Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class VS Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
- Modest steering feel
- So-so warranty
- Pricey servicing
- New fiercer face
- Cool cabin tech
- Advanced safety equipment
- Ride on standard suspension could be comfier
- Entry-grade not available with all-wheel drive
- Leather standard on upper grades only
If you’re in the market for a full-size, seven-seat, luxury SUV you’re obviously living life large. Big family, lots of friends, dogs and cats, and heaps of activity - horses, boats, camping?
You’re aiming at a six-figure bullseye between $130,000 and around $150,000. On a three-year novated lease, somewhere around three grand a month.
Mercedes-Benz Australia invited us to experience the car on a launch drive across city, suburban and rural roads.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
I’m the eldest child in my family, and the best. That’s despite not having a degree in international law and working for the United Nations saving lives like my younger sister, or being a high-flying accountant like my other sister, or running a design agency in Germany like my other sister.
But being first and best like me is the exception to the rule because normally first versions of anything aren’t as good as they can be – like the Mercedes-Benz GLC when it made its debut in 2015. Now the updated version has arrived and it’s better, much better... in some ways.
There’s no longer a diesel, but there’s a hybrid instead, although that won’t arrive until 2020 along with the hardcore AMG versions.
Which is why at the Australian launch in October, 2019, I was only given the GLC 200 and 300 to climb all over and drive. So, while neither I nor anybody else piloted all of the types of GLCs you can buy, here’s everything you need to know about them.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The updated Mercedes-Benz GLC has improved in many ways. It’s better looking, more powerful, and smarter with the addition of Hey Mercedes and new technology. The loss of the diesel won’t upset many. Benz says its customers are moving away from that fuel and the arrival of the plug-in hybrid is a step in the right, and more environmentally friendly, direction.
The GLC 300 is the sweet spot in the range. It's a bit over $10K more expensive than the 200 but comes with all-wheel drive, proximity unlocking, privacy glass and the awesome safety tech.
As mentioned, the GLS is big; a step up from the already substantial model it replaces. Built with the US market in mind, in fact it’s produced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it’s more than five metres long, close to two metres wide, and over 1.8m tall. And there’s more than three metres between the axles, a 60mm wheelbase increase over the previous model.
And despite the size of the canvas, the Benz design team has managed to make the GLS look like a modern Merc. Signature elements include obvious ones like the slatted grille with a couple of three-pointed stars on the nose.
But there’s also, the carefully chiselled twin ‘power dome’ bonnet, scowling LED headlights and vents to aid front brake cooling and smooth aero performance around the front of the car.
The big beast’s off-road intent is highlighted by extensions around the wheelarches, with big optional 22-inch rims sitting underneath. The fact they look right-sized for the car speaks volumes about its scale.
The racy AMG Line package is standard, and a recess and pronounced character line, tightening the lower waistline is a familiar Merc treatment, plus alloy roof rails toughen the look while dialling up practicality.
The rear is relatively simple, borderline generic, with tapered tail-lights offering the only strong whiff of design personality. But believe it or not, thanks to careful detail sculpting of the body, and smoothing underneath the car it boasts a drag figure of Cd 0.32. Outstanding aero performance for a large SUV.
The driver and front passenger are presented with a sweeping dashboard dominated by twin 12.3-inch digital screens, one primarily covering the instruments, and the central screen managing the MBUX media system, including audio, nav, phone integration, car set-up, and more, plus ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control.
The overall feel is simple, and restrained, yet massively confident, with a subtle colour palette, large squared-off elements defined by brushed metal finishes, and an obvious, intense attention to detail, from the haptic controls to the beautifully finished, multi-function steering wheel.
And the standard Burmester audio system includes a two-way in-car communication function that subtly amplifies the driver and front passenger’s voices for those in the third row, and vice versa. Sheer genius.
I’ve worked it out: Mercedes-Benz’s designers have just flipped the grille of the previous model upside down. No, they haven’t, but the new face of the GLC looks more resolved, broader and determined than the 2015 car.
Along with the grille and bumper, the headlights have been restyled and now appear more elegant, while the inlays in the tail-lights now have a floating square-shaped design.
Changes to the interior may seem minimal, but only from a material and trim perspective, the upgrade in technology is big. There’s the new display screen, the digital instrument cluster, the steering wheel and touch pad controller, and new upholstery colours.
