There's a reason why the GLC 300 is the best-selling vehicle in the Mercedes lineup.
Mercedes is pushing into 2023 with a new generation of the model with the best sales figures in the last year: the Mercedes GLC-Class compact crossover. While some may feel it's more of a continuation model, the updates are significant enough to justify the start of a new generation. These include a new suspension system, new bodywork with improved aerodynamics, an even more refined interior, and the latest generation of the sophisticated MBUX infotainment system. It's powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine with a mild hybrid system making 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Rather than an event to launch the 2023 Mercedes GLC class with just a few hours to experience the car, Mercedes dropped it off with us for a weekend so we could spend quality time getting to know it. As a spoiler, we enjoyed the hell out of the GLC and may have put a few more miles on the car than we were supposed to.
The theme for the 2023 Mercedes GLC's bodywork is accentuation and elegance. The accentuation is of the wider track (0.24 inches at the front and 0.91 inches at the rear) and the increased length. The 2023 GLC is 2.4 inches longer and 0.16 inches lower than its predecessor and giving it a more commanding stance on the road. The previous model had a coefficient drag factor of 0.31, but the new model improves on that with a new factor of 0.29. That benefits efficiency but also helps with something Mercedes has mastered with the new GLC - reducing wind noise in the cabin.
A larger rear overhang improves cargo capacity, but the biggest signifier of the new model is the new headlamps that connect directly to the radiator grille and emphasize the GLC's width. The new grille features a chrome surround and a matte grey louver decorated with chrome trim.
Wheel size ranges from 18-20 inches, and our test model came with 19-inch Multispoke wheels wrapped in all-season tires.
LED High Performance headlamps are standard, while the optional Mercedes Digital Light system provides targeted light distribution and has the ability to adapt brightness to prevent dazzling other road users. The system also projects warning symbols and icons onto the road to help the driver detect pedestrians, danger zones, lane drift, or not leaving enough of a following distance. It's an extra well worth paying for.
At the back, the two-section rear lights are new and have a three-dimensional style to them. There is also a new chrome underguard at the front and back, and you can opt for running boards if you like.
Powering the new GLC is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a hybrid assist to deliver six-cylinder levels of power through a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission. The 300 4Matic features all-wheel-drive and an off-road mode and, hopefully, we'll get a chance to review that at a later date. Our base 300 tester was rear-wheel-drive and advertised with city/highway/combined gas mileage figures of 25/32/38 mpg.
Power is plentiful, and the best way of describing its acceleration is firm and confident. There's power there for getting out of a tight junction in heavy traffic and plenty in reserve when getting onto a freeway that's moving quickly. The nine-speed transmission handles everything well and smoothly until you need it to kick down a few cogs and get a move on. Our tester had paddles, but it's no quicker to drop several gears using a paddle than simply leaning into the throttle and letting the transmission figure out you want sudden acceleration to overtake slower traffic.
When it comes to compact crossover interiors, the 2023 GLC is flat-out the best in class. You may prefer the style of Volvo's interiors, but there's no competition when it comes to the fit, finish, materials, and infotainment system as a package. Standard features have been improved, including heated seats, wireless charging, and large infotainment screens. Upholstery and trim can be configured, but our test model came with a lovely brown leather upholstery that continued across the dashboard. Interior trim options include open-pored veneers in brown tones or an open-pored black wood veneer featuring form-following inlays in aluminum.
Overall, everything feels substantial and thought has gone into everything from the large space for cupholders and storing small items around them to the space set to hold two drinks bottles in each door storage area.
Up front, there's plenty of space for elbows between driver and passenger and enough legroom for a couple of adults not to feel cramped in the back. Mercedes hasn't fallen into the trap of a coupe-like roofline here, so there's sufficient headroom for rear passengers as well. Cargo space is equally generous and can fit a long weekend's worth of luggage.
Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system is a jewel in the brand's crown. The main infotainment screen housing MBUX is a 12.3-inch free-standing unit and one of the sharpest we've seen. Mercedes has gone all in with beautiful graphics - the best example being a full-screen animated dial display showing the engine's torque and horsepower unit on top of a boost gauge. It's one of the few times we didn't feel the need just to use the wireless Apple Carplay because the display is just so good-looking.
