Test Drives

New Mercedes GLC review: Rising C levels



A facelift for Mercedes’ most popular sport utility vehicle updates it for the digital age

SINGAPORE — You know what a Mercedes GLC is, but if you don’t, just look out the window because they’re everywhere. That’s no coincidence; worldwide the GLC is Mercedes’ best selling sport utility vehicle (SUV), and after a mid-life revamp it’s poised to help the brand kick off 2020 in Singapore in a big way.

It will help that the facelift is a relatively major one. Yes, it involves small styling changes, but there are desirable new features in the cabin and new stuff under the bonnet. Want to know what’s worth noting? Read on…

So what’s the story here?
The basic plot is, mid-size German SUV gets jazzed up mid-way into its product lifespan. Think of the GLC as a rival to the BMW X3 or Audi Q5, and maybe the Lexus RX (itself updated this year).

Two versions have just gone on sale: the basic GLC 200 and the GLC 300 4Matic which you see on this webpage.

There’s also a GLC 300 4Matic Coupe (same car, sexier clothes) to rival the BMW X4. Faster versions from Mercedes-AMG are bound to follow soon.

I can’t tell what’s new. Help me out…
First things first, car facelifts always, always involve new lamps and bumpers (it’s a cheap way to spruce up a car’s looks). Sure enough, the 2020 GLC has… new lamps and bumpers.

It’s actually quite easy to tell, because the headlights have new LED elements and a daytime running strip that sort of round around the edges of the lamp. Before, it was more of a long eyebrow, a bit like the shape your favourite auntie draws with a pencil on her face.

Redesigned rear lamps are also easy to spot, having changed from paperclip-like elements to individual shapes within the lens.

Actually, one simple way to spot the new GLC is to look for the new bash plate at the bottom of the bumper, and the three new intakes there. Easy peasy.

Nice, but nothing to get super excited about so far.
Okay, then how about inside? Notice the touchpad in the centre console, which lets you sweep your finger across it to spell out an address or control the infotainment system. That’s nicer than the rotary dial that precedes it, but you can go one better and just jab the display, because it’s now a touchscreen.

The graphics are sharper than before, and together with the now-digital instruments the GLC offers customisable skins, or “themes”. Set your favourite radio station, instruments style, cabin lights, info display, and you can save it all in your very own theme, to reflect your mood. “Randy”, it goes without saying, isn’t one of the standard ones.

All this digital stuff and customisability is part of the MBUX system (for Mercedes-Benz User Experience). It first came out in the latest A-Class, and now you get to say you have it too if you buy the new GLC.

One feature of MBUX that needs work is the “Hey, Mercedes” voice command system. It’s meant to contextualise speech — tell it you’re feeling hot and it makes the a/c stronger, for instance — but it couldn’t understand mine. It’s not as if I lisp or sound like an Australian, yet its most common reply to my commands was, “What do you want to do?” Definite room for improvement there.

How does it drive?
Handling-wise, it’s much the same as before. You’ll never want to lap Sepang in it (it’s an SUV, duh) but it actually steers with a decent amount of precision. The GLC is pretty much an elevated, rugged-looking C-Class, and it shows behind the wheel; there’s not much to text home about, but also not much to complain about.

More important, it’s easy to drive, with good visibility and well-weighted controls. It tackles bumps well, too, and is nice and hushed on the move.

The new engine is a gem. A 48 volt mild hybrid system gives it a small bit of extra muscle, courtesy of a starter-generator and lithium-ion battery, but the 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder has 258 horsepower of its own, and they kick the Mercedes into action pretty smartly.

Less accomplished is the transmission, which was occasionally jerky before the facelift and still is now. It’s a nine-speed unit but most of the time uses only seven gears — the Mercedes starts in second, and you never see top gear unless you’re exceeding the speed limit.

The 4Matic all-wheel drive system is pretty useful… in snow. Unless you’re taking your GLC on an Arctic expedition, the GLC 200 and its rear-drive setup might be a good way to save yourself S$16,000. Mind you, if you do actually plan on going off-road, you nutter, then the GLC 300’s 4Matic is essential, and its 20mm taller suspension will help.

Off-road? Good one! I want this for family use, dummy
In that case, the GLC would be a good choice. As before, it’s a very roomy car inside, with a cabin that feels airy. The transmission tunnel intrudes somewhat, but it’s still a proper three-seater in the back. Basically a trio of pals could occupy the rear seats and, at the end of a long journey, emerge still friends. 

The boot’s the same: big and useful. It’ll carry 550 litres of stuff (you can fold the rear seats down for more) and there are nooks and hooks for this and that.

Handily, there’s a compartment for the luggage cover under the boot floor and a pop-up plastic basket. Apparently, recycling-loving Germans find this super helpful.

Cabin storage is great too, with a deep compartment between the front seats, while the doors have large bins

What else should I be thinking of?
The closest competition comes from BMW’s X3. It’s sharper to drive but less cosseting on the move, and while the X3’s cabin feels more modern, this facelift gives the GLC the sharper-looking displays and controls.

The real competition could be a Mercedes E-Class, the traditional refuge of the I’ve-made-it-in-life crowd and a car with a nicer interior, though not one that offers the sense of roominess and ruggedness of an SUV. Given the ongoing crossover boom, the GLC satisfies those who want that Mercedes badge, and want it on an SUV. Judging from the car’s success, there are lots of those people around.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic
Engine 1,991cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 258hp at 5,800rpm
Torque 370Nm at 1,800-4,000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top speed 240km/h
0-100km/h 6.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8L/100km
VES/CO2 C1/180g/km
Price S$242,888 with COE
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Available Now

 

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about the author

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Leow Julen
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 25 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.