LATE ARRIVAL: The mid-size SUV has been a glaring omission from Mercedes-Benz's Australian model list, but could well become segment leader very quickly
LATE ARRIVAL: The mid-size SUV has been a glaring omission from Mercedes-Benz's Australian model list, but could well become segment leader very quickly Mark Bramley

Mercedes-Benz GLC road test and review

THE Coombe Estate, home of renowned Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, is a majestic property with very definite old-world charm. Like the late diva it is beautifully stately and a touch mysterious keeping its secrets well hidden behind its thick Cyprus hedge for generations until it was opened to the public late last year.

Aside from the stunning colonial Coombe Cottage, the 30-hectare estate now also boasts a top-class restaurant, gallery and cellar door as well as a museum that shows off Melba's Cartier handbags, Hermes riding boots and 100-year-old 14-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set. The history and decadence is simply delicious but more than that it exudes a sort of timeless wonder and effortless class.

A fitting backdrop then for the launch of the new SUV from Mercedes-Benz - a brand that knows more than a little something about class. The long-awaited GLC will give the German manufacturer the firepower it has lacked in the medium SUV market and will further enhance its envied reputation.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Mark Bramley.
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Mark Bramley. Mark Bramley

Comfort

When you pay top dollar you expect quality and few do sumptuous luxury better than Benz. Soft leather, springy textured plastics and on-trend highlights with a seamless fit is the way of the world here, with the GLC not just offering every comfort but doing so in a manner that clearly outshines its rivals.

The cabin itself closely mirrors that of the C-Class - which has proved so popular for the brand this year - with driver-centric controls, clear instrumentation and an easy-to-operate infotainment system with superior graphics and good sound clarity.

Importance has been placed on the detail including dash and seat trim, better under-thigh support, individual rear seat temperature controls and even a lined glove box. Leg and headroom - with a sunroof - is excellent as are clever storage options and a cargo hold which can accommodate some 550-litres with the rear seats in position.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

On the road

There are three options available at the moment, a GLC 250 petrol separating the 220 and 250 diesel models, all paired with a 9G-tronic nine-speed automatic and sporting Mercedes' permanent all-wheel-drive system. All three are supremely comfortable, assured at speed, capable around corners and as at-home on the open road as they are in city traffic.

They are quiet too, eerily so, with only the slightest occasional purr distinguishing the diesels from their petrol counterpart. Much work has been done here to improve the overall rigidity and increase the use of acoustic composite materials and it shows.

You have the option of selecting from five drive modes and can also choose to add the Air Body Control multi-chamber suspension system which combines well with the standard agility control and variable damping system for a stable ride with optimum comfort.

For our money, though, the petrol is the better bet, its lighter frame helping the 2.1-litre turbo engine find a little more oomph especially up steeper inclines and during overtaking. Of course the diesel's frugality is hard to ignore if your week usually involves a number of long highway journeys.

It is unlikely that the larger number of GLC buyers will take their vehicle on anything more challenging than good secondary roads but should you want to, Mercedes has ensured it is up to the task especially if you opt for the Off-road Engineering package for added assurance on both easy and tough terrain.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

What do you get?

The GLC is graced with satisfyingly high standard equipment levels with the entry-level 220d offering things like 19-inch 5-spoke alloys, LED intelligent light system, 7-inch colour display with touchpad control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, powered tailgate, electrically adjustable front seats, sat-nav, 360-degree reverse camera, cruise control with variable speed limiter, keyless start, stop-start function, dual-zone climate control and electric parking brake.

The 250 petrol and diesel also get leather upholstery, 20-inch alloys and keyless entry with hands-free access. Safety features include nine airbags, traction and skid control, adaptive brake with hold function and Hill Start Assist, Attention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Collision Prevention Assist and Crosswind Assist with the 250s adding Cross Traffic Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Steering Assist and pre-safe brake with pedestrian recognition.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

Running costs

Mercedes suggests fuel economy of 5.6-5.7l/100km for the diesels with the petrol coming in at 7.2l/100km. Warranty is three years or 100,000km with capped-price servicing for the first three services. Service intervals at 12 months or 25,000km.

Competition

Mercedes-Benz has, until now, been a glaring omission in a segment that includes the Audi Q5 (from $63,210), BMW X3 (from $61,100), Land Rover Discovery Sport (from $55,800), Lexus NX (from $57,000), Porsche Macan (from $89,300) and Volvo XC60 (from $57,990).

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Mark Bramley.
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Mark Bramley. Mark Bramley

Practicality

There seems nothing on the horizon to halt the rapid growth in this luxury medium SUV market and Benz has done a lot right to ensure the GLC ruffles a few feathers. The combination of comfort, ride and inclusions should do that as should features like being able to lower the boot lip for easy loading and unloading, and one-touch folding 40:20:40 rear seats. There is no spare though, just run-flat tyres, which, to be honest, makes me a bit uneasy.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

Funky Factor

This GLC is one of the nicest looking SUVs around with clean crisp lines, sculpted aerodynamic design and nicely integrated grille and LEDs. We like its sporty stance emphasised by muscly shoulders and impressive rear haunches.

The lowdown

Good things come to those who wait and the GLC seems a case in point: it's been a while coming but its rivals will be fearing the sales potential of the new Merc. It is comfortable, clever and capable with good looks and impressive inclusions and looks poised to shake up the luxury medium SUV segment. Like Dame Melba, it will be hard to beat.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

What matters most

What we liked: High equipment levels, luxurious comfortable interior, good-looking exterior.

What we'd like to see: A spare wheel.

Warranty and servicing: 3 year/100,000 kilometre warranty.

 

Vital Statistics

Model: Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Details: Five-door all-wheel drive luxury medium SUV.

Engines: 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 125kW and peak torque of 400Nm. 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 155kW and peak torque of 350Nm. 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 150kW and peak torque of 500Nm.

Transmission: Nine-speed auto.

Consumption: 7.2 litres/100km combined for petrol and 5.6-5.7l/100km for the diesels.

Bottom line: GLC 220d from $64,500, GLC 250 from $67,900, GLC 250d from $69,900.

Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley


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