Mercedes-Benz have been curiously absent from the mid-sized premium SUV market in this country but they're a major player now. This GLC-Class model is the German brand's answers to cars in this segment - models like the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Range Rover Evoque. The experts at Car & Driving size it up.
This GLC-Class model is a RAV4 or Honda CR-V-sized vehicle, but obviously one with a premium badge. In the Mercedes-Benz SUV hierarchy, it slots in just above the smaller GLA-Class but below the brand's really luxurious and pricey 4x4s - the GLE (aimed at BMW's X5), the big 7-seat GLS-Class and the really hard-core go-absolutely-anywhere G-Class. Yes, the GLC is late to the party in this segment, but it's smart, efficient and very desirable.
It seems strange to think that until the launch of this GLC-Class model, Mercedes had never offered a proper compact SUV. Or at least it'd never offered one in the UK. On the Continent, the Stuttgart brand has always taken on cars like Audi's Q5 and BMW's X3 with its GLK-Class model, but this was never engineered to be produced in right hand drive. Big mistake. It's taken a long time for the Three-Pointed Star to correct that error, but now that it has, this GLC-Class model can take its place in the company's growing SUV line-up. It gets two frugal diesel engines and, unlike the smaller A-Class-based GLA Crossover model, is mainly offered with four wheel drive. In other words, it's a proper SUV model.
How the GLC gets down the road is heavily dependent on what boxes you tick when you're ordering. In total, there are three distinct suspension options available, with standard cars getting a normal comfort-orientated steel coil spring set-up. If you want something more dynamic, there's a sports suspension option, while for those prioritising an ultimately absorbent ride, air suspension can also be added at extra cost. The latter option is the most desirable. 'AIR BODY CONTROL', as Mercedes call it, promises a cosseting ride when you want luxury or flat, sportscar-like handling when you're in a hurry. With an optional 'Off Road Engineering Package', you can even manually adjust ride heights through the infotainment system. Under the bonnet, the buying focus is on the 2.1-litre diesel units used in the GLC 220d and GLC 250d models. The differences between these two variants are down to engine tune, with the 220d offering 170PS and the 250d churning out 204PS. The 0-62mph times are 8.3 and 7.6 seconds respectively. Mercedes has also developed a plug-in hybrid version, the GLC 350e, which adds a 116PS electric motor and a battery pack to a 2.0 litre turbo petrol unit. The success of Mitsubishi's similarly-configured Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid model suggests that there'll be a strong UK appetite for that kind of car. At launch, all models were equipped with 4MATIC 4WD but you can also ask your dealer about the availability of a more affordable rear wheel drive version too. Whatever your choice of variant, drive will be supplied through a standard 9-speed automatic gearbox.
First impressions are that the GLC is most definitely related to the C-Class compact executive model it's based upon. There's the same long nose and gently sloping roofline we've come to recognise, along with similar contouring down the flanks. Naturally the GLC is more upright and comes with subtle plastic wheelarch extensions and skidplate-style detailing around the bumpers to show its off road credentials. Overall, it's a far cry from the boxy old GLK-Class model this car replaced in Europe - and all the better for it. Underneath the skin, Mercedes have used more aluminium and high strength steel to help remove weight wherever possible. Those C-Class underpinnings have been lengthened to improve interior space and make sure that entry for rear passengers is easy. Once you do climb inside, you're greeted by a dashboard that's smoothly co-ordinated in every way save for the rather unusual positioning of the infotainment screen. As usual with Merc-brand models, that's perched on top of the fascia. As usual, there's a wide range of options to make your GLC look either sporty or very luxurious, both inside and out. Go to town in the cabin and it really will feel luxurious. Boot space is up to 580-litres seats up - nearly 100-litres more than the C-Class - while seats down, this becomes a cavernous 1600-litres.
Prices sit mainly in the £35,000 to £40,000 bracket and as a GLC buyer, your first choice will be to decide if you need the extra power the pokier 250d model offers over the base 220d variant. As there's no economy penalty in choosing the faster car and only a £1,000 price difference, the 250d would be our pick. Next there's a choice of 'SE' (around £35,000), 'Sport' (circa £37,500) and 'AMG Line' (just under £40,000) trim levels to consider as perhaps you seek to slowly ramp up the aggression and equipment levels of your GLC. Overall, expect this Mercedes to cost a slight premium over its Audi Q5 and BMW X3 direct rivals. All GLCs receive a 9-speed automatic gearbox, four wheel drive, the 'COMAND' infotainment system, 'DYNAMIC SELECT' handling control with adjustable dampers, plus all the usual niceties you'd expect from a Mercedes of this price. Safety-wise, there's a full rosta of electronic shields that scan the road ahead and prevent you from having an accident. Things like the 'COLLISON PREVENTION PLUS' system, plus the 'Crosswind Assist' set-up and the 'ATTENTION ASSIST' system. Optional is the 'DISTRONIC PLUS' radar cruise control system - with 'STEERING ASSIST' to keep you in lane and a 'Stop & Go' feature that'll slow the car automatically and start it off again if you come across a motorway tailback.
This GLC has to be competitive when it comes to running costs - and is. The running costs of GLC 220d and 250d models are identical. Depending on the trim level you've picked, one of these will kick out between 129 and 143g/km of CO2, while returning 56.5mpg on the combined cycle. This makes this Mercedes slightly cleaner and more economical than a rival Audi Q5 2.0 TDI. If you're after better figures than that, the 350e plug-in hybrid only chugs out 60g/km and can be driven up to 21 miles on electricity alone. If most of your trips are short and you can charge it, then feasibly you won't have to run the engine for a great deal of time at all. There's plenty of potential fuel savings there. All GLCs come with a 3 year warranty and should prove to hold onto their value well. That's provided you don't go mad on the options list of course.
Image is everything when it comes to premium compact SUVs and on that basis, the GLC is a very desirable package. In terms of styling, technology and efficiency, it borrows hugely from other Mercedes models - to very good effect. Plus options like air suspension offer the kind of luxury that used to be limited to much larger luxury SUVs, enabling this car to cross ravines one minute and carve through a set of bends at speed the next. Some may feel that there are still more dynamic choices to make in this segment: the trendier-looking Range Rover Evoque for example. Or the more sharply-handling BMW X3. As an all-rounder though, combining many of the qualities you'll find in both those cars, the GLC is a tempting package. It's arrived late to the party, but it's come well equipped to make a few waves.