What stands out?
The Mercedes-Benz GLC is a beautifully tailored, five-seat, medium SUV, with all-wheel drive, a long feature list, and a premium feel that few alternatives match. It can be enhanced with a big range of extra-cost options, and several crash-avoidance aids are standard or available.
What might bug me?
Having to baby the car on rough roads. The standard suspension delivers a lovely, quiet ride on smooth roads, but if you drive with enthusiasm over heavily potholed or lumpy roads you will feel jolts as the suspension reaches its limits. If you have a full load on board, the jolts are more than occasional.
(The easiest solution is to add the optional Air Body Control suspension. It’s worth every extra cent.)
Wishing you had a spare wheel and tyre. If you puncture a tyre on a Mercedes GLC, you just keep driving: its tyres will still work when they’re flat. That’s great, provided you can get a new tyre fitted soon. Once it has lost air, a GLC’s run-flat tyre will last for up to 80km.
What body styles are there?
Five-door wagon only.
(A Mercedes GLC Coupe is also available. While it is based on the GLC reviewed here, and very similar, this article does not cover it directly.)
The Mercedes-Benz GLC drives all four wheels. It is classed as a medium SUV, higher priced.
What features do all versions have?
Cruise control with speed limiter, and a leather-rimmed steering wheel with gearshift paddles. Satellite navigation, which is displayed on a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen. A 360-degree exterior camera with multi-angle views, and parking sensors front and rear.
A single-disc CD player, and a digital radio. Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming. Integration for iPod and iPhone, and two USB ports.
Dual-zone climate control, which allows the driver and front-seat passenger to set temperatures independently. Dedicated vents for rear passengers.
Power-adjusted front seats. Ambient interior lighting, which maintains a soft glow in the cabin at night.
Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains. Headlamps that switch on automatically when it’s dark. Daytime running lights, which help other drivers see you.
Aluminium alloy wheels, with Mercedes’ MOExtended run-flat tyres and a pressure-loss warning system.
Mercedes’ 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive with electronic traction control, both of which can be helpful in slippery conditions or off-road.
Active safety systems that include Attention Assist, which warns you if you show signs of falling asleep at the wheel, and Blind Spot Assist, which warns when changing lanes that a vehicle is alongside. There is also automatic braking that works at city and highway speeds: it warns of an obstacle in front of the car – typically a slower vehicle – and will apply the brakes if you do not react.
A self-parking system, which can steer you into a parking spot, and front and rear cross-traffic warnings.
Nine airbags. (For more details, see the Safety section).
Electronic stability control, which helps you maintain control on a slippery surface. All new cars must have this feature.
The GLC comes with a three-year, unlimited distance warranty. It also has a 30-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
The 2.1-litre turbo-diesel in the GLC 220d uses least fuel, consuming just 5.6 litres/100km in the official test (city and country combined). But the very similar diesel in the GLC 250d uses only marginally more, while feeling noticeably stronger (it is tuned for more power).
Nevertheless, about the only reason you wouldn’t choose the 220d over its more urgent 250d sibling is outright performance. Otherwise, the 220d is slightly more refined and relaxed in its nature, with a bit less diesel grumble, and yet still offers strong acceleration. Only people serious about overtaking and towing should head straight for the 250d.
The main reason you might not choose either diesel is the refuelling experience. Diesel fuel is sticky, and quite often the pumps are covered in residue.
The third engine available in a GLC is the enthusiast’s choice, even though it will drink quite a bit more fuel – 7.2 litres/100km officially. This is the 2.0-litre turbo petrol, which drives the GLC 250. It is quieter than the diesels, and sweeter to listen to when it’s working hard. And it offers stronger acceleration than either.
Each engine has an idle-stop system that switches off and restarts the engine automatically when you are stopped in traffic, to save fuel.
Both petrol and diesel GLCs offer just one transmission – a nine-speed automatic.
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The GLC 220d has 19-inch wheels, Artico vinyl upholstery, and the features common to all GLCs – which means it comes pretty well stocked.
Spend more on a GLC 250 or 250d and you get the more powerful engines outlined above, and some more cosmetic, comfort, and driver-assistance items.
