AT A GLANCE
PRACTICAL car design and good looks rarely go together. The old Volvo 240 and 740 wagons were probably the ultimate in space-efficiency: a big box grafted on to the front of a bigger box and not a cargocompromising curve in sight.
They were deeply unsexy — insert your favourite Volvo owner joke here — but could carry five people and an enormous amount of stuff. Which is rather the point with a wagon, is it not?
Today’s SUV owner, however, is often prepared to trade practicality for style.
About one-quarter of Mercedes GLC buyers opt for the coupe rather than the wagon. They get 50L less boot space — 200L less if the back seats are folded — but they pay an extra $10,600 for the GLC250 coupe. Why? DESIGN That’s easy to answer. The GLC, based on the C-Class, avoids the tanklike proportions of its bigger GLE and GLS stablemates. With its wide stance, elegantly tapered rear end, low roofline, short overhangs and supersized 20-inch AMG alloys filling the wheel arches, it looks tight, fast and up for it, even when parked.
Inside, the deal is sealed. Mercedes does the most imaginative, stylish luxury interiors in the business today, a mix of hi-tech and retro chic, in rich materials including thick, supple leather, textured matt Black Ash timber and convincing fake metal. Switches and controls work with a precise, positive touch.
Too many expensive cars feel cheap when you climb in. The GLC coupe feels loaded. Exterior tizz includes AMG Line body garnishing and a diamond grille.
More useful hardware includes adaptive dampers and sports suspension, powered tailgate, Garmin Map Pilot navigation with 3D map displays and traffic monitoring and 360-degree camera coverage (to compensate for quite restricted rear vision).
Its LED headlights come with automatically variable beam intensity and spread at different speeds and a swivelling function in corners.
The comprehensive Driver Assistance Package Plus is as sophisticated as active safety gets, at least this side of the semiautonomous driving tech in the E-Class. Automatic emergency braking works up to 200km/h. AROUND TOWN In the usual SUV fashion, the GLC feels tall and bulky but it’s not too barge-like in town.
The firm, supportive driver’s seat has an extendable cushion and there’s ample driving position adjustability for all.
Mercedes hasn’t embraced the touchscreen. Yay. Its central controller/cursor infotainment interface is unnecessarily complemented by a touchpad above the controller.
A seven-inch TFT screen, high on the dash, has hi-res graphics. Bluetooth connects and functions reliably and radio reception, including digital, is clear and powerful.
Generous storage close at hand includes a big centre console box (with two USBs) and door bins with large bottle holders.
Rear seat space is as per the wagon, fine for kids but tightish for tall adults, a consequence of its C-Class underpinnings.
The bench is firm, comfortable and well-suited to kids, with vents, front seat pockets and door bins.
A long, wide boot floor is fine if you’re carrying flatpack furniture but with the rear seats occupied the coupe’s tapered roof severely restricts your ability to carry moderately bulky objects.
Extra storage is under the floor, which is flat in extended mode with the rear seat backs folded. A net and load cover are included. ON THE ROAD In the GLC250, the 2.0-litre turbo (155kW) is matched with a nine-speed automatic and permanent all-wheel drive. Its 350Nm kicks in from just 1200rpm but, with a chunky 1852kg to shift, performance is solid rather than spectacular.
Close, low ratios in the ninespeed launch it smartly off the line and the turbo’s tractability means there is never any need to work the engine hard. Do just that and it responds willingly.
Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes adjust the drivetrain, suspension dampers and steering. Eco mode decouples the engine on a trailing throttle to improve fuel efficiency, which around town is also assisted by unobtrusive stop-start.
Around town the test car used 12-14L/100km and on the highway, 7-8L/100km. Ninth is an autobahn gear; it doesn’t engage until north of 110km/h.
Comfort mode gives you a smooth ride around town and on highways. At speed on rougher country roads, Sport absorbs hits effectively, albeit with more compliance on larger bumps than smaller ones, and better controls body movement.
Dynamics in Sport and Sport+ are capable enough to have fun with on a winding road. In this class, where the best handling SUVs are found, the GLC won’t worry a Porsche Macan or Jaguar F-Pace. VERDICT There’s no law that says SUV buyers have to be practical people who like practical boxes, which is why SUVs such as this exist. That said, the Volvo 240 and 740 wagons do look a lot cooler now than they did back in the day … WHAT IT’S GOT Driver Assistance Package Plus, Brake Assist, Pre-Safe, 360 degree cameras, auto parking, AMG body kit and 20-inch alloys, adaptive dampers, power tailgate, adaptive LED lights, sports seats, leather trim, dual zone aircon, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth, navigation, digital radio, voice control. WHAT IT HASN’T Spare wheel, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, voice control, power adjustable front seats, sunroof, rear-window wiper. OWNERSHIP Base servicing costs $2280 over three years/75,000km. Service intervals are 12 months/25,000km. WHAT WE LIKED Beautiful design. High quality cabin. Peerless safety tech. Refined, tractable drivetrain. Adjustable suspension provides secure, tidy handling and a compliant ride. Intuitive steering. Comfortable seats. Ample storage. Easy to use infotainment. WHAT WE DIDN’T Voice control and full smartphone compatibility cost extra. Tight rear legroom. Small boot. Some body roll and float in Comfort mode. Heavy. Brakes could use more bite. No spare, no rear-window wiper.