The new GLC 200 will save you $10,000 over the price of a GLC 250 4Matic. But if you save the money, will you be short-changing yourself?
KOTA KINABALU, EAST MALAYSIA — Before we start talking about the GLC 200, the newest variant in Mercedes’ family of mid-size Sports Utility Vehicles, it might be worth pointing out that since its debut last year, the GLC has been, in our view, the best Mercedes-Benz Sports Utility Vehicle.
It may not be the most rugged (that would be the agricultural but iconic G-Class) or spacious (the GLS-Class could fit accommodate an American family of seven with ease), but it’s the best to drive, is roomy enough to tempt you from an E-Class, and it has a versatile, decently sized boot.
But that was our takeaway from driving the GLC 250 4Matic.
Now the GLC 200 is here, with less power on offer and rear-wheel drive instead of 4Matic. Does it dilute what the GLC 250 has to offer enough to dilute what makes it such a strong offering?
The short answer is that it doesn’t. The GLC 200 doesn’t feel too compromised in terms of performance over the GLC 250, and is still a decently brisk car. From standstill to 100km/h it needs one second longer to halt the stopwatch, at 8.3 seconds.
That’s enough of a difference for you to feel through the seat of your pants, but isn’t a big enough performance gap to make you miss the extra power, honestly. Especially if you only drive your GLC in Singapore, where the race from one traffic light to another is the main demand on an engine.
In that scenario, there’s plenty of ready torque from the 2.0-litre turbo, and 184 is a decent amount of horsepower; honestly, just a generation of cars ago you would have had to buy a biggish V6 engine for the sort of performance you can get from the GLC 200.
If you do hit the open road from time to time, however, that’s a different matter. There’s more oomph for overtaking in the GLC 250, and in that car you can really feel the power build as you send the revs climbing. The GLC 200 doesn’t have as much top-end shove. Yet, it’s not exactly short on puff. You just have to plan your overtaking moves a bit more carefully in one if you’re on a country road with no passing lanes.
Another thing that might make you wish for more power is the surprisingly engaging handling of the GLC. Maybe expectations are a bit low for a tallish SUV, but the GLC 200 can be hustled through corners with more aplomb than you might have thought.
READ MORE: What we thought of the GLC 250 4Matic
The suspension is on the firm side, and the passive dampers are pretty well-judged between comfort and body control, so in spite of its height, the GLC doesn’t lurch around bends like a drunken elk. Instead, it feels neutral and balanced, and is very easy to sling through corners with the confidence that lets you build to tyre-squealing speeds. Those are the qualities that won us over with the GLC 250, and they’re certainly present in the GLC 200.
As for whether you’ll miss the 4Matic system, that too depends on how you intend to use your Merc SUV. If you’re a jungle fiend, you might be considering the Off-Road Engineering Package, a $2,500 option that adds a sump guard and taller suspension. Thing is, that’s only available with the GLC 250, so getting muddy is something you might have to give up altogether if you get the GLC 200.
Or maybe not. We drove the car at an event organised by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, and took in some mountain roads leading from Kota Kinabalu to the foot of Mt Kinabalu; a wrong turn after a bit of exploration saw Team CarBuyer having to navigate some muddy, rocky and bumpy terrain that the GLC 200 tackled with surprising ease. Admittedly, there wasn’t anything in our path that needed proper 4×4 gear, but our excursion taught us two things about the GLC 200.
First, even if you never go off-road in one, it will pretty much do any road: gravel, rocks, dirt… as long there’s a semblance of a path, and Google has mapped it, you’ll be able to get across.
Second, the suspension is superbly calibrated. It’s beefy enough to keep the GLC from bottoming out after major bumps, but it’s pliant enough to keep you in reasonable comfort even when the going is rough. A more rugged vehicle may have slid around less on the muddy trek we took the Mercedes on, but it would likely have rattled our dentures out.
Of course, the chances of seeing a GLC 200 that’s been used in the jungle are probably lower than for winning the Big Sweep. As with the vast majority of SUVs and crossovers, it’s the urban jungle that will prove to be the Mercedes’ natural environment.
Just as well, then, that it excels there. The interior is very derived from that of the C-Class and is actually among the more straightfoward of Mercedes cabins to come to terms with, with a more straightforward layout of controls.
You get a good view of the road ahead, thanks to the raised ride height, but the car isn’t too bulky to park with ease, and it pulls U-turns without needing a stress-inducing amount of space on the road.
The rear of the cabin is spacious enough for three adults in the back, with a goodly amount of rear legroom on offer, too.
The fundamentals of the car are pretty sound, in other words, which leaves the equipment levels to consider. Surprisingly, the 200 and 250 models are comparably specced. They both have genuinely useful items as standard equipment, such as Keyless-Go, a powered tailgate and a reversing camera (although it also has the ability to steer itself into parallel parking slots). There’s handy stuff you can’t quite see, either; the front glass absorbs heat and sound, for example.
They both have 18-inch wheels, LED lamps and aluminium roof rails, along with plastic cladding for the wheelarches and side skirts to make sure they at least look the part of tough off-roaders.
Materially, then, the only differences between the GLC 200 and GLC 250 4Matic are a bit less power under the bonnet and the fact that the latter is rear wheel-drive; two things you won’t miss in city driving.
For that, you’ll save $10,000, which is the price difference between the two cars. Not much to the traditional Mercedes customer, perhaps, but enough for the GLC 200 to be the default choice of GLC. It subtracts dollars from the price without taking away from how much sense the car makes.
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-Benz GLC 200
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, turbocharged, in-line 4
Power 184hp at 5500rpm
Torque 300Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 212km/h
0-100km/h 8.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.0L/100km
Price $215,888 with COE
Agent Cycle & Carriage Industries