First Drive: The Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 d is a premium SUV that oozes badge appeal
Mercedes has given its mid-sized SUV a mid-life makeover, with some new tech and efficient engines. Darren Cassey headed to Frankfurt to give it a go
What is it?
Heads must have rolled at Mercedes-Benz in whatever department decided that re-engineering the GLK, the GLC’s predecessor, for right-hand-drive markets back in the mid-2000s wasn’t worth it. We never got it in the UK, and with the SUV boom of the late 2000s the Germans missed out on a huge number of British-based sales.
When the GLC replaced the GLK in 2015, bringing it here was a no-brainer, and unsurprisingly it quickly became one of the brand’s biggest-selling models on these shores. After a few years on sale, it’s been given a mild facelift to keep buyers interested and keep it in line with the latest emissions regulations too.
On the face of it not a great deal has changed. The exterior looks much as it did before with some subtle changes such as new LED headlights and chrome elements that now run the full length of the vehicle. Inside, there’s a larger infotainment screen that’s now touch-responsive and a new trackpad.
The main story, though, is the addition of a range of new four-cylinder engines, which Mercedes says bring more performance alongside improved fuel economy. At launch there are two versions of the 2.0-litre diesel with 220 d and 300 d badges, while a 2.0-litre petrol wearing a 300 badge is on the way soon. There’s also a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged petrol V8 in the high-performance GLC 63 variants.
What’s under the bonnet?
In the 300 d we’re testing, the 2.0-litre unit makes 242bhp and 500Nm of torque, with a top speed of 143mph and a surprisingly brisk 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds. Fuel economy is decent if unremarkable at 39.2mpg, while CO2 emissions measure 157g/km.
Despite that impressive sprint statistic, progress in the 300 d never feels anything other than leisurely. We didn’t get to test the 220 d, but it’s easy to imagine that with just 191bhp its performance will be far from electrifying. However, that’s not what these SUVs are about, and for everyday duties the 300 d is perfectly adequate, with that impressive torque figure meaning motorway overtakes are easy.
However, one minor complaint that could be levied against it is the fact there’s a definite old school diesel chug audible. This premium SUV arguably deserves a little more refinement.
What’s it like to drive?
Being largely based on the C-Class saloon, the GLC leans more closely towards feeling like a large, high-riding car than an unwieldy SUV. Out on the road it hides its size well, feeling no less intimidating to thread through city streets than its saloon sibling.
Around town, the AMG Line’s 19-inch alloy wheels contribute to a slightly rough ride that could prove annoying on the UK’s cut up Tarmac, though it smooths out at motorway speeds. Wind and road noise is perhaps more obvious than you’d expect, though not to the point of being intrusive.
How does it look?
The outgoing model was already a handsome machine, and this minor nip and tuck hasn’t changed that. Mercedes’ design language translates well to its SUVs, offering a solid-looking, premium appearance befitting of the high-end of this segment.
It has imposing road presence, looking much larger than it actually is from the outside, while its muscular body styling makes it look like it genuinely could handle more rugged terrain. However, this is definitely a 4×4 designed to look swanky outside the school gates, a design brief that’s been nailed by Mercedes – the GLC just looks expensive.
What’s it like inside?
The GLC’s interior was starting to feel slightly outdated, so a refresh here is welcome. There’s a new infotainment screen on the dashboard and a new digital instrument cluster that elevate its appeal, but it’s largely the same as before.
Fortunately, while it’s starting to feel its age looks-wise, there’s no denying that the GLC’s cabin still feels pretty premium, with high quality materials used throughout and just enough digitisation to bring it into 2019. It also feels pretty spacious inside, making it an ideal family wagon – even four-up there’s plenty of personal space with room left over for everything that comes with family life.
What’s the spec like?
The GLC brings a quite impressive list of standard equipment, even in the £39,420, entry-level 220 d Sport trim. Here you get the new MBUX infotainment system with voice recognition, parking assistance, heated seats, privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels.
If you want a 300 d, though, the entry trim is AMG Line, which starts at £47,045 and adds 19-inch alloy wheels, sporty AMG body styling and sports seats. Higher trim levels add a plethora of aesthetic and technical upgrades including LED headlights, larger alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and the excellent Burmester sound system, to name just a few.
Sport trim is not available in the coupe, but otherwise trim levels are identical between this and the SUV. However, coupe versions command a £2,875 premium.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC treads a fine line between saloon car and SUV – it’s high-riding enough to feel safe and secure, and big enough to be practical without being intimidating to drive. It’s also handsome, decidedly premium inside and available with a range of economical engines that make it mighty appealing.
The update hasn’t totally closed the gap to the BMW X3 at the top of the class, while the recently updated Land Rover Discovery Sport should continue to be a formidable foe. However, for fuss-free, premium motoring that oozes brand appeal, the GLC is tough to beat.
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