In second generation form, the Mercedes GLC promises to be an even more tempting proposition in the upper mid-sized premium SUV segment. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
The GLC brings a bit of Mercedes polish to the premium part of the upper mid-sized SUV segment and this second generation model is a significant step forward from the original. The whole of the mainstream engine range has been electrified and infotainment media connectivity has taken an equally large step forward. Plus efficiency, refinement and build quality represent other strongpoints. It's a very complete package.
The GLC has been quite a success story for Mercedes. This model line didn't even exist until 2015. Since then, more than 2.6 million of them have been sold and in 2021, the 'X253'-series MK1 version's last full year on sale, over 270,000 GLCs found new owners globally; enough to surpass the C-Class and make this model the brand's overall best seller.
So you can understand the high expectations in Stuttgart for the successor 'X254'-series design, which like its predecessor shares an awful lot with its C-Class showroom stablemate. This time, the GLC is bigger, all the engines are electrified and, like the 'C', there's a completely redesigned cabin that sets fresh segment standards. There's the same MRA steel and aluminium platform as the C-Class. And this GLC will be built in the same factories too - in Germany, China and Finland. Mercedes describes this 'as the most important car in our line-up'. Time to brief you on it.
What are your expectations in terms of driving a premium upper-sized mid-level luxury SUV? A reasonably commandingly and luxurious seating position? Plenty of pulling power? Impressive refinement? As before, the GLC delivers all of these things. But this time it does so with a completely electrified engine range. As before, the line-up will mainly sell in 2.0-litre petrol and diesel forms, both units now embellished with mild hybrid tech. The GLC 220d diesel 4MATIC has 197hp; while the GLC 300d 4MATIC uses the same 2.0-litre engine to put out 269hp: the GLC 300 petrol 4MATIC has 258hp.
Over the last few years, this model line has been increasingly popular in Plug-in Hybrid form. So there are still a couple of PHEV variants this time round. The GLC 300 e 4MATIC model uses the 2.0-litre petrol engine and develops 313hp. The GLC 300 de 4MATIC, uniquely in-segment, uses a diesel mated to Plug-in power, that 2.0-litre unit, which in this form puts out 335hp. The forthcoming GLC 43 and GLC 63 AMG performance variants will also get 2.0-litre four cylinder powerplants - petrol ones of course. As before, all models across the line-up feature 4MATIC all wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic gearbox.
Optional is AIRMATIC air suspension and this MK2 model further adds the option of Rear-Axle Steering, the latter vastly improving the car's turning circle (by 90cm) and giving extra stability through the bends. Another option is the 'Off Road Engineering' package, which increases ground clearance by 20mm and adds a guard at the front, as well as under-body protection.
Design and Build
You'd certainly recognise this as a GLC if you happen to be familiar with this model line. Looking at this MK2 version though, is a bit like encountering a friend who's been at a health farm for a couple of months and has emerged leaner and fitter. Rounded edges and clean surfacing bring some of the look of the C-Class to this Crossover, which as before will be sold in SUV and Coupe forms. Either way, it's sleeker than before, the drag coefficient improved by two tenths to 0.29Cd. And it's 60mm longer, measuring in at 4,718mm.
It's inside where existing GLC drivers will notice the biggest changes though. The dash adopts a large central portrait screen slightly canted towards the driver. The digital instrument display is borrowed from the C-Class too, but the GLC gets its own uniquely styled vents. And the seats are hugely improved, with more supportive cushioning materials. An augmented reality head-up display can be added as well. Out back, this MK2 model's 15mm wheelbase increase has been put to good use in the slightly more spacious rear section of the cabin - mainly to improve legroom, not one of the previous model's strong points. The bench slides back and forth too, which aids cargo flexibility. Ah yes, boot space. That's up by 50-litres to a class leading 600-litres.
Market and Model
Prices start from around £52,000 for the base GLC 220d AMG Line, rising to just obver £72,000 for the top mainstream variant, the plug-in hybrid GLC 300 e Premium Plus. Expect an alternative new generation GLC Coupe model shortly; for the time being, the old GLC Coupe continues. Across the range, expect the same 'AMG Line', 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus' trim levels.
At least the standard equipment is generous, with things like smartphone integration, wireless charging and heated front seats standard across the range. Many GLC customers will want to look at the optional 'DIGITAL LIGHT' headlamps. These project in front of the car onto the road surface when driving at night, with things like guidance lines, symbols and animation, plus the system's intelligent technology highlights pedestrians that you might come across with a spotlight function. If you've extra to spend, you might also want to look at the 'Parking Package' with its 360-degree camera. If you specify that, the cabin screen offers a 'transparent bonnet' view when you're driving off road, which shows a virtual view under the front of the vehicle, including the front wheels and the steering position. This allows the driver to recognise obstacles like sharp stones were deep potholes at an early stage.
Quite a few owners will want to add on a tow bar - and will like the new 'Towing Route Planner' that's been added into the navigation system. Using this, routes can be planned in the central display that are suitable for driving with a trailer, taking into account things like passage width and passage heights. And there's an enhanced 'Trailer Manoeuvring Assistant' system that makes manoeuvring with a trailer easier, more comfortable and safer.
Cost of Ownership
Given the huge proportion of business sales accounted for by the GLC, Mercedes couldn't afford to return anything but a stellar set of efficiency figures with this MK2 model - and that's what we've got from the fully electrified engine range. Most customers will be choosing either the mild hybrid diesel GLC 220d, which returns up to 45.2mpg on the combined cycle and up to 141g/km of CO2: or the mild hybrid petrol GLC 300, which returns up to 32.2mpg on the combined cycle and up to 171g/km.
If you want to do better, you'll need one of the Plug-in Hybrids. The petrol PHEV variant, the GLC 300 e, is rated at up to 392mpg. The diesel Plug-in variant, the GLC 300 de, is rated at up to 470mpg. There will also be four-cylinder petrol Plug-in powertrains for the C 43 and C 63 high performance AMG models.
What else? Well you get a comprehensive three year warranty that has no mileage restriction (rival BMW and Audi warranties restrict you to 60,000 miles). And this package is built upon by Mercedes' Mobilo scheme which delivers breakdown cover for up to thirty years, as long as you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer. And it's worth knowing that your maintenance outlay can be kept a little in check by going for the optional Service Care package that takes care of routine maintenance, spreading the cost of regular servicing.
Image is everything when it comes to premium mid-sized SUVs and on that basis, this second generation GLC is a very desirable package. In terms of styling, technology and efficiency, it borrows hugely from its C-Class cousin - to very good effect. Plus options like air suspension offer the kind of luxury that used to be limited to much larger luxury SUVs, enabling this car to cross ravines one minute and carve through a set of bends at speed the next.
There's a combination here of performance, space and comfort that rivals will find very hard to beat and the now all-electrified engine range adds frugality to that list of attributes. Yes, some potential customers may feel that there are more dynamic choices they could make in this segment, but these people won't be able to leave a Mercedes showroom before being directed towards the sleeker Coupe version of this car - which could very well make them think again.
Most though, will value the all-round practicality of the standard SUV model. Of course, this car's two closest arch-rivals, the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, both have strong followings. And beyond those cars, there are trendier-looking options - a Jaguar F-PACE, a Volvo XC60 or an Alfa Romeo Stelvio for instance. Others may want the seven-seat capacity of a comparable Land Rover Discovery Sport. As an all-rounder though, combining many of the qualities you'll find in all of those cars, the GLC remains a tempting package. A segment benchmark? You'd have to say so.