One can argue that Mercedes-Benz gave life to the luxury SUV/cross-over segment, starting in 1997 with the ML-Class, popularized in the Jurassic Park movie. Land Rover’s Range Rover had long lorded it over this once ignored segment, but things have changed massively in the past quarter of a century. Audi, BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Jaguar and so many others now have multiple offerings in different classes and budgets. Even ultra-luxury brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce already have their SUV offerings.
Re-aligning the model range to accommodate the ever growing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, Mercedes-Benz has renamed their range to reflect the naming sequence mirrored by their sedans: GLA, GLC, GLE and GLS. The bad boy true truck is the G, favored by gangsters, mafia, heads of state, private armies/special forces and society’s elite all of whom are bunched in a totally different level and lifestyle.
The GLC is the compact luxury crossover and locally comes available in GLC 200 trim, driving the rear wheels via a 9-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission. Power comes from a 2.0 gasoline engine outputting a very adequate 197hp and a healthy 320 Newton-Meters of torque. It feels like how a Benz should be. For many years, I was disappointed with the range of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. AMG models aside, Mercedes-Benzes a generation past felt rather fragile and / or brittle. You felt that something was waiting to break if you didn’t exercise caution, moved with grace, measured force and concentrated on not breaking anything. A far cry from the W123 and W124 Mercs my generation grew up with. Thankfully, today’s Mercs like the GLC have regained a lot of the sparkle it lost during the 90s through to the mid-2000s.
While 4MATIC AWD isn’t standard on the 200, other standard features include dual-zone automatic air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth System, 8-way power driver and passenger bucket seats and airbags (front, front side, side-curtain and knee). ABS-EBD brakes with active brake assist, traction/stability control, hill-start assist and a slew of other alphabet soup safety features are also standard. On this particular test unit, a Burmester surround sound system was installed and Spotify really came alive, transforming the Merc into a sound stage good enough for the most hard core of audiophiles. Bluetooth Telephony is quite tedious but unfortunately the GLC doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The interior is beautiful, and I am careful to choose that word. It feels expensive, posh and classy with high-tech thrown in for good measure. The black (both matte and piano gloss) contrasts beautifully with slathers of satin aluminum trim for the A/C vents, HVAC controls and COMAND multimedia system which finally becomes intuitive to use even for first timers. The high-tech bit is in the form of the virtual LCD display for the instrument cluster and multimedia infotainment system’s screen. Everything feels robust and well-engineered. Maybe not as ‘unbreakable’ as Mercedes-Benzes of yore, but definitely sturdier in feel compared to Mercedes-Benz models just five years ago. Of course, driving position and ergonomics is excellent and rear seat space is more than adequate for two adults on a long drive. There’s 550 liters of trunk space, expanding to a huge 1600 liters with the rear seats down.
The ride is another strong suit. It’s comfortable, decently plush but body motion is well controlled: today’s crossover driving public want to drive fast even on the rough stuff and the GLC delivers. The brakes are good, strong and offer excellent modulation, but tip-in is a bit over-assisted so you need to get used to it. Steering on Mercs have never been a strong suit but the GLC is decent in this department as it is light but not wooly and responsive without feeling artificially alert. The GLC would be a perfect long-distance tourer, if only we could relish and enjoy our freedom on the open road these days. Fuel consumption is quite good too as I averaged 7.8km/liter on short city drives through moderate to heavy traffic. My short highway run saw 12km/liter but the numbers should improve as mileage accrues on the new tight engine. Maneuverability is good too around town, with a 5.9 meter turning radius.
For someone who wants the badge and the prestige of owning a Merc but enjoys driving to many unfamiliar places with friends, family and cargo, the GLC makes for a good proposition. I just wish the ride height was taller, more SUV-like.
But Mercedes-Benz has a really good product here. Don’t believe me? Look at the hundreds of thousands sold in the US, Europe and China mostly to young adventure seeking individuals. They can’t be all wrong like me.
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.