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Mercedes-Benz GLC 2020 review: 300e

Will the need to plug in your Mercedes drive you 'round the Benz? (image: Tom White)

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5

It's taken a while, but the tide on hybrid cars is turning.

Mainstream commuter mid-size SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester hybrids notably sold out for long periods at their respective launches. But the same can't be said for the uptake of electrified models from premium automakers.

Regardless, Mercedes-Benz has made a bold step forward in the premium mid-size SUV category with this car: the GLC 300e.

The newly arrived highest-spec non-AMG badged GLC isn't a 'regular' hybrid either. It's a plug-in with full electric drive – a factor which may actually work against it.

So, what's a semi-electrified Merc like behind the wheel? And, why is it actually surprisingly good value in a hotly contested mid-size market?

Read on as we answer all these questions and more.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Mercedes-Benz GLC 300e wears an MSRP of $82,888. Without a doubt priced at the premium end of the spectrum, when you unpack all the specs and lay it out, this car is actually great value.

To understand why, you just need to take a look at the rest of the range.

The regular GLC 300, for example, comes in at $79,335. Already close on the numbers, the 300e makes the difference up easily by coming standard with the excellent 'Airbody Control Suspension' package which is otherwise a $3800 option.

It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and built-in navigation, ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control. (image: Tom White) It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and built-in navigation, ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control. (image: Tom White)

So, if you were on the fence between plug-in and non-plug-in, it seems you may as well pick the 300e. Before you make the jump though, be sure to read the fuel consumption and driving parts of this review, because there is one significant caveat which could make or break your decision.

Back to pricing. The 300e's price is lower than its most direct rivals, the Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar plug-in hybrid ($98,990) and the Range Rover Sport Si4 PHEV SE ($133,677 – Land Rover does not offer the more size-appropriate Velar with a PHEV drivetrain). Neither Deutsche rival, BMW or Audi, offer a PHEV in this category in Australia, yet.

Already comparatively good value, the 300e packs standard equipment including 20-inch alloy wheels, digital dashboard and 10.25-inch multimedia display (as part of Merc's 'MBUX' software suite), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and built-in navigation, 'Hey Mercedes' voice control, wireless phone charging and USB-C ports, full 'Artico' faux leather interior trim with woodgrain finishes and RGB ambient interior lighting, keyless entry and push-start ignition, dual-zone climate control, and full LED front and rear light clusters.

The 300e packs standard equipment including 20-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tom White) The 300e packs standard equipment including 20-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tom White)

There is the notable inclusion of the already-mentioned air body suspension as standard, and the GLC 300e has pre-entry climate control via the 'Mercedes Me' app, with which you can also pre-set destinations in the navigation system which the car then uses to best optimize its electric drivetrain.

The GLC 300e comes with a charging cable to charge from a household outlet, but not a public charging cable (Type 2 to Type 2 - $565.16) or the wall box at-home charging unit ($1200 not including installation by JetCharge). You'll definitely want one or the other, possibly both to make the most out of this car, though.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The GLC is a stalwart of Mercedes' line-up, and the big grille and enlarged three-pointed star are icons of the road. The 300e variant does not mess with this well-established formula.

In fact, the only way to tell the 300e apart from regular variants is the badge on the back, and for even closer observers, the small panel on the right-hand side of the rear bumper where the Type 2 charging port is housed.

Of course, it's a premium looking product with its curvy panel work and chrome highlights which are on the right side of tasteful. Honestly though, and this goes for almost every Benz, this car looks like it was built to be grey. There are 10 colours. Seven of them are shades of grey. The one you see on our car is called 'Selenite Grey'. Please buy a great-looking red one?

  • The GLC is a stalwart of Mercedes’ line-up, and the big grille and enlarged three-pointed star are icons of the road. (image: Tom White) The GLC is a stalwart of Mercedes’ line-up, and the big grille and enlarged three-pointed star are icons of the road. (image: Tom White)
  • The only way to tell the 300e apart from regular variants is the badge on the back. (image: Tom White) The only way to tell the 300e apart from regular variants is the badge on the back. (image: Tom White)
  • Of course, it’s a premium looking product with its curvy panel work and chrome highlights which are on the right side of tasteful. (image: Tom White) Of course, it’s a premium looking product with its curvy panel work and chrome highlights which are on the right side of tasteful. (image: Tom White)

The GLC is at the tipping point between Benz's flashy new small car interiors and the relatively refined look of the brand's more traditional products. As such, detail elements like the woodgrain finish, dash toppers, ambient lighting arrays, and vent clusters are a bit more pared back in their visual assault to occupants. There's lots of nice, gently applied chrome, silver, and soft-touch leather, or at least leather look surfaces.

