Sail into higher Cs
MEET the Mercedes-Benz SUV that’s tipped to outsell the Ford Territory — even though its real rivals are fellow luxury models the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
The Mercedes GLC, or a vehicle like it, was supposed to be here five years ago.
But executives in Stuttgart decided, unfathomably, not to develop a right-hand drive version of its predecessor.
After much banging of fists on corporate tables, the oversight has been fixed. Benz now has a freshly minted midsize SUV to join Australia’s fastest growing market segment.
As the saying goes, if you’re last in you better be best dressed. The GLC faces some strong competition but Mercedes had the advantage of studying its rivals before deciding what equipment to add and how much to charge for it.
The range starts from $64,500 for the GLC 220 diesel, steps up to $67,900 for the GLC 250 petrol and tops out at $69,900 for the GLC 250 diesel.
Standard fare includes a nine-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive, nine airbags, automatic emergency braking, 360-degree view camera, LED headlights and tail-lights, powered tailgate, automatic parking (parallel and perpendicular) and blind-spot monitoring.
But it wouldn’t be a luxury car if it didn’t have an extensive options list. Buyers can add: a “vision” pack including head-up display and panorama sunroof for $3900; high-end audio and larger central display screen ($2990); off-road pack ($3990); and air suspension ($3990).
Metallic paint adds $1990 or $2990 — and only two of the 11 hues are nonmetallic. The GLC shares underpinnings with the award-winning C-Class sedan. It’s a common formula for faux-wheel drives, to base a roomier and high-riding vehicle on a sedan sibling.
The up-market interior, despite its similarities to the C-Class, is a bespoke design.
Some may waver between a C-Class wagon and the GLC. The wagon is 4cm longer than the SUV (so parking the GLC is a smidgen easier) and it has a slightly longer cargo area.
But the GLC has more leg room in the rear seats, a taller and wider load area and is 18cm taller overall, delivering the commanding view that SUV drivers crave.
Most C-Class models are made in South Africa. The GLC, as with the wagon and hotrod C63, comes from Germany. No surprise, the GLC drives pretty much like a C-Class. The steering feels direct, it feels surefooted in corners and all-round vision is excellent.
One foible we noticed on local roads — which wasn’t apparent on the overseas test drive — was that the suspension can thump over speed humps and other bumps.
Most models come with 20inch wheels and tyres. Mercedes has a 19-inch package as a nocost option but the 19s didn’t seem to make the GLC ride any smoother during our testing.
Engines (one petrol and a diesel in two states of tune) are relatively quiet, refined and effortless. The nine-speed auto ensures they move smartly off the line and then help the engine tick along at low revs once at cruising speed.
I couldn’t feel the difference between the diesels and, were I tossing up between oilers, I would take the more affordable option and pocket the $5400 difference, or put that money towards a couple of the option packs.
However, I preferred the 2.0litre turbo petrol over the diesel twins. The power delivery is slightly smoother again, and more instantaneous. Advances in petrol engine technology mean they run nearly as economically as diesels.
If most of your driving is in the city and suburbs, the petrol GLC would be my first choice, especially given that diesels are not particularly fuel-efficient in stop-start city driving.
But if the majority of your commute is at freeway speeds or on the open road between rural towns, then the diesel would be the pick. A standout in the luxury SUV class. Shame it didn’t arrive five years ago.