It’s hard to believe that after Maruti, it’s Mercedes that has the widest model range in India. Despite that, when it came to mid-sized luxury SUVs, Mercedes could only helplessly watch buyers turn to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. But now, the long overdue GLC is here to spoil the rivals’ party. But can it steal their sales?
The GLC shares its underpinnings with the C-class sedan but is longer in the wheelbase by 33mm. What also makes it look big is the tall cabin and the wide nose. Up front, the wide, protruding grille grabs your attention, the clean flanks and the swooping roofline culminate into a coupé-like rear end, while the chunky rear skid plate with twin exhausts reminds you of the GLC’s SUV credentials.
The GLC’s premium cabin is similar to the C-class. The wide, wooden centre console with the array of chromed vents, the metal-finish buttons and the plush doorpads give the cabin an incredible lift. However, what’s disappointing is the ordinary-looking dials, bits of cheap plastic and Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system that feels a bit archaic with its small 7-inch screen.
No complaints with the seats though. The powered front seats offer ample support and getting the right driving position is also a cinch, thanks to the powered steering adjustment.
Where the GLC really scores is on rear seat space; it’s more comfortable than the C-class. You sit higher and there’s good leg and head room for even tall passengers.
Also impressive is the 550 litres of boot space that can be expanded if you flip down the powered seat backs. The only problem is much of the space is taken up by the spare wheel which also makes loading big bags quite difficult.
The GLC 300’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit produces an impressive 245hp and 370Nm of torque, which seems more than adequate for a 1,871kg car. It’s mated to Mercedes’ latest nine-speed automatic gearbox that offers a good balance between performance and efficiency.
Five different driving modes are offered: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. In Comfort mode, the gearbox is smooth and shifts seamlessly. However, in the most aggressive Sport+ mode, you get a distinct thud between shifts when you accelerate hard.
The GLC’s petrol motor delivers its grunt quite progressively. There isn’t much oomph from low revs, but power builds up gradually with the engine really getting into its stride after 3,500rpm. Downshifting via the paddles also provides a great degree of control and on twisty roads, you feel like you’re driving a manual.
With a 0-100kph time of a brisk 7.5 seconds, the GLC 300 is quicker than its four-cylinder diesel rivals. However, when you want to make a quick overtaking manoeuvre, you miss the kick of a strong turbo-diesel. Part-throttle response is pretty good, though, which makes the GLC 300 easy to drive.
What’s also impressive is how hushed the cabin is. Yes, this is the petrol version, but it is eerily quiet for an SUV doing 80kph. When you accelerate hard, the four-cylinder engine gets quite buzzy at high revs, but never feels harsh.
The GLC also comes in a diesel variant; the base GLC 220 d puts out a modest 170bhp. It may seem insufficient to propel a nearly two-tonne car, but the gearbox optimally uses the engine’s 400Nm, and keeps it from feeling underpowered. It’s responsive off the mark and the strong mid-range makes it the better car for highway cruising. At moderate revs, it’s remarkably refined and the cabin’s insulation filters out the engine noise really well. However, the engine becomes loud when revved beyond 3,000rpm.
The pliant suspension and relatively tall tyres smoothen out sharp edges well, and the supple ride makes the GLC the most comfortable SUV in its class. At high speeds on undulating surfaces, it does pitch quite a lot, but not to the point of unsettling the passengers.
The steering feels progressive and there’s no dead zone around the straight-ahead position. It’s not particularly quick or direct but for relaxed yet fast driving, it instills a lot of confidence. However, the GLC isn’t the sportiest SUV around and doesn’t feel agile or playful as a BMW X3.
The GLC is an all-rounder and will appeal to a wide swathe of luxury SUV buyers. It looks modern and the cabin too is well-appointed. Yes, it may not be as engaging to drive as its rivals, but if you want comfort and refinement, the GLC 300, with its smooth, brisk performance and hushed cabin, is hard to beat.
The entry-level GLC 220d is a more practical choice and is expected to be cheaper than the flagship petrol. That said, the GLC, at an estimated price range of Rs 50-55 lakh, won’t be cheap. But, if you’ve always wanted a Merc and have often looked at a luxury SUV, the well-rounded GLC could be the right car for you.
(In partnership with Autocar India)