Mercedes-Benz Australia has been waiting for the GLC for years. Previous models in this class, with a tag of GLK, weren't fitted with steering wheel on our side so couldn't be imported. Now the local importer finally has a competitor in one of the most fiercely fought of all market segments in Australia, that of upmarket midsize SUVs.
In case you're wondering, the new Mercedes model numbering system indicates the body type in the first two letters and the Class in the final letter. Thus 'GL' means it's an SUV, and 'C' means its a C-Class, model. (To add to the confusion Mercedes is known to be developing a GLC coupe, with an entirely different rear end.)
We have just had the pleasure of reviewing a brace of this new model. The $$64,500 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d diesel we tested for our first week had 19-inch wheels, keyless entry and start, powered front seats, power tailgate, and LED Intelligent lighting. After dropping it off we picked up a $$67,900 turbo-petrol which was really loaded with standard gear: These vehicles have 20-inch wheels, a Keyless-Go package, leather upholstery, privacy glass and Driver Assistance Package Plus, more about the latter in our Safety segment of this review.
A big, bold front end with one of the largest 'three-stars' badges in the centre leaves absolutely no doubt what you're driving. The rest of the body's shape is tidy, but tends to focus on practically ahead of look-at-me features.
Our cars were fitted with the Mercedes Comand system including satellite navigation with voice input, or you can use the reasonably intuitive touchpad. The audio system is a 13-speaker Burmester with surround sound. WLAN with internet access for connected devices.
The SUV versions of the Mercedes C-Class, the GLC range has three models, two powered by a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine, the third a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol motor.
The 220d puts we drove out 125kW of power and 400Nm of torque. The Benz GLC 250 2.0-litre petrol produces 155kW, and 350Nm of torque from just 1200rpm. It accelerates the GLC from zero to 100 km/h in just 7.3 seconds.
The rear seat has excellent legroom and can cope with three adults.
There's also a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine with a sportier tune to give 150 kW and 500 Nm, we haven't had a chance to test one of these for a week as yet.
The Driver Assistance Package Plus, has Distronic Plus cruise control with Steering Assist, Pre-Safe Brake and Pre-Safe Plus, Cross Traffic Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
Nine airbags are fitted in case all the electronic crash avoidance systems still can't handle the situation.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC is a genuine five-seater. There's good space in the two front seats and the support provided is good without being overly aggressive. The rear seat has excellent legroom and can cope with three adults, though two plus a kid in the middle makes more sense for long distance trips.
Boot space is excellent and the relatively squared off compartment is easy to load. As is the way with any stylish SUV, or station wagon for that matter, the slope of the rear window limits the size of large boxes that can be fitted back there.
Controls will be immediately familiar to Mercedes owners, retaining the simplicity and commonsense layout that they have appreciated for decades. Similarly, the instrumentation is uncluttered and its information quickly and very readable.
The upper models in the lineup feature a head-up display that shows a lot of information. Provided, that is, you don't have the added driving safety of polarised sunglasses as I do, in which case the head-up is all-but invisible. I do wish the makers would solve this longtime problem, it's certainly not just Mercedes.
At night, with the sunnies replaced by clear glasses the head-up display certainly shows what it can do in providing details with a minimum of driver distraction.
The GLC comes in at the bottom end of the 4WD, not merely SUV, field.
Steel springs and a variable damping system is standard, while the Merc GLC offers the option of a multi-chamber air suspension and electronically controlled, continuously adjustable damping. This Air Body Control suspension further improves driving stability. This raises the body by up to 50mm and provides a variety of tuning. On the bitumen it reduces rolling during cornering and also provides automatic levelling. There's even lowering of the body for easier loading and unloading.
Mercedes GLC can also be equipped with the Off-Road Engineering package if you're one of the few who actually intended to use an SUV in the conditions it's designed for. Indeed it comes in at the bottom end of the 4WD, not merely SUV, field.
The Off-Road Engineering package has five programs. 'Slippery' and four off-road programs for mild off-road terrain such as gravel or sand tracks. 'Incline' aids climbing ability on steep ramps or long, slow uphill stretches. It even features a 'Rocking Assist' program in which the driving level is raised by 50mm and the wheel-slip control thresholds are increased so as to enable the GLC to do the best it can to work its way free if you really get into strife.
Another off-road program, 'Trailer', is designed for towing off-road and facilitates moving off on wet grassland, or ice and snow. The package also includes a Gemtex under-ride guard, which takes the stress out of heavy ground contact. There is Downhill Speed Regulation that maintains a pre-set speed on steep downhill runs.