There are 17 upholstery colours and combinations. Black is standard across the line-up in Artico and leather, while 'Silk Beige' and 'Magma Grey' are no-cost options on GLC 200 and 300 SUVs.
There are 10 paint hues to choose from with 'Polar White' (non-metallic) being a no-cost colour across the range and 'Iridium Silver Metallic' standard on the GLC 63 S SUV and Coupe.
Optional colours include: 'Hyacinth Red', 'Brilliant Blue' and what seems like 50 shades of grey with names like 'Selenite Grey', 'Mojave Silver' and 'Obsidian Black.'
Do the grades differ in their look? Yep, you can tell you’re looking at a GLC 300 and not a 200 by the 20-inch alloy wheels, running boards and rear privacy glass.
The GLC 300 Coupe could be mistaken for a full-blown AMG model thanks to its AMG Line body kit including 20-inch wheels, while the cabin is also outfitted with the AMG Line interior package adding aluminum sports pedals, flat-bottomed steering wheel and AMG floor mats.
As for the AMG grades the GLC 63 S looks more hardcore than its 43 ‘lite’ sibling thanks to the 21-inch rims, ‘jet-wing’ design front apron, flared guards, finned diffuser, spoiler lip and AMG performance exhaust system.
All interiors, regardless of the grade, are stunning. Even the entry-level GLC 200 with its black ash open pore wood trim and chrome air vents feels modern and uber stylish (I’m reclaiming the word uber).
There’s definitely more wow factor here than in the cabins of Audi and BMW rivals, particularly now with the large media screen and virtual instrument cluster.
What are the GLC’s dimensions? Well, it’s not a huge SUV at just 4669mm long, 1890mm wide and 1639mm tall.
Space is obviously a critical factor here, and no surprise there’s copious amounts of it inside the GLS.
Front seat passengers enjoy plenty of breathing room, without feeling remote from one another, and there’s lots of storage in the shape of a large lidded box/armrest between the seats, a decent glove box, two big cupholders and jumbo door pockets with room for large bottles.
There’s one data-enabled USB port in the front, two charge-ports in the second row, and four in the third row. Shouldn’t be any complaints about powering mobiles, tablets or games.
The second row feels every millimetre the SUV limo. Simply getting in and out is made easier because an auto lowering function drops the car 25mm when one of the doors is opened.
I was able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer. And there’s an extra 10cm of electrically adjustable travel to play with if those in the third row agree.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the front seatbacks, and again, the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is a breeze, there’s climate control ventilation, and a huge glass sunroof is standard. Rather than asking ‘Are we there yet?’ the kids will be disappointed when you arrive!
Then there’s what the Cleary family refers to as ‘the way back seat.’ A pair of third row seats for the lucky kids that get to inhabit their own little world. Getting in and out is relatively civilised thanks to electric slide and tilt for the second row seats, and space is generous. I could sit comfortably, so the kids will be all smiles.
With all seats upright cargo capacity is enough for a seven-person day trip (355L VDA). Press the button to fold the 50/50 split-fold third row down and your options expand substantially (890L). And with 40/20/40 split-folding second row lowered, transportation of a full, three-ring circus is on the cards (2400L). Overall, more space than the arch enemy BMW X7.
Plus, the ability to lower the car 50mm thanks to the standard air suspension makes life even easier. And one button lowers the second and third rows at the same time.
The spare is a collapsible space-saver, and towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3500kg, with a tow ball weight of up to 140kg. The ESP system also features a trailer stabilisation function that counters oscillation with “braking intervention.”
It depends. The SUV is absolutely (and obviously) the more practical of the two body styles, and at 191cm tall I can sit with plenty of head and legroom behind my driving position, while the boot’s cargo capacity is 550 litres.
The Coupe will need you to make a couple of practicality compromises. There weren’t any Coupes at the Australian launch in October, but Matt Campbell tested it in Europe and at 182cm tall he found the raked roofline better suited to smaller adults and children. The boot in the Coupe is smaller, too, at 500 litres capacity.
Cabin storage on board both the SUV and Coupe is good with four gigantic cupholders (two up front and two in the back), big door pockets, a large centre console bin and a decent-sized hidey hole under the trapdoor in front of the media touch pad.
