The Mercedes-Benz GLC marks the brand’s first mid-sized SUV offering in South Africa. This means that Mercedes-Benz now has a proper rival to the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. How does it shape up? We spent a week behind the wheel getting to know the ins and outs of the GLC.
Where does it fit in?
The Merc GLC can be thought of as a C-Class just wearing an SUV suit. The newcomer utilises the C-Class’ platform, but gets a 33mm longer wheelbase and both the front and rear tracks have been widened to suit the SUV set up. Much like its German rivals, Mercedes-Benz has equipped all the models in the GLC range with all-wheel drive configurations and there are petrol and diesel engines to choose from. What we have here on test is the top-of-the-range GLC 300 4Matic AMG Line.
Under the bonnet
The GLC 300 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces peak outputs of 180 kW and 270 Nm of torque. Despite its bulk (1 900kg), the GLC will bolt from zero to 100kph in 6.5 seconds, which should give a few hot hatches a run for their money. Power delivery from the 2.0-Litre engine is smooth and linear and when driving in everyday situations, the engine note is quite hushed, which is a boon, seeing that the powerplant sounds a trifle dull when accelerating.
The nine-speed automatic gearbox is quite smooth when changing gears, but if you require the Benz to execute a quick kickdown, the ‘box can be a bit jerky in its attempts to call on lower gears. If you want a more tactile engagement with the gearbox then a set of paddles have been supplied behind the steering wheel, although this won’t stop the clumsy downshifts.
Inside the cabin
The stylish and tech-heavy trend from Mercedes continues in this GLC. Much of the C-Class’ design and layout dominates the cabin. It’s very classy, bathed in lavish looking materials and simple to understand. Control of the tablet-shaped centre screen is driven through the rotary knob in the centre console and for the most part, it’s intuitive to use. Opt for the Command Online package and you’ll get internet capabilities and real-time traffic information about congestion. The navigation system is probably the most difficult part of the infotainment system to use and seems overcomplicated when setting a destination or searching for a point of interest.
Comfort up front is plush and the raised seating position provides excellent visibility; in time-honoured Benz tradition the cabin makes its occupants feel cosseted and cocooned. Rear space in the two outer seats is adequate, but the passenger seated on the middle seat has to deal with quite a large lump of raised carpeting from the transmission tunnel. The rear seats fold down providing a satisfactory 1 600 litres of loading space. The boot alone can hold 550 litres – again identical to rivals in the segment.
How does it drive?
Thanks to the optional air suspension (R14 000), the GLC adapts well to variable road conditions. In Comfort mode, it was softly-sprung and actually leant and rolled more than expected through the corners. Once Sport suspension was selected, it firmed the ride up adequately but meant that the gearbox would hold onto revs a little too long to be comfortable for everyday use. The Individual mode, which allows the driver to set up personal settings for the suspension and transmission, was very handy. Sport suspension and Comfort gearbox settings seems to be an ideal combination. If you happen to encounter a dirt road then the comfort setting on the suspension would be best.
There’s not much to complain about as far as the GLC 300’s steering feel and agility. The electric steering is well-weighted and despite the huge optional 20-inch wheels (R12 000) on our model, the level of road noise intrusion is minimal and the suspension doesn’t crunch over bumps.
Tech and safety spec
Mercedes-Benz is particularly good at filtering its high-end tech through to its “lower” models and almost everything you can ask for is available on a GLC – at a cost. Our test unit here had R300 000 worth of options specified. The most expensive option fitted is the Driving Assistance Plus (R29 900), which adds a solid collection of safety systems. These include Pre-Safe, Steering Assist, Distronic Plus, Pre-Safe braking, cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist and active blind spot assist.
The arrival of the GLC means that Benz has an impressive foil for the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, both of which are much older products. It’s certainly stylish, spacious and with the air suspension option ticked adaptable to any kind of surface. The engine is more than powerful enough and returns decent fuel economy. There’s a lot to like about the GLC’s interior as it feels like a really upmarket place with loads of connectivity and technology. With a starting price of R705 784, it’s quite expensive but not much more than the X3 and R50 000 more than a soon-to-be-replace Audi Q5.
Price and after sales support
The Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 AMG Line starts at R705 748. Our model, complete with options totalled R952 848. It comes with a 2yr/unlimited km warranty and a 6yr/100 000km maintenance plan.
Test Team Opinion
“The Mercedes-Benz GLC goes head to head against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. It rides beautifully and the interior is luxurious. There’s a good range of engines available and all models are equipped with 4Matic. However, once you’ve thrown on some extras, the price tag is just a few Rand short of R1 million which is alarming.” David Taylor
We like: Spacious and premium interior, adaptable ride, loads of tech and safety available
We don’t like: Clunky downshifts, pricey options
Also consider: BMW X3, Audi Q5, Lexus NX