty GLC300 powertrain, some less-than-premium interior touches
Mercedes improves already accomplished GLC mid-size SUV range with modest facelift
15 Nov 2019
WHEN the Mercedes-Benz GLC first arrived in Australia in late 2015, the new mid-size SUV proved to be an instant hit with customers, regularly finishing at or near the top of the premium SUV sales charts.
Four years on, and Mercedes has decided to give the GLC a mid-life facelift to keep its most popular SUV fresh against other newer, hot-selling competitors like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
Mercedes hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel with the new GLC but rather refined an already well-regarded and popular product. Does the facelifted version have what it takes to retain segment leadership?
First drive impressions
While the GLC itself has not seen wholesale changes, the local line-up has, with the removal of the slow-selling 250d and 350d turbo-diesels from the range.
For those who want the petrol efficiency previously associated with turbo-diesel engines, buyers will now have the choice of the new GLC300e plug-in hybrid powertrain, which is set to join the range in the second quarter of 2020.
At launch, the range will consist of the entry-level GLC200 and GLC300, with the performance-fettled AMG variants checking in around the turn of the decade.
Both the GLC200 and GLC300 are powered by the same 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that has seen an uptick in power over the outgoing versions.
The GLC200 now punches out 145kW/320Nm – an improvement of 10kW/20Nm – while the GLC300 steps up by 35kW/20Nm, to 190kW/370Nm.
Both variants are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, while the GLC200 employs a rear-drive set-up compared to the GLC300’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
The outputs of the GLC200 should be enough for those who don’t prioritise sporty driving and for those who don’t have the car loaded up with kids and luggage on a regular basis.
Engine performance is smooth and even, and a decent level of performance can still be extracted when really digging the boot in and sending the tachometer spiking.
With a lighter rear-drive set-up opposed to the GLC300’s all-paw traction, handling in the GLC200 has a slightly different feel with a purer steering response and lighter front end.
Steering feel is one of the highlights of the GLC, with a slightly heavier level of feedback which helps give the SUV a pointed, direct response at both high and low speeds.
Moving up to the GLC300, the performance bent is far more noticeable with an extra 45kW/50Nm on tap.
A considerable step up from the outgoing GLC250, the GLC300 provides plenty of punch form its 2.0-litre unit, making the absence of a non-AMG V6 variant feel like a sensible decision.
The GLC300’s power comes on strong, ably put to the ground through the 4Matic all-paw drivetrain. The engine loves to rev as well, with the approaching redline accompanied by a high-pitched roar usually reserved for hi-po variants.
That’s not to say the GLC300 has a noisy exhaust – in normal driving situations the engine noted is sensible and muted, however when digging in the right boot the 2.0-litre mill comes alive.
The nine-speed auto underpinning both models is a quality unit that largely remains unnoticeable, which for an SUV like this is a good thing.
Having nine cogs to work with should help optimise fuel consumption, however our 10.7 litres per 100km fuel consumption figure in the GLC300 was higher than the official 8.1L/100km number.
Both our GLC200 and GLC300 test vehicles rode on large 20-inch alloy rims (standard on the latter, optional on the former), underpinned by the base-level steel-spring suspension.
On paper, and considering Mercedes’ previous track record, we fully expected the GLC’s ride quality to be harsh and unforgiving, however we were pleasantly surprised to find that our trip through the Victorian countryside was comfortable and quiet.
On most road surfaces, bumps and imperfect road surfaces were dealt with well, and noise, vibration and harshness levels kept to a minimum.
It also adapted well to sporty driving, feeling planted and flat in corners and allowing a fun handling feel, particularly for a car not billed as a performance model.
Given that Mercedes also offers adaptive damping as well as air suspension on the GLC, we can only imagine the ride quality improving as option boxes are ticked.
The only time the large rims and base suspension were noticed was on particularly large bumps in the road such as going over uneven train tracks, which caused a big shock to reverberate through the chassis, more so than rival offerings.
Apart from the occasional jolt, the GLC’s cabin is otherwise a pleasant place to be, with a quiet and comfortable cabin, starting with its well-bolstered leather seats.
Mercedes has introduced its latest MBUX infotainment system to the GLC, which means the new centre console dial-cum-mousepad has been replaced with a touchpad, and the old steering wheel has been swapped out with a new item complete with MBUX-compatible buttons.
MBUX is an excellent system with arguably the most accurate and intuitive voice control system in the business, however we can’t say we love the stuck-on, tablet-style 10.25-inch touchscreen.
There may have been a time in recent history where the tablet-style screen was in vogue, however the screen that is neatly integrated into the dashboard is a far nicer and more premium look – in our opinion, of course.
Some average-feeling black plastic materials are also found in places across the dashboard and doors, however that is also offset by premium touches like the open-pore wood trim, a digital instrument cluster and leather upholstery.
As mentioned before, Mercedes hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the updated GLC – because it doesn’t have to.
The GLC is already hugely popular with a dedicated customer base and now fights with the C-Class for the title of most popular model from the Three-pointed Star.
Like the old adage goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Seems like Mercedes was listening.
Model release date: 1 November 2019
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