Talking of that touch pad, it’s just one of the ways to access the media system, you can also use the touchscreen and the small black ‘swipe’ button on the left of the steering wheel.
The MBUX media system with its Hey Mercedes personal assistant function works to open the sunblind for example, or adjust the climate control, or locate destinations in the sat nav.
While the tech is still a bit clunky it represents the primitive stages of cars that’ll probably be more like companions in years to come. That’s possibly a bit creepy, but damned convenient and practical, nonetheless.
The digital instrument cluster is configurable to align with each driver’s personal preferences.
All GLCs come equipped with two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet, while grades from the 300 up also have smartphone wireless charging.
Three-zone climate control is only standard on the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, but all grades come with directional air vents for the rear seats.
Price and features
Aside from the comprehensive suite of safety tech, covered in the Safety section below, the GLS equipment list includes, 21-inch alloy rims, adaptive high beam assist, air suspension, alloy roof rails, AMG body kit, a huge panoramic sliding glass sunroof, privacy glass from the B-pillar back, auto tailgate, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, LED headlights, and power closing doors.
The power closing doors are a big plus for parents not wanting to disturb kids nodding off in the car, with the soft-touch function drawing the door in for the last few millimetres to an almost silent close.
Inside there’s ambient lighting (64 colours), strategically placed open pore oak wood trim, 13-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround sound audio, electric folding second and third row seats, a head-up display, ‘Mercedes-Benz’ branded illuminated sills, leather seat upholstery (‘Artico’ faux leather on the dash and doors), multi-adjustable electric seats in the front and second row (memory in the front), electrically adjustable steering column, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, and five-zone climate control.
The multi-media system is spectacular, incorporating the twin 12.3-inch digital screens, the central media unit managing nav, digital radio, mobile device connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus vehicle tracking. There are also remote vehicle status functions (door locking, valet parking, etc), global search (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Yelp, and Trip Advisor), and a wireless device charging pad.
The basket of goodies can hold its head high in this part of the market, so the value equation stacks up well.
There are eight members in the GLC family. Most affordable is the GLC 200 with its list price of $66,100, then the 300 at $77,700 and a 300e plug-in petrol-electric hybrid for $80,400.
Want the Coupe body style and AMG-look without the price tag? Well, there’s a GLC 300 coupe, too, for $87,700.
Standard features on the GLC 200 include 'Artico' upholstery (think leather but not leather), black ash open pore wood trim, leather-clad steering wheel and dual-zone climate control.
There’s also a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 'Hey Mercedes' MBUX assistant function, sat nav and a five-speaker sound system.
Then there are the 19-inch alloy wheels, roof racks, agility control suspension (see driving section), power tailgate and LED headlights.
The GLC 300 adds wireless charging for your smartphone, 20-inch alloys, privacy rear glass, proximity unlocking, multi-beam LED headlights with adaptive high beams and the 'Driver Assistance' package (see the safety section).
The GLC 300e has the same features as its petrol-only twin but adds air suspension, and pre-entry climate control, while the 300 Coupe come standard with the 'AMG Line' interior and exterior packages.
The Mercedes-AMG 43 SUV and Coupe are seriously loaded up with equipment. Standard is leather upholstery, Burmester sound system, a head-up display, heated front seats, Artico dashboard, panoramic sunroof (in the SUV and a glass sunroof in the Coupe), AMG 'Night Package', AMG 20-inch alloys, sports brakes, AMG grille and black roof rails.
The full-fat Mercedes-AMG 63 S SUV and Coupe step up another level with 21-inch AMG alloy wheels and an AMG body kit complete with front apron, spoiler lip and rear apron.
There’s an AMG performance exhaust system, plus heat and noise insulating glass. Coming standard inside is the AMG performance steering wheel, nappa leather upholstery and three-zone climate control.
Is it good value? Better value than the previous model, that’s for sure, what with the increase in cabin tech, but the sweet spot of the range is the GLC 300.
If you’re contemplating a Porsche Macan then $81,800 is the start-price there.
Engine & trans
There are two engines on offer. The 3.0-litre (M256) in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol GLS 450 4Matic, and the 2.9-litre (OM656) in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel GLS 400 d 4Matic.
