by Gerhard Horn
The current-generation Mercedes-Benz GLC is on its last legs. Following the introduction of the all-new C-Class earlier in 2021, the high-riding version will likely follow in the next couple of years. Automotive paparazzi already snapped some images of the new GLC testing, but for now, the first-generation is still very much on sale. Even now, near the end of its life, the GLC remains a worthy adversary to competitors in its segment like the BMW X3, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, and Audi Q5. However, unlike some of those, Mercedes took a refreshing approach by opting not to go the sporty route. The GLC is unashamedly biased toward comfort, though its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot delivers spirited performance with 255 horsepower on tap and 273 lb-ft of torque channeled to either the rear wheels or all four corners. Being the elder in the compact luxury SUV segment, does the GLC still have enough to take on the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Lexus NX?
Mercedes gave the GLC an extensive facelift last year, so not much has changed. Rear cross-traffic alert, automated parking, and keyless go have been added as standard across the range and a few features are now available as standalone options, including a surround-view camera, hands-free access, and adaptive high beam assist.
See trim levels and configurations:
There's nothing stand-out about the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class's exterior. It's 15 feet of generic SUV styling with Merc badges pasted to the front and rear, so you know where the car came from. Not necessarily a bad thing, given that the compact luxury SUV segment is aimed at a more mature crowd. The optional AMG Line adds some noticeable touches and a set of 19-inch wheels, but we wouldn't bother. The standard 18-inch alloys still leave enough room for a decent profile tire, adding to the overall comfort levels. Since that's what Mercedes aimed for when building the GLC, that's how we'd keep it. Aside from that, standard elements include LED headlights with signature DRLs and anodized roof rails. Buyers can opt for a panoramic roof and a range of larger wheels - up to 20 inches in diameter.
At 183.3 inches, the GLC is on the longer side of the segment. The 113.1-inch wheelbase is equally impressive. It stands 64.7 inches tall and has a total width of 74.8 inches without mirrors and 82.5 inches with them. The standard rear-wheel-drive GLC 300 has a curb weight of 3,889 pounds, while the addition of an all-wheel-drive system takes the weight up to 3,977 lbs.
Surprisingly, Mercedes-Benz blessed the humdrum GLC with an extensive color palette. It consists of 12 colors, starting with Black and Polar White as the only no-cost options. Metallic colors cost an additional $720, and you can choose between Obsidian Black, Cirrus Silver, Mojave Silver, Lunar Blue, Brilliant Blue, Selenite Grey, and Graphite Grey. There are three designo colors to choose from, including Cardinal Red ($1,080), Diamond White ($1,515), and Selenite Grey Magno for $2,020.
The standard GLC range is available with one engine option: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot that can be mated either to a RWD system or an AWD one under the 4Matic banner.
Merc's 2.0-liter turbocharged unit is one of the best small-capacity boosted engines out there. Maximum torque is available from 1,800 rpm to 4,000 rpm, and the power delivery is smooth and linear. The GLC will happily visit its 6,500 rpm redline as often as you'd like, but there's no need for anything as uncouth as that. What's the top speed? Does it even matter? The 0 to 60 sprint might, however, which is a decent 6.1 seconds regardless of drivetrain. As for towing capacity, 3,500 lbs is on par for the class.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine present in the non-AMG GLC models produces 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. That makes it more powerful than both the BMW X3 30i and the Lexus NX 300. It's mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission in both GLC 300 configurations.
While the engine produces a healthy amount of horses, Mercedes doesn't deploy them for blistering straight-line speed. The gearbox doesn't appreciate full throttle in Comfort mode, taking what feels like ages to shift down. You can improve it by switching over to Sport, but the more aggressive mapping doesn't suit the relaxed nature of the GLC.
At the Mercedes GLC SUV's global launch back in 2015, the lead engineer in charge of the suspension setup wasn't shy about giving the GLC a comfort-biased setup. Bold move, considering that most manufacturers want their SUVs to be all things to all men, sporty included.
The GLC's ride and handling are best described as confident when hustling along but never involving. An Alfa Romeo Stelvio decimates it in this department. We don't think it matters, considering how most compact luxury SUVs are used. They're built for the school run, grocery shopping, and long road trips. If that's the case, why not have a plush ride? And that something the GLC certainly delivers. It's not a roly-poly barge, and the steering is accurate enough, but you get the feeling that a Sport mode was included purely for marketing purposes. This is a car built for doing high mileage in utmost comfort.
The 4Matic variant adds more weight, but it's not something you'd notice. The rear-wheel-drive base model offers plenty of grip and a host of electronic nannies to keep you in control. Adding all-wheel drive is strictly only necessary if you live in a cold-weather state or if you want to do some light off-roading.
