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Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d Coupe; a cool, compact luxury SUV with genuine off-road ability and lashings of big city street cred. Quick, rather than properly fast, it's dynamically outstanding, seats five, and is loaded with enough fruit to fill a green grocer's coolroom.
If you were to compile a list of the 20 most uninspiring cars of all time, various forgettable and vanilla-bland versions of the SUV would be a walk-up start for spots one-through-18. And that's because they've never really had to try all that hard.
Designed for practicality above all else, making them to look like anything other than big, boxy behemoths inevitably cuts into their core function. And so they look, almost without exception, like big, boxy behemoths.
But Mercedes-Benz claims to have perfected the stylish SUV formula with its GLC 250d Coupe, promising all of the swooping stylishness of a sports car, combined with the practicality of a high-riding SUV.
The 250d ($82,100) is the top-spec GLC Coupe for the moment (two AMG-flavoured models will arrive next year that will make the current range seem positively pedestrian by comparison), and it sits above the mid-spec, and petrol powered, 250 Coupe ($80,100) and the entry-level 220d ($77,100).
And it looks, well, not anything like an SUV. The GLC 250d Coupe arrives as standard with huge 20-inch alloys, lane-filling flared guards and a wide, low, menacing stance destined to strike fear into the hearts of those driving lesser cars as it fills their rear-view mirrors.
But the question is, can a car have all the practicality perks of an SUV, without it having to look like one?
The GLC 250d Coupe is all about the design. The equivalent 250d GLC SUV (or what Mercedes calls a Wagon) is priced at a sharp $69,900, so what you're actually buying when you shell out for the Coupe is style. What you won't get, however, is anything even vaguely resembling the technical definition of a coupe.
Expect none of the two-door coupe-ness you might anticipate. Instead, you get four doors, all-wheel drive and that lusted after high riding position. But you also get a raked roof, a wide, aggressive stance and a fastback-style rear boot. We get that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are plenty who will think the GLC Coupe looks as garish as a gold-wrapped Bugatti, but we think it looks fantastic.
Dynamically excellent, though not as sharp as some of Mercedes' smaller models.
Mercedes has sprinkled its AMG dust over the Coupe, too, adding 20-inch alloys, body skirting and a performance-treated interior as standard kit on every model, all of which add to the road presence immeasurably.
The turbocharged 2.1-litre will generate 125kW and an impressive 500Nm, while sipping a claimed/combined 5.8L/100km. That's enough to push the circa-1.8 tonne GLC Coupe to 100km/h in a claimed 7.6sec and on to a top speed of 222km/h - impressive enough for a big beastie.
The GLC 250d Coupe might not look like a traditional SUV, but joyfully, it doesn't drive like one either.
Mercedes has done a terrific job in delivering a sporty, engaged feel to this heavy and high-riding behemoth, helped massively by the standard-fit adaptive dampers and Dynamic Select system, which allows you to choose between five driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and a customisable Individual mode) at the push of a button. It means you can stiffen the suspension, pour weight into the steering and add responsiveness to both gearbox and accelerator as you wish.
Dynamically excellent, though not as sharp as some of Mercedes' smaller models, the GLC 250d Coupe feels composed and connected from behind the wheel, barely moving its weight around when tackling tighter corners. Its heft arrives when you really push it on the twisting stuff, but even then not to roll so much as push its weight down onto the inside wheels, forcing the torque into the tarmac before powering out of a bend. It's a smile-inducing feeling, helped by the fact the engine communicates seamlessly with the gearbox, rapidly shifting down when asked.
Middle-seat passengers will find long journeys more than a little snug.
But there is a trade-off. Favouring sport over supple gives the GLC 250d Coupe a ride quality that is often compromised by the dodgy tarmac of Australia's road network. Even in Comfort mode, the Coupe can send steep speed bumps or potholes crashing into the cabin - a situation not much helped by the massive 20-inch alloys.
But its biggest drawback is actually all Mercedes' fault. Plastering its GLC Coupe in so much go-fast AMG kit paints a picture of intent that even the biggest engine can't quite match, with power in the 250d feeling ample, but never explosive.
Predictably, the range-topper arrives wanting for little. Expect a nav-equipped, 7.0-inch touchscreen that can also be controlled by a cool touchpad in the centre console, paired with a five-speaker stereo. You also get darkened "privacy" glass and brushed aluminium side-steps.
And then there's that AMG Line pack. According to Mercedes, more than 50 per cent of buyers of the SUV version tick the box that adds bigger wheels, sportier exterior treatment and a performance-focused interior. So they've made it a standard fit to the fashion-focused Coupe version.
Inside, you can expect genuine leather with open-pore woodgrain highlights, a hugely sophisticated-feeling dash layout, and an impressive suite of safety kit we'll come to in just a moment.
It looks like it should offer all the headroom of a guillotine, but clever design makes that swooping roofline something of an optical illusion. The roof is arched laterally, like a bridge, so once inside you're sitting under the high part of the roof and there's actually plenty of head and shoulder room, though middle-seat passengers will find long journeys more than a little snug.
The 250d gets all the best goodies when it comes to standard safety.
The GLC 250d Coupe's boot ditches the traditional deep space of an SUV for a shallow-but-long fastback-style storage space offering 500 litres with the rear seats up, and transforming into a kind of luxury moving van when you drop the rear seats. There's extra storage space under the lockable floor compartment, too, so you can safely hide an overnight bag out of sight.
The pull-down seat divider in the back houses two hidden cupholders, which, along with the two in the front, bring the 250d's cup-count to four. The window seats in the back also house two ISOFIX attachment points.
The top-spec offering in the GLC Coupe range, the 250d gets all the best goodies when it comes to standard safety. Every GLC Coupe gets nine airbags (front-seat passengers get two fronts, two window and a pelvic airbag, while the driver gets an extra knee bag; backseat passengers get two curtain bags), auto emergency braking, hill hold and a self-parking system that can tackle both parallel and transverse spaces, as well as a 360-degree reversing camera.
But springing for the 250d adds Mercedes' Driver Assistance Package Plus, which includes adaptive cruise with active steering, lane keep assist and a blind spot monitoring system that will step in if it senses a collision.
The Mercedes GLC 250d Coupe is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and will require a trip to the dealership every 12 months or 25,000kms. Total servicing costs for the first three years are capped at $2,280.
There's little doubt Mercedes has improved the Coupe/SUV formula here. The GLC 250d Coupe is fun to look at, fun to drive and every bit as practical as a traditional SUV. If horsepower runs in your veins, however, we'd be holding out for the genuine AMG models.
|GLC250||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$44,990 – 69,950||2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2016 GLC250 Pricing and Specs|
|GLC220 d||2.1L, Diesel, 9 SP AUTO||$42,725 – 53,980||2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-CLASS 2016 GLC220 d Pricing and Specs|