The thick-clad 'Artico' seats and lovely appointments make the interior a truly plush and luxurious place to be, even for long periods. The latest updates to the GLC range have added the impressive screens, which run on slick and fast software which is still a little tricky to get the hang of.

Personally, I prefer the way the GLC's digital displays are embedded in the dash where the traditional dials sit, as opposed to the huge, dash-spanning dual-screen cluster, as seen in cars like the new E-Class.

The GLC certainly has an old-world interior appeal in a different take to, say, the more sci-fi appointments of Jaguar Land Rover's range, or the more pared-back minimalism of a Volvo.

The GLC is at the tipping point between Benz’s flashy new small car interiors and the relatively refined look of the brand’s more traditional products. (image: Tom White) The GLC is at the tipping point between Benz’s flashy new small car interiors and the relatively refined look of the brand’s more traditional products. (image: Tom White)

How practical is the space inside?

The GLC is fairly practical for the segment, but we're entering an interesting era where incredibly packaged small SUVs like the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X1, and, in Mercedes' case, the GLB are more practical than their larger siblings.

Perhaps aimed at someone looking for luxury over practicality then, the GLC 300e still does well in its category. The front seats offer plenty of room and comfort for occupants as already noted, but also benefit from large storage binnacles in each door, a set of variable cupholders and a wireless charging bay set in the dash, a decent glove box, and a large split-opening console box which also houses extra connectivity.

The back seat offers plenty of room, with ample airspace for my knees (I’m 182cm/6'0" tall). (image: Tom White) The back seat offers plenty of room, with ample airspace for my knees (I’m 182cm/6'0" tall). (image: Tom White)

The media system has a plethora of methods for interaction, from tactile buttons to touchpads mounted centrally and on the wheel. Some are easier to use than others (with the odd little touch elements on the wheel requiring precision to use) but at least you'll be able to choose to interact with it in a way which will suit you.

The back seat offers plenty of room, with ample airspace for my knees (I'm 182cm/6'0" tall), and the same lovely seat trim granted to front passengers. While some higher trims get a third air conditioning zone here, the 300e just has directional vents. Passengers back here will benefit from large bottle holders in the doors and a drop-down armrest and there are two USB ports within reach for device charging.

  • The boot is hampered by the presence of the lithium battery, and has dropped an alarming amount from 550 litres (VDA) in the standard GLC varaints to 425L. (image: Tom White) The boot is hampered by the presence of the lithium battery, and has dropped an alarming amount from 550 litres (VDA) in the standard GLC varaints to 425L. (image: Tom White)
  • This sounds worse than it is, with much of the space being lost to under-floor storage. (image: Tom White) This sounds worse than it is, with much of the space being lost to under-floor storage. (image: Tom White)

The boot is hampered by the presence of the lithium battery, and has dropped an alarming amount from 550 litres (VDA) in the standard GLC varaints to 425L. This sounds worse than it is, with much of the space being lost to under-floor storage. Take a look at the pictures to see for yourself. There are practical netted bins on each side, and some elastics for securing objects. The GLC has quick release switches for the rear seats, too.

On the topic of under-floor storage, the 300e misses out on a spare wheel. Benz tells us the car has either run-flat tyres or an inflator kit depending on the wheel and tyre combination chosen.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The GLC 300e is full of powertrain. Under the hood is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with impressive power outputs of 155kW/350Nm which drives all four wheels via a nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission.

It also has a 90kW/440Nm electric motor which sources its power from a large 13.5kWh lithium ion battery pack.

Benz says these two combine for an overall output of 235kW/700Nm. Nothing to scoff at.

Under the hood is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with impressive power outputs of 155kW/350Nm. (image: Tom White) Under the hood is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with impressive power outputs of 155kW/350Nm. (image: Tom White)

How much fuel does it consume?

Our figure is shockingly out of whack with the lab-generated one on the sticker. But there's a rather interesting and cautionary tale behind why this is.

The GLC 300e is said to consume just 2.6L/100km, but our test had it return a way-out-of-whack 10.2L/100km.

How can this be? Benz is relying on you taking full advantage of the electric motor on offer, but in my particular situation where I was unable to maintenance charge at all thanks to a lack of an outlet in my unit parking spot and no optional public charging cable in our test car, I was relying on the 2.0-litre engine for most of my drive week.

The GLC 300e is said to consume just 2.6L/100km, but our test had it return a way-out-of-whack 10.2L/100km. (image: Tom White) The GLC 300e is said to consume just 2.6L/100km, but our test had it return a way-out-of-whack 10.2L/100km. (image: Tom White)

Keep in mind, this engine had to pull a large (13.5kWh) lithium ion battery cell on top of the regular GLC's weight, and could barely make use of the electric motor to take the stress off the engine most of the time meaning a well and truly blown out fuel figure.

