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Merc adds off-road cred to GLC

Optional off-road pack gives Mercedes’ new SUV superhero abilities in the dirt

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Mercedes-Benz logo21 Jul 2015

By TIM ROBSON in SWITZERLAND

IN AN era where SUVs are being built more and more to replicate regular cars, Mercedes-Benz has stayed the path less trodden, offering its new GLC mid-sizer with an optional off-road pack that adds genuine four-wheel driving ability to the high-riding wagon.

In combination with Mercedes’ optional air suspension set-up, the Off-Road Engineering pack gives the GLC up to 227mm of ground clearance via an additional 50mm of suspension lift, while an extra suite of electronics gives the SUV ability in remote situations.

While acknowledging that not every buyer of the GLC will want or need such off-road ability, Daimler AG board member and head of Mercedes-Benz research and development Thomas Weber said it was a necessity to engineer the car to perform at that level.

“It’s comparable to high-speed in Germany only a few percentage really go to 250km/h, but the ability is what they buy, and they buy the research,” Prof Weber, an automotive engineer by trade, said. “If a car is designed for this extreme situation, it's clear it carries a lot of reserves for critical situations.”

Dr Weber pointed out that even if the customer used it once a year, it’s worth the effort and expense of building such capability into the car.

“We know, never in their life they will use it, because there is no opportunity, but it could be if there is a specific situation, or in their holiday location, and there is the last mile of dirt road ... there are a lot of arguments (for it).

“The brakes are better, the stiffness of (the chassis)… if we can demonstrate that the car is able to go for these tough roads, it is clear that is enough reserve for 300,000 kilometres, and a long life.” Five modes can be activated by extra switches located on the centre console and include Off-road mode, which raises the suspension by 15mm for gravel, light dirt and sand Incline which optimises traction both up and down steep slopes Rocking Assist which lifts the suspension by 50mm and frees up wheel-slip thresholds up to 20km/h to allow a car to work itself free Slippery mode, for mud, wet grass and ice/snow and Trailer mode, which helps when using a trailer in slippery or wet conditions like grass or a boat ramp.

Descent speed can also be adjusted via the cruise control stalk, with no brake input needed from the driver. Extra under-body plastic protection panels are also fitted to the GLC. The kit is priced at $7,500, which includes the air spring kit. It cannot be retrofitted to the GLC.

One potential downside to the off-road ability of the GLC for customers is a lack of a spare wheel as standard fitment. A run-flat wheel can be ordered as an optional extra, but it must be stored in the GLC’s cargo area.

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