Badge is a powerful factor in this part of the market and the recent downturn in luxury-car sales has made things awfully competitive. Which is good news for you, because while prices may have risen ever so slightly with last year's GLC update, the level of tech increased impressively.
Mercedes has the GLC in both wagon (pictured) and coupe form.
Competition is good. Competition in a market where supply and demand are tipped in the balance of the buyer is even better. But is the starter-spec GLC enough for image-conscious buyers to want to spend nearly seventy large on it?
Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class 2020: GLC200
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Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
The GLC200 kicks off at $67400, the entry-level, rear-wheel drive four-cylinder version. The starter spec comes with 19-inch alloy, a mere five speakers in your stereo, dual-zone climate control, around-view cameras, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, fake leather interior (not that there's anything wrong with that), auto parking, powered tailgate and run-flat tyres.
The starter spec comes with 19-inch alloys.
The new touchscreen hosts the modern MBUX media platform which is so much better than COMAND. That system's wacky controller was getting there, but it seems Mercedes wisely diverted attention to this new get-up. The sat nav is much easier to use, as is the whole interface, and it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for good measure. The new control pad is miles better, too, and the DAB+ interface is a vast improvement.
This car had just about everything loaded in, bringing the total cost to $83,900. Starting with the rather lovely (but expensive) Iridium Silver Metallic pain ($1600), Mercedes loaded on the Driving Assistance Package ($2600 - active lane assist, blind spot monitoring with active assist, active cruise), AMG Line (20-inch alloys, various mats and tints, sports wheel and pedals and side skirts), Vision Package ($5200 - head up display, sunroof and 13-speaker upgrade), Night Package ($700 - gloss finish window surround, body colour mirror caps, painted wheels) and Seat Comfort Package ($1300 - electric and heated front seats, power door mirrors, powered steering column adjustment).
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
While probably unintended, the sheer honesty of the GLC wagon's design is almost refreshing. Bonnet, doors, tailgate, it's obvious what this car is for. Simple surfacing, excellent build quality, the GLC says, "Here I am, fill me with people and stuff. I won't let you down." Nothing in this sector is particuarly out there (more's the pity), but compared to the Audi Q5's subtle prettiness and the BMW X3's creases and snarling front end, the Merc is a study in restraint. Apart from the pizza-dish-sized, grille-mounted logo. Ooh. I almost forgot the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, which is definitely a looker. But that kind of proves my point.
The sheer honesty of the GLC wagon's design is almost refreshing.
As part of last year's mild in-and-out update, the cabin scored a new touchscreen and control pad and little else. It's pretty much the C-Class's cabin, in vibe if not design. There is some nice wood - one of the few times you'll read me say that - with Merc's trademark texturing rather than nasty, over-polished (or obviously plastic) slabs of the stuff. I still don't like those cheap-looking Burmester speaker covers.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
If you need all the space you can get in your GLC, the wagon is the one to go for. You start with 550 litres and with the rear seats out of the way, that expands to 1600 litres.
You start with 550 litres of boot space.
The rear seats out of the way, space expands to 1600 litres.
Rear leg, knee and headroom are generous, but your third passenger won't be very happy straddling the transmission tunnel, or the miserly space left available for their backsides. Three small folks, sure, three teenagers, nope. Not for lengthy trips, anyway. There are air-con vents back there, though, and the armrest has somewhere to stow phones and slim things.
If you need all the space you can get in your GLC, the wagon is the one to go for.
Front and rear rows get a pair of cupholders each for a total of four and each door will take a decent-sized water bottle. The centre console houses two USB-C ports and the port in with the cupholder is also USB-C.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The GLC200 carries a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder called M264. Sending power through all four wheels, you'll have 145kW and a healthy 340Nm at your disposal. Which is just as well, given it weighs 1800-odd kilos before options.
The GLC comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission, which you'd think would be better than seven or eight but isn't. In the 200, only the rear wheels are driven, you need to step up to the 250d or 300 to get all-wheel drive.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
On the ADR-approved combined cycle, Mercedes extracted 7.8L/100km. My week with the GLC didn't include any long stretches of consistent running, but I still managed 9.2L/100km, which is pretty decent going, except that it does demand 98 RON fuel.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
All GLCs have nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, traffic-sign recognition, around-view cameras, reversing camera, reverse cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, forward AEB, forward-collision warning and tyre-pressure monitoring.
As Mercedes did on this car, you can boost the safety gear with packages.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 6/10
Like the other Germans, Mercedes needs to up its game. Three years/unlimited kilometres is fine, but really, when you're paying decent money and you've stepped up to a big-league brand you should expect big-league support.
Like the other Germans, Mercedes needs to up its game when it comes to warranty.
If you pay upfront for a service plan, you'll cough up $2150. but if you pay as you go, it's a further $550, or $900 per service. That is quite stiff. You can go for a four-year package, which comes out at $2950, but then a five year package is $4950. Pay-as-you-go pricing does not apply for the fourth or fifth year, so if you plan on long-term ownership, might I suggest locking everything in with the upfront package?
An X3 will cost you $1850 over three years and a Q5 will cost $1710 for three years and $2720 over five, which is substantially cheaper than the GLC.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
I was pleasantly surprised at how sprightly this car is - the 2.0-litre spins up very nicely and is pretty smooth most of the time. The nine-speed transmission could probably be a bit more decisive, which is why I spent more time in Sport mode than perhaps was necessary. It certainly sharpened the transmission up a bit, but I think nine gears is probably too many, especially given Audi's and BMW's expertise with "just" eight.
For most drivers this won't be a problem - a less probing examination of the transmission's performance will find it quite capable, if occasionally clunky.
The 2.0-litre spins up very nicely and is pretty smooth most of the time.
The last non-AMG GLC I drove was not a comfortable rider and I'm pleased to say that things have improved. They just haven't improved as much as you might want. Where the BMW X3 in particular is quite comfortable in its basic form, the GLC is firm to start with, then when you throw in the 20-inch wheels from either the Night or AMG packages, things get a bit bumpy on the suburban bash.
Apart from that, it's a very pleasant place to spend time. It's very quiet and composed and if the surface is right, will float along in traffic, helping to keep you calm. All the controls are nicely weighted and for the vast majority of owners, a well-specced GLC200 will do just fine, with no need for bigger engines or a loftier badge.
I would, however, like to see the end of those silly side steps. They'll get grotty in winter or the rain, which means when you slide out, your calves get grotty, too. Unpleasant and unnecessary.
The GLC200 is very quiet and composed and if the surface is right, will float along in traffic.
The GLC200 is an accomplished family SUV and not a bad start to the range. I guess some folks will be upgrading from high-end Japanese and Korean SUVs, or defecting from another German, and it's unlikely you'll be disappointed unless you have a particular aversion to the brand.
It's well-equipped, safe and, without options at least, competitively priced (for a Mercedes), if not especially cheap to service.