Road Test: Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4MATIC AMG Line
Familiar C-Class components in a fashionable SUV body; the GLC can’t lose, reckons Alex Grant.
Sector: SUV Price: £40,005 Fuel: 56.6mpg CO2: 129g/km
Given the UK’s love of SUVs, it’s incredible to think that Mercedes-Benz never saw fit to engineer the old GLK in right-hand drive. But that’s not a mistake it’s making twice, even if the stand-in is coming here under a different name.
The GLC – GL identifying it as an SUV, the C positioning it alongside C-Class – is a rival for established road-biased SUVs such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and attractive newcomers such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar F-Pace. Tricky territory, even with the badge cachet of the three pointed star.
Also, Mercedes-Benz has mixed form when it comes to SUVs; the GLA perhaps not clearly defined as a crossover, the larger GLE feeling a little American in its fit and finish and quite crashy without the expensive air suspension. Thankfully, the GLC doesn’t feel like a GLE with less space on board – this might just be the brand’s best crossover yet.
For a start, it now offers the driving experience you’d want from a road-tuned SUV. It doesn’t roll around when changing direction quickly, it rides properly even on the 20-inch wheels fitted to our test car, and the uniquitous – and often-gravelly – 2.1-litre diesel engine is surprisingly hushed. At some point it’ll almost definitely get the new 2.0-litre from the latest E-Class, and that’ll make it even more appealing.
The cabin is mostly lifted from the C-Class, which is no bad thing. It makes the GLE and GLS feel rather dated inside, as well as offering more than enough room for large adult occupants in the first and second rows. With the AMG Line bodykit adding real presence to the Merc’s latest family face, it’s arguably got enough on-road presence to make the unwieldy GLE seem an unnecessary luxury in our tight car parks and narrow country lanes.
Not least of which when you consider that the 250d option actually works here. The GLE 250d, the first four-cylinder diesel in this car’s bigger sibling, works so hard to haul the large SUV that on-road economy is comparable to the 350d. In the GLC, the 250d not only feels better matched in terms of performance, but fuel economy of around 50mpg on the motorway is hard to feel short changed by.
The problem is, not offering the GLK in right-hand drive has brought Mercedes-Benz to this segment as a latecomer in the UK. The X3 and Q5 are established products with a strong following, and the GLC feels a bit familiar next to the buzz of JLR’s new off-roaders or even the avant-garde Lexus NX hybrid. As good as the newcomer is, it’s arriving with a fight on its hands.
The GLC feels every bit as premium as the larger GLE, while also looking more modern and suiting the four-cylinder engine better. A latecomer, but with plenty of good reasons to opt into one.