Believe it or not, the GLC is unexpectedly good in this department. A test drive on a moderate off-road track revealed that the softer suspension setup allows for more wheel articulation, and the electronics working away behind the scenes are exceptional. It's not as capable as a Land Rover Discovery Sport, but you'd be surprised at what this SUV is capable of.
According to the EPA, the standard rear-wheel-drive GLC 300 should be capable of 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined. The 4Matic model is only slightly less efficient at 21/28/23 mpg. In comparison, the BMW X3 with all-wheel drive manages to beat both models with estimates of 23/29/25 mpg. The GLC is equipped with a 17.4-gallon tank, good for 435 miles in the RWD car and 400 miles in AWD configuration.
Mercedes has kept the interior of the GLC as comfortable and up-to-date as possible throughout its lifecycle. Unlike other cars with "C" in their name, Mercedes opted to include its new MBUX interface in the GLC's latest update. The tech blends nicely into an old-school luxury car interior featuring MB-Tex faux leather and real wood trim. The windows are large, making for an overall light and airy interior ambiance. Fitting for a car that places comfort above all else.
The GLC SUV has a slightly sloped roofline, resulting in subpar rear headroom, but nowhere near the levels of the GLC Coupe. That's the only real criticism you can level against Merc's compact luxury SUV, as the rest of the measurements are above average compared to the competition. It can fit five people, but it's best suited to carrying four adults.
Front legroom is 40.8 inches and the rear is 37.3 inches. Headroom in the front is claimed at 37.8 inches increasing to 38.5 inches in the rear, but the front is definitely more suited to taller occupants, so we suspect an errant measurement and have reached out to Mercedes for clarification on this.
Power-adjustable front seats are standard, making it easy to find a comfortable driving position. Having large windows all around means the car is easy to see out of, aided by a standard rearview camera and blind-spot assist.
Considering the exterior is so sedate, we're stunned at the variety of colors and trims available on the inside. The options include six no-cost MB-Tex leatherette colors, including a rather lovely Cranberry Red. Unfortunately, to get access to this no-cost option, you have to add the AMG Line Package, which retails for $1,600.
Genuine leather ($1,620) is available in Black, Magma Grey/Black, and Silk Beige. AMG Line leather retails for $1,620, plus the cost of fitting the AMG Line Package. Available colors include Black, Saddle Brown, and Cranberry Red. The sole designo option is Platinum White Pearl/Black Nappa leather, costing $3,800. This option can only be coupled with the Natural Grain Black Ash Wood and aluminum trim.
The X3 has made it nearly impossible for any other midsize luxury SUV to be competitive in this segment. It offers a massive 28.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity, while the Merc can only muster 19.4 cubes. That being said, the X3 does rob its rear-seat passengers of room to have such a big cargo capacity. The GLC beats the Lexus NX's 17.7 cubes. The rear seats fold flat in a 40/20/40 configuration, taking the cargo capacity up to a practical 56.5 cubic feet.
Interior storage consists of a large storage compartment under the front center armrest and a small storage area under the climate control buttons. The rear center seat folds down and provides two cupholders for the rear passengers.
For years the Germans have been known to be stingy when it comes to standard features. Facing more competition from both the USA and Korea, this has changed. The same can't be said for the GLC, which comes as standard with heated power-adjustable seats, dual-zone climate control, a power tailgate, and a multifunction steering wheel. Considering pricing starts at over $43,000, it's disappointing that one has to pay extra for a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (standard on C-Class sedan, cabriolet, and coupe), a wireless charging pad, and hands-free access to the tailgate. A US-based manufacturer will more often than not include all of these things as standard at this price level.
Safety-wise it comes with crosswind assist, driver attention assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Other driver assistance features are only included in the optional $1,700 Driver Assistance Package.
Mercedes makes up for the lack of standard features by including MBUX as standard. This new interface is much easier to use than the outdated COMAND system. It consists of a 10.25-inch touchscreen interface with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The highlight of MBUX is the voice control, which you activate by saying, "Hey Mercedes." It's not as advanced as Siri, but it's getting there. MBUX is mated to a FrontBass sound system, and it does a good job, but a 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system is available. Two USB ports and a 115V outlet are standard.
For the full MBUX effect, we recommend adding the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, retailing for $750.
Owners seem to be satisfied with their GLCs, as it has scored 80 points or above since its introduction. The J.D. Power Survey gave the 2021 model 77 out of a possible 100 marks, scoring high for quality and reliability.
According to the NHTSA, the GLC has been recalled a few times, with 13 recalls in 2020 alone, although at the time of this writing, the 2021 model has just three to its name. The first is for a brand-wide issue of an inaccurate vehicle location, while a faulty front seat position switch and lack of a rearview camera image being displayed have resulted in smaller recalls.
A basic warranty of four years/50,000 miles matched by an equal drivetrain warranty comes standard with every GLC.
