The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Road Test - BILL McKIN­NON

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.

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