Here’s why the GLC-Class is Mercedes’ best SUV at the moment. And more.
SINGAPORE — Not sure what a Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 is? You have three ways of looking at it.
First, it’s a follow-up to the GLK-Class, a mid-sized Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) that was never sold here because Mercedes never built it with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. You wouldn’t have liked it anyway; it was a boxy looking thing.
Or you might think of the GLC has a rival to the BMW X3 sDrive20i and Lexus NX 200t, in which case you have some idea of its target audience. Basically, it’s for people who are bored with sedans and want what SUVs offer, namely a more versatile cabin, the suspension equivalent of high-heel shoes, and the styling equivalent of an unshaven jaw and broad shoulders.
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Finally, if you’re mechanically minded you could think of the GLC as slightly stretched and raised C-Class. That allows you to understand its mechanical makeup pretty much right away, and it explains why the two cars’ interiors are so similar.
Mind you, that’s a good thing. Borrowing the dashboard from the C-Class means the GLC 250 has a cabin that looks classy, and actually feels posher and more robust than that of the bigger, more expensive GLE-Class.
The switchgear is all very familiar in that the Mercedes rotary dial controller takes centrestage, working in conjunction with a freestanding (non-touch) screen, although the confusing touchpad surface from the C-Class also makes it over. It’s hard to decide when to use that and when to use the rotary button, and though the graphics look lovely, the menu system is a head-scratcher.
Indeed, it’s been more than a year since the C-Class has been around but its controls continue to befuddle the older members of the CarBuyer team.
The GLC 250 is otherwise a pleasure to use. The acceleration from the 211 horsepower engine is good and punchy right through the rev range, and the handling is surprisingly taut for a car that’s meant for light off-roading.
The dual-purpose Bridgestone tyres aren’t particularly grippy, but there’s excellent body control from the suspension (without a jarring ride over bumps) and the stability control system tends to keep things well under control without feeling intrusive. It makes for a machine that can be punted around aggressively, and one that serves as a good example of how a well-sorted SUV can now be as fun to drive as a car.
Mind you, our test car did come with the $10,000 AMG package, which includes both 19-inch wheels and sports suspension. You can always opt for the latter by itself for $1,400 if you want the sharp handling without some of the cosmetic flourishes that the AMG pack comes with.
Another intriguing option is the Off-Road Engineering package. Similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, it adds driving modes like “Slippery”, “Off-Road” and “Incline” that boosts the car’s ability to tackle various obstacles, mainly by tweaking the transmission and stability control settings.
It adds a chassis guard to save you some heart pain when scraping the GLC over rocks. For $9,000, though, it’s hard to see anyone taking it up for the heck of it.
Something more people will find useful is the rotary selector for various drive programmes between “Eco” and “Sport+”. On “Eco” you’ll probably average 10km per litre in Singapore traffic, while on the Sport and Sport+ modes the GLC 250 becomes noticeably more aggressive.
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Whichever mode you drive in, however, the car’s nine-speed auto can be surprisingly jerky, and it’s probably overkill for Singapore — you simply won’t see ninth gear at all unless you’re speeding, and most of the time, the GLC 250 sets off in second gear.
Still, what’s a luxury car without a bit of overkill? Or a bit of space, for that matter, in which case the GLC 250 comes through nicely.
It’s roomy in the back, with a generous amount of headroom, and the height of the car gives it plenty of presence on the road. You’ll certainly stand out in one more than if you were driving a C-Class.
The Mercedes is liable to be properly useful, too. You can’t slide the back seats, but there’s a setting to make them more upright so you can cram more stuff into the boot. Then there’s the 40:20:40 split fold, which ultimately takes cargo space from 500 to 1,600 litres.
In fact, it’s easy to see the GLC 250 as a sort of substitute for something less multifaceted, like an E-Class. It’s roomy enough and versatile, and it’s better to drive. It’s a much better proposition, too, than the more expensive GLE, with a superior cabin and far better manners on the road, for two-thirds the price.
In short, it’s probably Mercedes’ best SUV at the moment, and is big enough to substitute for something more traditionally executive, like an E 200.
That makes the GLC 250 one of the more enticing Mercedes models of any kind on sale today. Perhaps there are more than three ways to look at it, after all.
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 4Matic
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, turbocharged, in-line 4
Power 211hp at 5500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 222km/h
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.0L/100km
Singapore Price $225,888 with COE