The first generation of the GLC has been around for a while, and with Merc now updating a number of its nameplates, like the C-Class, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class may be the last in its line. It has stood the test of time surprisingly well, however, thanks to constant updates and that timeless German styling. Its primary competitors, the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Alfa Romeo Stelvio, are a little more up-to-date and have their own unique sense of style that may show up the GLC-Class SUV. In typical Mercedes fashion, the compact crossover places comfort first, with a well-appointed cabin and lots of desirable features coming standard. That said, it can keep up with its more spirited rivals. A turbocharged 4-cylinder engine provides the power for this, sending 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque to your choice of rear- or all-wheel drivetrain. It may be getting on in years, but is the 2021 GLC-Class ready for one last hurrah before it's put out to pasture?
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.
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While performance from the GLC-Class SUV will never be engaging, it is enough to feel effortless around town and on the highway. A 2.0-liter turbocharged gas inline-4 provides the 255 hp and 273 lb-ft for this, routed through a 9-speed automatic transmission. You can have the Merc in either RWD or AWD setup, depending on your needs. The delivery of this power is consistent and reliably, if not overly, brisk. Comfort is definitely the name of the game for this vehicle, which is why it's best to just leave the drive setting in that mode, even though the gearbox avoids going full throttle and takes an age to shift down. Sport mode really doesn't suit the car or feel natural, however. A maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs is available, while the 0-60 mph sprint can be dispatched in 6.1 seconds - decent for the class.
Many luxury automakers try to make their compact crossovers into semi-performance vehicles, akin to a hot hatch. Mercedes doesn't care to pursue this trend and this approach pays off well with the GLC-Class SUV. True, it actually has more power at hand than most of its contemporary rivals, but it doesn't try to eke every last ounce of it out in seconds. The drive is best enjoyed with steady acceleration, which suits the comfort-biased suspension perfectly. The spacious, well-appointed cabin reaffirms this, especially after the 2020 update. Unfortunately, the crossover didn't receive much in the way of additional standard tech. Mercedes still expects you to pay extra for all the nice-to-have safety and comfort features. With just how many high-quality, modern SUVs there are in the USA, this may be a price people aren't willing to pay and it will cost the automaker in sales.
Luckily, safety isn't too much of a concern, despite having most of the advanced driver assists locked behind a paywall. The safety review of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC from the NHTSA was extremely positive, with five stars awarded in three out of four tests, and four stars allocated to rollover evaluations. The IIHS concurred and gave the 2021 model a Top Safety Pick award.
One area where the automaker didn't skimp, though, was the infotainment suite. The MBUX interface is pristine and easy to use. All of this equates to a comfortable and safe environment to enjoy a leisurely drive, especially in the spacious rear seats. This is almost enough to make us forgive Mercedes for the small trunks and the lack of advanced features. Almost. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is still a good car, but it just isn't good enough anymore when going up against more up-to-date and refined competitors that don't require expensive additional packages to achieve good safety ratings.
There isn't all that much choice here, since the only difference between the two models in the range is their drivetrain. If you live in an area that suffers from poor weather and challenging driving conditions, get the AWD version. Otherwise, the standard RWD is the same package at a lower price. Unfortunately, this will be pushed up when you start speccing on all the features that we expect to be standard on a luxury vehicle. This includes the $1,700 Driver Assistance Package, comprising blind-spot assist, emergency braking, active steering assist, and lane change assist, to name a few. This further necessitates adding the Multimedia Package for $1,295. It adds some nice-to-have features, but nothing we'd pay for if not to get the driver assists. At this point, you may as well throw in the $850 Burmester surround sound system. In this configuration, the price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class SUV comes to $47,045 before adding the destination charge. A BMW X3 xDrive comes better equipped and will cost you less in base guise.
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