MO­TOR­ING

Mercedes adds to its Coupé SUV port­fo­lio in the re­gion with the new GLC vari­ant. wheels’ Sony Thomas takes it for a spin to see if it drives as good as it looks

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Merc’s new GLC 250 4matic Coupé might not match many of its ri­vals for ex­cite­ment be­hind the wheel, but it sure is a looker.

When Mercedes-Benz un­leashed its stun­ning CLS on to the au­to­mo­bile world in 2004, it was just re­viv­ing a trend that was in vogue as early as the Thir­ties. How­ever, when its ri­val from Mu­nich took the cue and adapted it to the SUV seg­ment four years later, it cre­ated a niche that no­body had ever thought about un­til then.

Not only did it es­tab­lish the Sports Ac­tiv­ity Coupé seg­ment, but it owned it for the best part of the past decade, find­ing BMW nearly 300,000 cus­tomers and spawn­ing fur­ther mod­els like the X4 in 2014 and the X2, set to be launched some­time next year. Al­though a lit­tle late to the party, Stuttgart started its counter-of­fen­sive in 2015 with the GLE Coupé, and early last year, the smaller X4-ri­valling GLC Coupé, which we have here this week.

Most of you are now fa­mil­iar with Mercedes-Benz’s re­vamped nam­ing con­ven­tion, and would know from the name that the GLC Class is based on the bril­liant C-Class plat­form. At 4,727mm long, 1,593mm tall, 2,000mm wide and with a wheel­base of 2,827mm, it’s a rel­a­tively com­pact ve­hi­cle, but it’s longer, wider and lower than the stan­dard GLC with which it shares its ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture.

But what makes the Coupé dif­fer­ent is ob­vi­ously its styling. The front fas­cia is dom­i­nated by the sin­gle-lou­vre di­a­mond ra­di­a­tor grille with the tri-star in the mid­dle, which is usu­ally re­served for the brand’s sportier mod­els. On ei­ther side are head­lights sim­i­lar in design to the ones in the C-Class, com­plete with the sig­na­ture LED ‘brows’. These, com­bined with the short over­hangs, and the stretched, slop­ing roofline, mus­cu­lar shoul­ders, nar­row tail lights that have taken cues from the S-Class and C-Class Coupés, and a promi­nent spoiler lip on the deck lid lend it a unique, ag­gres­sive yet el­e­gant ap­pear­ance. Styling-wise it’s a bet­ter-look­ing car than the X4.

For all the design changes on the ex­te­rior, ev­ery­thing in the cabin ex­cept the flat-bot­tomed steer­ing looks pretty much the same as the stan­dard GLC’s, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The lay­out’s el­e­gant and min­i­mal­ist, the ma­te­ri­als used are of the high­est qual­ity, and the crafts­man­ship is flaw­less; the tablet-like in­fo­tain­ment screen that looks tacked-on is the only thing stand­ing out as an eyesore.

The front buck­ets are com­fort­able with enough leg-, head- and shoul­der

room for two adults of above-av­er­age size. How­ever, while the legroom isn’t a prob­lem at the back, head­room for taller pas­sen­gers is re­stricted by the slop­ing roof. Also, de­spite it be­ing po­si­tioned as a five-seater, only two adults can re­al­is­ti­cally sit at the back.

There’s 500 litres of cargo space, but when you open the boot lid, it’s nat­u­ral to feel short­changed see­ing the shal­low lug­gage com­part­ment. Don’t de­spair, the floor is re­mov­able, open­ing up more space un­derneath. The fact that the boot floor is lockable is good if you have valu­ables you’d like to keep out of sight. Drop­ping the elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled 60:40 rear seats will free up even more space for those oc­ca­sional Ikea trips.

It’s not just the looks that have been souped up, with Mercedes mak­ing a few changes to the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing sys­tems as well. Al­though Mercedes says it has made the steer­ing more di­rect than that of the stan­dard GLC by re­tun­ing the ra­tio, the changes aren’t quite per­cep­ti­ble in reg­u­lar driv­ing con­di­tions. That’s not to say it lacks in re­sponse or pre­ci­sion, as the reg­u­lar GLC it­self is a good car to drive, which is one of the rea­sons why it went on to be the Cross­over of the Year in the last edi­tion of our an­nual awards.

The sus­pen­sion set-up is also pretty good with four modes, Eco, Com­fort, Sport and Sport+, to choose from. There’s a clear dif­fer­ence in the car’s be­hav­iour in each of these modes; in Sport and Sport+ the sus­pen­sion is con­sid­er­ably stiffer and the steer­ing heav­ier, while in Com­fort, it of­fers a com­pli­ant ride, smooth­ing out any road im­per­fec­tions it en­coun­ters.

Body roll is also kept well un­der check, even when you push it en­thu­si­as­ti­cally around a cor­ner. While it’s a good cross­over to drive, it pales in com­par­i­son to the BMW X4 M40i that we tested re­cently. But that’s an un­fair com­par­i­son, and we’ll re­serve our ver­dict un­til we get our hands on the new Merc-AMG GLC 43.

Our GLC 250 tester comes pow­ered by a tur­bocharged 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine, good for 208bhp and 350Nm of torque. This peppy mill revs freely with­out any lag, and gives out a raspy ex­haust note when pushed. Mated to a nine-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, if shifts smoothly and

Don’t de­spair on see­ing the SHAL­LOW lug­gage com­part­ment – the floor is RE­MOV­ABLE. And the fact that the boot floor is LOCKABLE is good if you have valu­ables you’d like to keep OUT OF SIGHT

builds up pace ef­fort­lessly.

If you’re in the mar­ket for a com­pact, yet stylish SUV, the GLC Coupé is highly rec­om­mended. While it might not match many of its ri­vals for ex­cite­ment be­hind the wheel, it def­i­nitely looks more suave and grace­ful than most of the crossovers in this size, in­clud­ing the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Ma­can and the BMW X4. And it’s well worth the price pre­mium over the stan­dard GLC.

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The ex­te­rior is unique, ag­gres­sive and el­e­gant, while the in­te­rior is min­i­mal­ist, with flaw­less crafts­man­ship

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