Put simply, you can't drive the GLC 300e like a Toyota Prius. It needs to be charged. In fact, if you charge it every day, there's enough electric range stowed away that you could reasonably expect to use no fuel in a week of commuting, provided the distance travelled to and from charging points is less than, say, 30km. The official electric-only range is 43km.

Indeed, Mercedes-Benz told me most customers who opt for the 300e will also be choosing a wallbox to go with it, which makes sense, but if you're like me and have nowhere for it to go, the public charging cable is a must-have accessory.

The GLC 300e requires top-shelf 98RON premium unleaded fuel and has a 50-litre fuel tank. Charging time is seven hours from a wall socket or two hours from a public outlet or wallbox. It accepts Type2 'Mennekes' European standard charging plugs and can only be charged from AC sources at a maximum of 7.4kW.

The GLC 300e comes with a charging cable to charge from a household outlet, but not a public charging cable. (image: Tom White) The GLC 300e comes with a charging cable to charge from a household outlet, but not a public charging cable. (image: Tom White)

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The GLC 300e shares its safety suite with the regular GLC 300, meaning an active safety suite which includes freeway-seed auto emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive high-beams, driver attention alert, and adaptive cruise control.

All GLCs also have the expected traction, brake, and stability controls, and come packed with an astounding nine airbags as well as dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounting points across the rear seats.

All GLC-Class variants are covered by a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating dating back to 2015. It scored highly across all testing categories.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Mercedes-Benz has jumped ahead of many premium rivals, now offering a very welcome industry-competitive five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty including roadside assist for the period.

Service intervals for all GLC variants is 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first.

The latest updates to the GLC range have added the impressive screens, which run on slick and fast software. (image: Tom White) The latest updates to the GLC range have added the impressive screens, which run on slick and fast software. (image: Tom White)

There is capped price servicing which is cheapest when packaged into a service plan which can be bundled in on finance at the time of purchase. The standard plan is three years at a cost of $2150 (a $550 saving over normal service pricing).

The next two years can be optionally added. Four years of cover is $2950 while five years jumps to a slightly eye-watering $4650. This makes the cheapest way to genuine servicing a pricey $930 a year for the life of the warranty.

What's it like to drive around town?

The GLC 300e's drive experience only made me more disappointed I couldn't give it a good charge-up on my test week. It was sublime in electric mode. Silent and smooth, but oh-so powerful with the electric motor's 440Nm of torque instantly available, I felt like I was gliding through town in a luxurious cloud.

Not to say the experience using the 2.0-litre engine is bad by any means, just inferior once you've spent a full day in EV mode.

The four-cylinder engine itself is so quiet you'd be hard pressed to figure out when it turns on, with only the slight vibration reminding you there are explosions going on somewhere ahead of you.

The suspension deserves proper praise. In terms of comfort, I'd say the GLC 300e's 'Air Body Control' could be the best in class – without being able to compare to rivals on the spot. It filters out even the nastiest road corrugations.

It comes with full LED front and rear light clusters. (image: Tom White) It comes with full LED front and rear light clusters. (image: Tom White)

Dynamically, when you're pushing it a bit more in the corners, it does feel heavy (because it is) and a little prone to body-roll, even in Sport+ mode with the suspension at its lowest ride point.

It's clear this particular GLC is all about comfort, though, so if you're buying for fun-factor, consider an AMG-badged variant instead, it's not like you have a shortage of those to choose from now.

Bolstering this comfort focus further is Benz' complicated looking '9G' nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission which, again, is so smooth through its shifts it imparts that gliding feeling, even when commuting at low-speed under engine power.

It does this while still holding on to the satisfying feeling of letting each gear run through the rev range in Sport+ mode.

The GLC 300e is a reminder of what Mercedes-Benz is really about when you remove all the flashy stuff and AMG-ness of its current line-up. (image: Tom White) The GLC 300e is a reminder of what Mercedes-Benz is really about when you remove all the flashy stuff and AMG-ness of its current line-up. (image: Tom White)

The steering in Comfort mode (by far my favourite of the drive modes – can you tell?) is light, easy, and betrays the scale of the GLC. This makes parking and U-Turns easy.

Consider Sport mode at least for the freeway though. It will be more inclined to use the petrol engine (electric motors are less efficient on big open stretches) and you'll appreciate how it tightens the steering up for a firmer, more reactive feel.

The GLC 300e is a reminder of what Mercedes-Benz is really about when you remove all the flashy stuff and AMG-ness of its current line-up.

This car is all about refinement, comfort, and seamlessly blended technology. It's a car in a crucial segment which will really help in preparing Mercedes' target buyers for the electric era.

Just keep in mind: To make the most of its plug-in hybrid system it is vital you have somewhere to charge it.

$82,888

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5