2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC has a recipe for success
The Mercedes-Benz GLC has big shoes to fill — predecessor GLK was second-best seller in Mercedes-Benz Canada’s line-up.
THE PROS & CONS
- WHAT’S BEST: Smooth, comfortable ride; very quiet interior; nimble handling; classy, well-featured interior.
- WHAT’S WORST: Styling perhaps not as distinctive as former GLK model; but may be better looking despite that; price has crept up more than the competition in recent years.
- MOST INTERESTING: GLC has big shoes to fill — predecessor GLK was second-best seller in Mercedes-Benz Canada’s line-up.
STRASBOURG FRANCE — The success of the GLK compact crossover seemed to even surprise Mercedes-Benz Canada. It became the second-best selling vehicle in their line-up, next to the C Class.
The GLK replacement, to be badged GLC in Mercedes’s new nomenclature, is softer-looking, softer-riding, roomier and quieter.
It should succeed as well, if they can keep the price right.
The outgoing GLK was all rectilinear, sharp edges — what my co-conspirator on the ride Jackson Hayes called “cheese-grater” styling.
The larger body — by 118 mm in wheelbase, 120 mm overall, 50 mm in width — translates into usefully more room in all dimensions, notably in rear seat legroom and elbow room in both rows.
Nonetheless, clever use of aluminum, high-strength steels and plastics means 80 kg lesser weight to haul around, to the benefit of, well, everything: performance, economy, ride and handling.
Upgraded ambiance inside too, with higher-quality materials and a boatload of new technology and connectivity.
Multi-link front and rear aluminum/steel suspensions can be upgraded to a multi-chamber air set-up, now called Air Body Control.
Standard on both suspensions is Dynamic Select, allowing a choice of Eco, Comfort, Sport or Sport+ settings for ride, steering feel, transmission and throttle response. A fifth setting, Individual, allows the driver to choose their own preferences for these various attributes.
The models we tested here aren’t quite what we will get at our launch in November.
The 2.1 litre four-cylinder turbo-Diesel GLC 250 d 4MATIC we drove will become the GLC 250 d 4MATIC, while the 2.0 litre four turbo-gasoline GLC 250 4MATIC on hand here will become the GLC 300 4MATIC back home.
The GLC 350 e 4MATIC plug-in hybrid will arrive some time next year.
All but the latter get a nine-speed automatic transmission, driving through a new four-wheel drive system which is lighter and, says Mercedes, more effective and efficient.
The full complement of advanced warning safety systems is available on the GLC. I always shut them off because I prefer to just pay attention.
New is a HUD (Heads-Up Display) which I always find distracting, so I shut it off too.
But they’re there if you want them.
My power train preference — surprise, surprise — was the Diesel. Very quiet for the breed, with lots of low-end torque.
The gasoline car was quicker 0-100 km/h, but only by a few tenths, and only when you really stood on it. In typical day-to-day light-throttle application, the Diesel is more than quick enough, and you save so much on fuel, even if part of that is eroded by the need to refill the urea tank once in a while.
Now, our gasoline car will have 33 more horses than the one we drove here, so the difference will probably be more noticeable.
The automatic shifted well, except for one harsh fourth-to-second downshift in our Diesel tester. Never could replicate it; these cars had been thrashed by previous waves of the international press brigade, and they were pre-production units, so the answer may lie in there somewhere.
Both our test cars were equipped with Air Body Control. The air pressure and damper settings at each corner can be adapted in as little as 60 milliseconds to optimize ride quality and reduce body lean in corners.
The GLC is lighter than the GLK and felt it, although much of the sprightlier handling was probably down to the new suspension and steering systems.
Mercedes is stretching by saying it feels “like a sports car” when the Dynamic Select is set to Sport or Sport+, but it is very nimble.
In addition to the considerably improved ride, the overall low interior noise level was probably the most remarkable aspect of the GLC’s comportment.
An off-road course set up for our entertainment showed the GLC to be vastly more capable than any sane user would ever attempt. Still, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
A short largely-urban loop in the GLC 350 e plug-in hybrid proved that the system works well. Whether it will ever be worth the as-yet undetermined extra cost, what with gasoline still being cheaper than water, and whether a Mercedes owner will really slog through the slush in February to plug in his/her car “remains to be seen”, as they say about a funeral home.
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Prices and final specs for our GLC models will not be finalized until closer to our local launch date in early November.
Given the competitiveness of this segment and the importance of this model to Mercedes-Benz, it’s hard to see them charging much more for the GLC than they did for the GLK, despite more features.
That said, gone are the days when a GLK was available for just over $40k. Base list for the current GLK Diesel is $48,600, while the V6 gasoline model starts at $50,700, which puts the Mercs a several grand above BMW or Audi, but well below Porsche.
With more room, better dynamics, a nicer interior and much more equipment, all Mercedes has to do is price the GLC right, and it will do just fine.
Mercedes-Benz GLC at a glance
VEHICLE TYPE: Compact SUV/Crossover, five passenger
PRICE: n/a. Current model (GLK) — $48,600 (Diesel) — $50,799 (gasoline).
PROPULSION: front-engine, full-time four-wheel drive.
TOW-RATING: 750 (trailer un-braked), 2,500 (trailer braked).
ENGINE: 2.1 litre four cylinder, four valves per cylinder, two-stage turbocharger, direct injection Diesel / 2.0 litre four cylinder, four valves per cylinder, turbocharger, direct injection gasoline.
TRANSMISSION: nine-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel drive.
POWER/TORQUE (horsepower/lb.-ft.): GLC 250 d (Diesel): 204 at 3,800 r.p.m./ 368 at 1,600—1,800 r.p.m.; GLC 250 (gasoline): 211 at 5,500 r.p.m. / 258 at 1,200—4,000 r.p.m.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: n/a
BRAKES: four-wheel disc, ABS plus Brake Assist.
TIRES: 235/65 R 17 all season.
STANDARD FEATURES: Every power feature known to mankind; Dynamic Select performance setting device; adaptive cruise control with steering assist; automatic climate control; Pre-Safe braking with pedestrian detection, Cross-wind assist, and lane keeping assist.
ACCESSIBILITY: Very good, front and rear.
COMPETITION: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Porsche Macan.
WHAT’S BEST: Smooth, comfortable ride; very quiet interior; nimble handling; classy, well-featured interior.
WHAT’S WORST: Styling perhaps not as distinctive as former GLK model; but may be better looking despite that; price has crept up more than the competition in recent years.
MOST INTERESTING: GLC has big shoes to fill — predecessor GLK was second-best seller in Mercedes-Benz Canada’s line-up.
LOOKS: Cheese-grater motif replaced with softer, more aerodynamic silhouette.
INTERIOR: Classy, well-finished, well-equipped cabin.
PERFORMANCE: Quicker yet more fuel-efficient with either engine.
TECHNOLOGY: All the Mod Cons and Nanny Systems
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: Smooth, ultra-quiet ride.
WHAT YOU WON’T LIKE: You might not be able to find it in a sea of similar-looking cars in the upscale mall parking lot.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
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