The all-alloy, twin-scroll single-turbo petrol engine delivers peak power of 270kW from 5500-6100rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm across a broad plateau from 1600-4500rpm. It also features a 48-volt electrical system driving the ‘EQ Boost’ set-up, able to deliver an extra 16kW/250Nm for short periods. The integrated starter-generator also enables energy recuperation.
Although the all-alloy, twin-turbo diesel features variable valve lift it gives some ground on power, offering up 243kW between 3600-4000rpm, but torque is a solid whack, with 700Nm on tap from 1200-3000rpm. Worth noting, that to minimise emissions this engine features a “selective catalytic reduction converter” in the exhaust, which brings with it the use of an ‘AdBlue’ reducing agent. The separate AdBlue tank has a capacity of 31.6 litres.
The nine-speed auto transmission is the same in both versions, although the diesel has a slightly lower final drive ratio.
There are four petrol engines and a plug-in hybrid on offer in the Australian GLC line-up.
The GLC 200 is rear-wheel drive (RWD) only and has been given a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine making 145kW of power and 320Nm of torque (up 10kW/20Nm), while the GLC 300 is all-wheel drive (AWD) using the same engine tuned to produce 190kW/370Nm (up 35kW/20Nm).
Both have a nine-speed automatic transmission and use a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system which can cut the engine during coasting and add up to 150Nm of torque.
The GLC 300e is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid and is also AWD with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 155kW/350Nm, plus a 90kW/440Nm electric motor.
The Mercedes-AMG GLCs are both AWD and use a nine-speed sports automatic transmission but have different engines. The Mercedes-AMG 43 has a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 making 287kW/520Nm, while the 63 S has a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 producing 375kW/700Nm.
This update marks the disappearance of the GLC 300 d diesel from the line-up. Mercedes-Benz told us why in our news story here.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle for the GLS 450 is 9.2L/100km, the more frugal GLS 400 d trimming that to 7.7L/100km. The petrol 450 emits 210g/km of CO2 in the process, the diesel 400d dropping that slightly to 202g/km.
Stop-start is standard, you’re looking at premium unleaded for the 450 GLS, and you’ll need 90 litres of dinosaur juice to full the tank on both models.
Mercedes-Benz says the GLC 200’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine should use premium unleaded at a rate of 7.8L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. The combined fuel consumption of the GLC 300 according to Mercedes is 8.1L/100km.
More fun but less economical are the AMGs with the GLC 43’s V6 using 10.4L/100km over a combination of open and urban driving, while the GLC 63 S is even thirstier with the official fuel economy being 12.2L/100km.
Mileage figures have yet to be given for the 300e plug-in petrol-electric hybrid.
Merc claims the GLS 450 will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.2sec, and the 400 d in 6.3sec. Not hanging around for a 2.5 tonne mothership. But the standout is the 400 d’s torque. All 700Nm of it available from just 1200rpm to 3000rpm; right in the mid-range sweet spot.
The nine-speed auto transmission is smooth yet responsive, with paddles on the wheel for manual shifts when you want to pick the ratio. The combination of effortless grunt and the nine-speeder keeping things on the boil is an impressive one.
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear, and while you can feel the weight in cornering, the standard Airmatic air suspension (which does away with steel springs) is superb in terms of ride comfort and body control.
We took a deep breath and pushed enthusiastically through a series of sweeping corners and the fat (285/45 fr - 325/40 rr) Continental ‘PremiumContact 6’ rubber wrapped around our car’s (optional) 22-inch rims gripped hard.
The ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system also seamlessly shuffles torque between the front and rear axles (theoretically up to 100 per cent in each direction).
Merc has put extra focus on body rigidity, the tuning of engine and suspension mounts, and sound absorption, and it shows. The GLS 400 d is beautifully refined on the highway. A neat touch is the car automatically lowering 15mm at motorway speeds or when ‘Sport’ mode is selected.
Steering is electromechanically assisted, and Merc says the front suspension geometry has been revised to minimise vibration through the wheel. And yes, feedback is minimal, but unfortunately so is road feel with only a general connection between your hands on the wheel and the front tyres on the bitumen.
When you’re steering a large beast like this, often with something substantial hitched to the back, you want to know braking performance is up to the task, and the GLS’s big ventilated discs all around deliver reassuringly strong stopping power, with nice, progressive pedal feel to boot.