The GLC scores well in government agency safety reviews. The NHTSA gave the 2021 GLC an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. Up until 2021, the IIHS only gave the GLC ratings in specific categories. The facelifted model has now undergone a full test, and the result is a 2021 Top Safety Pick award. This applies only to models with the optional Driver Assistance Pack and LED headlights.
Considering the GLC's stellar performance in the IIHS crash test, it's disappointing to see that most of the driver assistance features are behind a paywall. As standard, it comes with seven airbags, a rearview camera, crosswind assist, active brake assist, driver attention assist, and blind-spot monitoring.
The $1,700 Driver Assistance Package includes adaptive cruise control, steering assist, evasive steering, active blind-spot assist, and lane-change assist, to name just a few.
We appreciate Mercedes' comfort-biased approach taken with its compact SUV entrant. The GLC may have more power than its immediate rivals, but you never feel the need to chase the rev limiter. This car is at its absolute best when you drive around at reasonable speed, enjoying the comfortable, beautifully crafted interior. All your passengers will also enjoy the class-leading legroom.
On the flip side, the GLC is not as frugal as the competition, and the trunk is significantly smaller than the X3's. We also don't like that you have to pay extra for most convenience and safety features. The MBUX is a lovely infotainment system, but Merc misses the mark by not including essential items like keyless go, a sunroof, and seat ventilation.
The biggest drawback to us is the safety spec. Considering how much you pay for the car as standard, all of the optional safety kit really should be included. There are cars costing half as much that are better equipped. This is particularly disappointing considering how highly the GLC scores once fitted with the Driver Assistance Package.
The base GLC 300 with RWD has an MSRP of $43,200, while the 4MATIC has a base price of $45,200. These prices exclude Mercedes-Benz's destination charge of $1,050.
Merc's GLC is basically on par with the BMW X3, as the RWD 30i retails for $43,000, and adding xDrive raises the price to $45,000. The Lexus NX is undoubtedly the value-for-money option in this segment. Pricing for standard models starts at $37,610, while hybrid models have a base MSRP of $40,160.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC is available in two trim levels: GLC 300 and GLC 300 4MATIC.
Both models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The model with the 4Matic moniker has all-wheel drive as standard, while the other is strictly RWD.
All models come standard with full-LED exterior lights and 18-inch alloy wheels. Interior specification includes heated, power-adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, a multifunction steering wheel, leatherette seats, and a 10.25-inch infotainment system with MBUX.
Standard safety features include seven airbags, crosswind assist, brake assist, blind-spot monitoring, and driver attention assist. The hybrid model adds automatic emergency braking and Merc's basic Pre-Safe suite of safety systems.
The GLC is relatively spartan, so you have to delve into the optional packages if you want something truly spectacular. The Multimedia Package costs $1,295 and adds navigation, MBUX augmented video for navigation, no-charge map updates for three years, live traffic updates for three years, and speed-limit assist. The Premium Package adds a six-month SiriusXM subscription and a 64-color ambient lighting system. Driver Assistance costs an additional $1,700 and adds a series of autonomous and semi-autonomous safety features. Standalone options include the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster for $750, head-up display ($1,100), wireless charging ($200), and a surround-view camera system for $600.
The base choice here depends on where you live. If you get a lot of rain or snow, it's worth paying the additional money for the 4Matic system. If you don't, there's no need. The RWD system and electronics provide ample grip. Worthwhile optional extras include the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display, and Driver Assistance Package. You can't have the latter without including the Multimedia Package as well, increasing the price to $48,045.
There's an $11,550 difference between the entry-level GLC and the base version of its bigger brother, the GLE. Add a few must-have options to the GLC, and that gap is uncomfortably narrow. The GLE 350 is powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the same state of tune, mated to the same nine-speed automatic.
We reckon the GLE is a better buy because Mercedes was feeling more generous when deciding what features to include as standard. So you get heated power-adjustable seats, a power liftgate, remote start, reverse camera, dual-zone climate control, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, and a power-adjustable steering column. You also get the latest infotainment and information setup, consisting of dual 12.3-inch high-resolution screens.
Due to added weight, the GLE will be less efficient than the GLC, and the performance won't be as vigorous. On the plus side, you get more space. The GLE is a better SUV, but it does cost a lot more. But think carefully before you start adding options to the GLC. You might get closer to the entry-level price of a GLE than you think.
The all-new GLA is a vastly superior car to the old model. The interior boasts an all-new MBUX system with two 10.25-inch displays. Material quality is way up, and the design is quite sporty. The GLA comes with a more comprehensive driver-assistance suite, consisting of adaptive cruise control, steering assist, evasive steering assist, and active blind-spot assist.
You have to sacrifice some space, but you get a faster, more engaging crossover in return. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot powers the GLA, but with slightly less power and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. If you can handle the smaller dimensions, the GLA is a better buy.
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