Your guide to this is­sue’s fash­ions and ser­vices

Grand Magazine - - ARTS & ENTERTAINM­ENT - Kathy Renwald

The sands con­tinue to shift in the au­to­mo­tive world. Ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers carry on delet­ing cars from their line­ups to make room for more sport util­ity ve­hi­cles. And they con­tinue to im­prove fuel econ­omy by of­fer­ing more hy­brids, plug-in hy­brids and elec­tric cars to their prod­uct lines.

In the past, com­pa­nies such as Volk­swa­gen and Mercedes-Benz would also sell a range of fuel-ef­fi­cient diesel ve­hi­cles, but since the “diesel­gate” scan­dal of 2015 that chap­ter is closed.

So the evo­lu­tion – maybe revo­lu­tion – con­tin­ues and it pro­duces ve­hi­cles such as the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e.

First off, the “c” in GLC equates with the Mercedes C-class sedan. So we know where it fits in the pretty ex­ten­sive model lineup – and that’s in the mid­dle of the pack.

The “e” is for elec­tric. This mid-sized SUV is a plug-in hy­brid. The ad­di­tion of a small elec­tric mo­tor de­liv­ers bet­ter fuel econ­omy, adds a boost of power over the stan­dard gas-only GLC, and the right to travel in the high-oc­cu­pancy ve­hi­cle (HOV) lanes even with a sin­gle oc­cu­pant.

The perks come with a price. The GLC 350e is al­most $13,000 more than the stan­dard GLC, and the stor­age of the lithium ion bat­tery re­duces cargo space be­hind the rear seats by 155 litres. My test car was $71,465. Base price for this model is $59,900.

Putting the tech­nol­ogy aside for a mo­ment, the GLC 350e is laced with love­li­ness in­side and out. The ex­te­rior is beau­ti­fully ex­e­cuted, bal­anced, grace­ful and free of gim­micks.

In­side, the so­phis­ti­ca­tion con­tin­ues. Mercedes does beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors.

The leather seats are sculpted and padded to the hilt and dark ash wood trim sets off the brushed metal in­stru­ments. The view from the driver’s seat is of a wellor­ga­nized dash lay­out, free of clut­ter.

Right off the bat, I liked two things about the 350e: it’s quiet and pow­er­ful. No road or wind noise in­fil­trates the cabin and, for the most part, the ride is smooth.

The 315 horse­power pro­duced thanks to the elec­tric mo­tor and four-cylin­der tur­bocharged en­gine is more than enough for con­fi­dent driv­ing. The 413 lb.-ft of torque keeps the SUV pulling hard too.

To reap the ben­e­fits of the hy­brid sys­tem, the 350e should be plugged in ev­ery day. The fully charged sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of

34 kilo­me­tres of elec­tric-only driv­ing. While un­der­way, arm­chair en­gi­neers will be in­trigued by the many ways the driver can choose modes that will save fuel and charge the bat­tery. Cer­tain econ­omy modes ac­tu­ally in­crease pedal re­sis­tance so that the temp­ta­tion to drive fast is squelched.

And there’s the irony. The 350e is the most plea­sur­able to drive in the Sport and Sport-plus modes as it’s quicker and more re­spon­sive, but it uses more gas. Dur­ing the week I tested the SUV, I av­er­aged 10.3 litres per 100 kilo­me­tres, while the of­fi­cial fuel econ­omy num­bers are 9.8.

Ma­jor op­tions on my tester in­cluded the Pre­mium Pack­age at $4,500. This in­cluded the GPS nav­i­ga­tion, power lift­gate, and a panoramic sun­roof that bright­ened the very spa­cious back­seat area. Pre­mium Plus and Sport Pack­ages packed a lot of good­ies, but adap­tive cruise con­trol – one of my favourite fea­tures – was miss­ing.

It is part of the $2,700 In­tel­li­gent Drive Pack­age.

The ad­di­tion of so many fea­tures means the cabin can be a very busy place. There’s a com­puter-based cock­pit man­age­ment sys­tem (CO­MAND) at the cen­tre con­sole, rows of but­tons on the dash and, on the steer­ing wheel, there are more stalks to con­tem­plate than a head of cel­ery.

The gear se­lec­tor is on a stalk on the right side of the steer­ing wheel col­umn. Mercedes must have some rea­son for this de­sign, but I find it fussy and vague in its ex­e­cu­tion. Wipers, cruise con­trol and steer­ing-wheel ad­just­ment are all on sep­a­rate stalks on the left. It’s best to do a fa­mil­iar­iza­tion tour be­fore your first shake­down cruise.

Like all Mercedes, the GLC 350e will make you feel pam­pered and spe­cial. To jus­tify the pre­mium price just make sure you drive it with fuel-sip­ping pre­ci­sion and wave to us from the HOV lane.

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