The seats are adjustable six ways to Sunday, but beyond that they’re comfortable and supportive, even over long stints behind the wheel.
We stayed on the bitumen, because, let’s face it, that’s where this car will spend 99.9 per cent of its time, with the exceptions of the boat ramp, a ski weekend or pony club.
For those special occasions the optional ‘Off-road engineering package’ adds a low-range transfer case, inter-axle locking, hill descent control, and under body armour for more serious work.
The GLC 300e and AMG versions hadn’t arrived in Australia at the time of launch in October 2019, but I did have the opportunity to put hundreds of kilometres on the GLC 200 and 300, on our less than perfect local roads.
I should point out here that the SUVs we drove had the standard 'Agility Control' suspension, which is Benz-speak for regular shock absorbers and coil springs.
That was good news to me when I arrived ready to drive, given the GLCs we tested in Europe earlier in 2019 were fitted with air suspension and driven on incredibly smooth roads.
Both the GLCs I tested were also fitted with the AMG Line pack and while this doesn’t affect the output or change the suspension it did increase the 200’s wheel size from 19- to 20-inch rims.
Starting in the GLC 200 I was impressed by how easy the SUV was to drive with accurate and light steering, great visibility and while acceleration from 0-100km/h in 7.8sec is nothing to brag about I was won over by the balanced feel of the RWD SUV.
I didn’t get that same balanced feel in the AWD GLC 300 but there was the superb traction and much swifter acceleration (0-100km/h in 6.2s).
The GLC 300 and 200 struggled, however, to remain composed and maintain a comfortable ride on the extremely shoddy, but typically Aussie roads I tested them on.
There also seemed to be a lack of travel in the suspension causing both cars I tested to ‘bottom-out’ at regular speeds in fairly small dips. If you’re planning to spend money on optioning yours up, I’d seriously consider ticking the 'Air Body Control' air suspension box.
That said, the driving experience was a tranquil, easy and enjoyable one – the way a C-Class SUV should be.
I know there are readers out there keen to know about the off-road capability of the GLC but there was no chance to test this out on the Australian launch.
Matt Campbell did have the opportunity to get the GLC muddy in Europe and found that with the 'Off Road Pack' it’s capable of handling tougher terrain than many would think. Unfortunately, that off-road pack won’t be available in Australia.
And while we’re yet to sample the updated version of the Mercedes-AMG 43 and 63 S the previous models were outstanding, and going by our impression of the vehicles in Europe, will slap a smile on your face. We’ll know for sure when those SUVs arrive later in 2020.
At the time of this launch drive the GLS hadn’t been safety assessed by ANCAP, but you could make a small wager, like every penny you have to your name, that it will score a maximum five stars.
The expected active features are there, including ABS, ASR, and ESP, with additional tech including ‘Active Blind-Spot Assist’, ‘Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak for AEB), active lane keeping and lane change assist, ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Evasive Steering Assist’, ‘Parktronic’ (active parking assist with 360-degre camera), rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure warning system.
Then, if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact the GLS is equipped with nine airbags (front and pelvis side for driver and front passenger, side for outer rear seat occupants, full-length curtain, and a driver’s knee bag), an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, and the ‘Pre-Safe Plus’ (flashes rear hazards to warn drivers closing too quickly from behind, tightening the belts at the same time, and locking the brakes if the GLS is stationary with a rear impact imminent).
The Mercedes-Benz GLC was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015.
Coming standard from the entry-grade GLC 200 are nine airbags, a 360-degree camera, auto parking, plus advanced safety technology such as adaptive cruise control, AEB, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.
Grades from the GLC 300 upwards pick up the 'Driver Assistance Package' which adds active steering, cross traffic function, active blind spot and lane keeping assistance, evasive steering and lane changing assistant.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
The Mercedes-Benz range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW continues to lag behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz ‘Road Care’ roadside assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
As a guide, service pricing for the outgoing GLS is set at $2600 per service (up-front) and $3250 (PAYG), a saving of $650 a pop. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase ($3550 and $4900).
That said, we’d encourage the luxury brands to follow the lead of mainstream manufacturers and move to five-year warranties.
Servicing is recommended annually or every 25,000km, whichever comes first. Owners are able to prepay for the servicing which amounts to $2150 for three years or $2700 if you pay as you go.