Indirect ambient lighting is included, but we got to experience the direct ambiance lighting with light guides. In from-the-factory mode, it matched the colors on the main display and felt gaudy spread across the cabin like that. However, after selecting a few different color combinations, we settled on one that suited the cabin and we enjoyed how some areas would give feedback on inputs. For example, turn up the heat on the passenger side, and the relevant air vents switch to glow red for a moment.
You can choose different lighting and display styles for when you enter the GLC's cabin, and it changes to mainly red in Sport mode. Fullscreen Navigation is optional, as is the Augmented Navigation feature that uses cameras to superimpose moving images and virtual objects, information, and markers like road signs, directional arrows, lane-change recommendations, and house numbers.
Mercedes says its voice interaction system has become more interactive and is capable of learning via the online services app. There's also a new personalized "Newsflash" feature you can call upon any time, triggered in combination with 'Hey Mercedes' it gives you access to personalized news categories. Mercedes has also integrated the largest music streaming providers into the voice system.
Our test model GLC was fitted with the optional Burmester 3D surround system, which deserves a review on its own. Without sitting down and A/B testing with our other favorite systems, we can't decide if it's the best factory system or not, but its clarity is captivating. It's probably the most well-balanced system from the factory before using an equalizer, meaning it doesn't lean on bass or treble to make a first impression and won't induce audio fatigue over extended periods of listening at enthusiastic volumes. However, the bass is tight, and the treble manages to be clear without getting shrill. Even more impressive are the mid-tones, which are often overlooked and have their own clarity. For buyers in any way into enjoying music, it's an easy box to tick.
The first impression after pulling away in the GLC is how substantial and like a full-size SUV it feels. That feeling is generated by the driving position and how high and flat the hood sits - but it's not a negative feeling if that's what you like. Mercedes uses the word "sporty" in its information materials, but we wouldn't recommend anyone buy the GLC on that basis. Where the GLC excels on the road is in its manners, not in belligerence.
There's only one area we think Mercedes has made a misstep, and that's in the suspension by attempting sporty when it doesn't need to be. On smooth roads, the suspension is lovely, but far from all roads are smooth in the US, and on choppier tarmac, it doesn't take the edge off as we would expect a luxury car from Mercedes to do.
Of course, because Mercedes said the GLC was sporty, we pushed it around, and it is fun; however, you can feel the heft, and the all-season tires fitted to the test vehicle are quick to complain. What it is, though, is predictable and communicative when the edge of grip is reached, and there's joy to be had with that. On occasion. There's no denying the four-point front suspension and multipoint rear suspension are excellent and manage the height and heft of the crossover, but it shines brighter at pace, not at speed. Find a winding road full of sweeping bends and find a rhythm, and it's great. Find a tight and twisting back road, and it's a handful that balances surprisingly well.
Where we got the most pleasure out of the GLC was getting out around town, where it can hustle shortcuts with its precise and well-weighted steering and heading out on longer journeys. The brakes need some pressure to start engaging, but once we got the measure of them, they proved to be smooth and generated plenty of stopping power. The driving aids, of which there are plenty, are unobtrusive right until they are needed. And the cabin is well-damped: Interior noise is reduced to the point that if it were any quieter, it would be disconcerting.
The truth of the matter is that everything is just right, even if the suspension is a bit firmer than we would like for an everyday luxury compact cruiser.
We've used the word feel a lot in this review, and giving you a feeling while driving is something Mercedes has always done incredibly well. The GLC is absolutely a sum of its parts and a car we would happily drive every day, no matter what that entails. It's as at home hustling around town as it is stretching its legs on a freeway and more than comfortable enough to take cross-country - and it does everything with class and style. The starting price of $47,100 is $3,250 higher than last year, and our GLC 300 in Exclusive trim, with its optional all-weather tires, upgraded Nappa leather dashboard, panoramic roof with cloth shade, 19-inch wheels, Driver Assistance Package, came in at $54,100.
We're happy to state that the GLC-Class SUV is a value-for money-car if you value tech, luxury, and comfort in a compact package. If you value sporty driving dynamics in a compact crossover, there is better out there - but there isn't anything right now that ticks all of the boxes Mercedes has here.
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