2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Review

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A quiver full of arrows. That’s not just title of a Jeffrey Archer book, but also a statement of preparedness. An answer for every question. It is a position now held in the most part by Mercedes-Benz, who complete their passenger car armory with the final missing piece, the medium-sized SUV. Meet the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC. Slotting neatly into the revised SUV nomenclature between the GLA and GLE, the GLC (as its name would suggest) is based on the hugely successful W205 C-Class. From afar, the GLC does look like a slightly lifted C-Class Estate. While the GLC does stand taller by 18cm, the SUV is actually shorter (4cm) and wider (2cm) than the C-Class wagon. There is more room inside too, with the extra height allowing for more voluminous hair-dos in the rear seat (5cm over the Estate). The GLC also rides 13cm higher. Importantly for an SUV, cargo volume has also increased over the wagon by 60-litres to 550-litres with the rear seats up. On offer are two 2.1-litre diesel models, the GLC 220d (125kW / 400Nm), GLC 250d (150kW / 500 Nm) and one 2-litre petrol, the GLC 250 (155kW / 350Nm), Mercedes are expecting supply to be the GLC’s biggest challenge. And on the face of it, they might be right. It’s a smart looking car, perhaps more conservative than some, but it’s clean, classy and immediately identifiable as a Mercedes. There are twelve paint colours available including the rather striking Hyacinth Red ($2,990 Designo option), but the car you see in the majority of photos and in the video is Tenorite Grey (a $1,990 option). All cars feature side steps and roof rails and there is an optional AMG pack ($2,990) which provides different wheels and revised front and rear bars. In standard trim the GLC is priced slightly higher than medium SUV offerings from BMW and Audi, but the level of standard equipment does a great job at shifting the value equation in the Benz’s favour. Adaptive LED headlamps, adaptive cruise control, surround-view parking camera, automatic parking, keyless entry… the list of standard goodies goes on. As an example, to equip a BMW X3 to the same level as the GLC 250 requires some $13,000 worth of options to be added. Granted, BMW have a tendency to package options more competitively at the point of purchase, but for pure retail figures the value argument is hard to ignore. The GLC shares the same, modern cabin as the C-Class saloon and with the extra head-room and higher point of vision, it is a very pleasant place to spend time. Though, I will say that the door sills are quite high and resting an elbow on the edge is a tad awkward. The rear offers plenty of room and creature comforts, although the bench itself is a bit short and not as comfortable as it could be for taller passengers. There are no specific ‘family’ features like the integrated booster seat of the Volvo XC60, but the vents, pockets, cupholders and arm-rest cubby should keep little hands adequately busy. As noted, the power tailgate reveals a larger boot than the C-Class estate. There are quick-fold buttons for the 40:20:40 split seats as well as clever underfloor storage (and a crate), made possible by the lack of a spare tyre of any sort. All GLC models use run-flat tyres and naturally come with 24-hour roadside assist for the duration of the warranty period, but it’s worth being aware of the missing spare, particularly if you have a spirit of adventure or a knack for knocking sharp curbs. We drove all three engine options on a mixture of suburban and country roads in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, including a car fitted with the AMG suspension package. We also spent a couple of days with the GLC 250 in urban Melbourne. None of the initial crop of GLC models will set the world on fire in terms of straight line performance, but they are all zippy enough for common daily duties. The SUV has a 200kg weight increase over the C-Class and as a result does feel a bit more sluggish off the mark. The 125kW 220d doesn’t feel markedly different to the 155kW 250d at urban speeds, but takes longer to pick up from 80km/h, during country overtaking for example, again something to keep in mind of you are a regular tourer. Both are responsive from around 2,000rpm and tend to reach and hold speed without any problem. The GLC 250 petrol is a bit punchier when pushed, but is noisier under load than the diesels and thirstier around town. That said, both petrol and diesel cars achieved 7.4L/100km on our launch test loops, the petrol around 9.5L/100km for the wholly urban drive. Our pick would be the GLC 250 d, for the combination of low-down response and better fuel consumption. Given current tax concessions on diesel cars too, the $2000 list-price premium is negated in the drive-away calculation, so both 250’s end up costing the same out the door. The GLC is pleasantly quiet (our dB meter wasn’t present to confirm but the diesel seemed more hushed than the petrol) although all cars exhibit noticeable wind noise from the A-pillars and mirrors at 80km/h and above. On the move, the GLC offers five driving modes, ECO, COMFORT, SPORT, SPORT+ and INDIVIDUAL which change throttle response, steering input and suspension dampening rates. There is a noticeable change between settings, but nothing too extreme. Changing between COMFORT and SPORT will likely form the basis of most owner behaviour, but having the INDIVIDUAL setting to configure (to our preference) the SPORT suspension and COMFORT steering is a welcome addition. SPORT+ is pretty pointless – save that for the AMG version. Fair to note too that constantly switching modes can make the car try to relearn your driving style and result in the occasional clumsy shift or shudder from the driveline when coming to a halt. Keep it in one mode and the experience is much smoother. Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic automatic transmission suits the GLC engine pairing and is for the most part, smooth and accurate in its gear selection. Kick-down for overtaking can serve up a small delay as you hear the car adjust more than once, and the whole shebang isn’t as smooth as the driveline alternatives from BMW or Audi, but that’s a small criticism in an otherwise solid setup. The extra suspension travel and more ‘SUV-centric’ tune gives a more compliant ride than the C-Class sedan. Being a Mercedes, it errs toward the softer side, resulting in more body roll and rebound oscillation than the BMW X3. This can be reduced somewhat by selecting the SPORT mode setting, but that really is only if you are driving the GLC. Around town and on the majority of urban surfaces, the default COMFORT setting provides a very usable mix of ride satisfaction and response. If COMFORT isn’t comfortable enough for you though, keep in mind that there is an optional ($2,490) air suspension package available to take some of the sharpness from those run-flat tyres and 19-inch wheels (both GLC 250-models roll on 20’s). Interestingly the ride quality doesn’t alter much with the AMG wheel and suspension package, making it more a style choice than a dynamic one, and likely a more popular choice because of it. Steering is more light than lightning, but it makes the GLC a breeze to deal with on all the less glamorous driving tasks, like parking and commuting. For a first step into the medium SUV segment in Australia, Mercedes have come out of the blocks charging. The GLC really is an easy car to like. A combination of premium sensations and sporting undertones mated to practical packaging and solid value. It may not be the best in any one area, but its very good in almost every way. That’s a formula that has worked for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and given the SUV’s extra popularity and more impressive value, it makes the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC another potential winner for the three-pointed star. Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.