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Driven: Critical Mercedes GLC arrives

Here at last: After years without a mid-size SUV battler, Mercedes-Benz finally has the GLC to go head to head with strong offerings from BMW and Audi.

GLC mid-size SUV could “come close” to C-Class sales in time: Benz

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Mercedes-Benz logo1 Dec 2015

MERCEDES-Benz has finally plugged the gap in its SUV line-up that has been leaking sales to arch-rivals Audi and BMW and given time, the German car-maker says its new model could gain enough momentum to catch its wildly successful C-Class top seller.

Initially, Mercedes is conservatively predicting the GLC will attract about 200 customers per month, but speaking to GoAuto, Mercedes-Benz Australia senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said estimating the reception in an uncharted segment was difficult.

“It's easily going to do a couple of hundred a month but it's a bit hard to tell because we haven't been in the market and obviously there are a lot of competitors,” he said.

As the GLC becomes more of a familiar face in the small SUV market, Mr McCarthy said its demand would increase and, given the direction of Australian SUV sales, has the potential to get within reach of the strong selling C-Class sedan.

“The SUV share of the market is getting close to 50 per cent if it's not there already. C-Class has been hugely successful and there's a big pool of existing owners out there. Potentially it could come close but we are looking at a few years away.

Failing that, Mr McCarthy said claiming the top spot in the company's SUV range was “quite possible”, putting it ahead of the freshly introduced GLE large SUV and consistently performing GLA compact SUV.

“The fact that we haven’t been in the segment does make a difference, but if pre-orders and interest are any indication, it's going to do very well.”

Despite positive predictions of the new model's performance, Mr McCarthy was confident the addition would not step on the toes of other models in the Mercedes ranks thanks to careful positioning of the GLE.

“I don't think it will steal sales from C-Estate. An Estate buyer is quite different to an SUV buyer,” he said. "I don't think there will be any significant substitution at all.

“Ultimately having it is good because it complements C-Class Estate for people who want something a bit smaller than a GLE. We are pretty pleased to have it.”

Initially, the range will be comprised of three variants starting with the GLC220d priced from $64,500 before on-road costs, a mid range GLC250 at $67,900 and a range-topping GLE250d for $69,900, but they will be joined by at least two high-performance variants.

“The 450 and 63 officially are not confirmed and the same applies for the Coupe, but if they appeared in 2016 we would be pleased,” said Mr McCarthy.

“That would be the earliest. We don't have much of an update on that currently.”

At the most affordable end of the pack, the GLC has a 2.1-litre diesel engine, which produces 125kW and 400Nm of torque, and consumes 5.6 litres of fuel per 100km, while producing 148g of CO2 per km.

Next up is the sole petrol variant of the range GLC250, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder to turn out 155kW and 350Nm. Fuel economy is rated at 7.2L/100km and CO2 emissions are 168g/km.

Flagship GLC250d variants have the same size engine as the base version but have the taps wound up to 150kW and 500Nm. Fuel consumption is only marginally more than its less potent diesel sibling at 5.7L/100km, while CO2 emissions also similar at 149g/km.

All three variants are equipped with Mercedes' 4Matic permanent four-wheel drive system, coupled with the company's 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission.

Mercedes has reportedly optimised fuel economy and performance through the extensive use of lightweight materials such as aluminium, which is found throughout the GLC including body panels, crash protection structures, dampers, suspension components and axle carriers.

Where steel is used, Mercedes has opted for higher grades so that less is required, while the optional Air Body Control air suspension system has fibreglass components. The lightest variant – the GLE220d - weighs in at 1735kg.

Base GLC variants have 19-inch wheels, keyless start, power tailgate, LED lighting, navigation, synthetic leather seats with electric adjustment in the front and its 360 degree manoeuvring view is accessed through the dash-mounted screen.

GLC 250 and GLC250d versions share the same specification with 20-inch wheels, leather interior, privacy glass and a Driver Assistance Plus pack, which adds a range of safety equipment including active blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking and lane-keep assistance.

All versions get nine airbags, collision prevention assistance, Pre-Safe braking assistance and blind spot monitoring.

Five driving programs are available for the driver to select depending on the prevailing conditions, with Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and a customisable Individual setting.

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

Like the larger GLE, customers can upgrade their vehicle with the Off-Road Engineering pack, which adds Gemtex reinforced underbody protection, reprofiled bumpers for greater entry and departure angles and hill descent control. Adding the pack to the GLC 220d costs $3990 or $3490 for the 250 variants.

A Vision Pack includes head-up display, panoramic sunroof and upgraded navigation for $3990, while the AMG Line pack lowers the suspension by 15mm, adds different design 20-inch wheels plus a bodykit for $2990 or $3490 when fitted to the GLC 220d.

After being left behind in the segment, Mercedes enters the small SUV segment ring with BMW's X3 and the strong-selling Audi Q5, which is available in a popular, high-performance SQ5 variant.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC 4Matic pricing*
GLC220d (a)$64,500
GLC250 (a)$67,900
GLC250d (a)$69,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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