The added driver-aids are arguably the chief sweetener. They include Distronic Plus, which combines a sophisticated adaptive cruise control with an enhanced auto-braking system. As well as adapting your cruising speed to other traffic on the highway, it can hold your place in crawling traffic.
Active lane-keeping assist and active blind-spot assist add corrective action to the passive blind-spot alert on the GLC 220d.
The GLC 250 and 250d also feature leather upholstery, 20-inch wheels, and dark-tinted privacy glass for the rear windows. Keyless-Go allows fingertip locking, unlocking and starting, provided the key is in your pocket or bag.
Mercedes-Benz also offers extra-cost options in packages.
A Seat Comfort Package adds heated front seats, additional power adjustment for seat cushions, headrests and steering wheel, and a memory for seat and mirror adjustments (so that you can restore your settings quickly after a companion has driven the car).
The Vision Package brings you a long glass sunroof with two roller sunblinds, plus a head-up display that projects the speedo and other instruments onto the windscreen, just below your line of sight.
The COMAND Package combines an impressive 13-speaker Burmester sound system with a bigger, 8.4-inch, colour TFT screen, high-def navigation, a single-disc CD/DVD player, a 10GB on-board hard drive, and multimedia enhancements.
Then there is AMG Line, which completely alters the character of a GLC. It gets you 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, firmer suspension, rear privacy glass, a flat-bottom steering wheel with gearshift paddles, and several external and internal styling tweaks.
An important option for anyone who wants to use their GLC outside cities and freeways is Air Body Control suspension, which brings you a much more resilient and disciplined ride (using multi-stage air springs and electronically controlled damping).
The Off-Road Engineering Package includes the air suspension but takes it a step further. Among its additional off-road driving modes is Rocking Assist, which raises the body 50mm and adjusts the traction control to help you free a stuck car. There is also under-engine protection. And if you order it for a GLC 250 or 250d, it substitutes 19-inch alloy wheels and tyres (which are better on unsealed surfaces) for the standard 20s.
Does any upgrade have a down side?
Just be aware that the sports suspension you get with the AMG Line package is not the same as the Air Body Control adaptive suspension that you can order as an extra-cost option. The AMG Line suspension is firmer than the standard suspension, but it relies on steel springs and conventional dampers.
There are two standard exterior paint colours: non-metallic black and polar white. All others cost extra.
How comfortable is it?
The GLC shares its dashboard architecture with the C-Class sedan and wagon, yet its airier cabin allows the design to breathe. Pleasantly tactile plastics, aero-inspired ventilation outlets and dashboard shape, and luxurious switchgear contribute to the GLC’s upper-crust feel.
In Mercedes-Benz tradition, the GLC’s seats initially feel firm but become form fitting over the extensive distances an SUV like this might tackle.
The power operated front seats in all GLCs offer a big range of adjustments including lower-back (lumbar) support, and the steering wheel adjusts telescopically.
At moderate speeds, or on unchallenging roads, all GLCs ride with quiet serenity. But big bumps and undulations can intrude – especially if you’re carrying a good load, which exposes the softness of the GLC’s standard suspension.
With the optional Air Body Control suspension, the GLC is a different beast. It maintains the refined calm of the standard car, but offers far-superior control of body movement.
What about safety?
Even the least costly model, the GLC 220d, has a 360-degree parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto-on and auto-dipping headlamps, daytime running lights, and adaptive LED brake lights (which flash if you brake hard). Run-flat tyres help you keep control in the event of a sudden deflation. The GLC’s electronic stability control includes Curve Dynamic Assist, which helps prevent your running wide in a corner.
Other systems help you avoid distractedly drifting out of your lane, and changing lanes into the path of a car in your blind spot. A fatigue detection system monitors your movement on the controls and prods you to take a break if it thinks you’re drowsy.
Under the title Collision Prevention Assist Plus, you get automatic emergency braking that works at city and low highway speeds, along with a sliding scale of collision alerts.
The GLC 250 and 250d add Driver Assistance Package Plus, which brings more intervention, and more effective auto braking that works even at very high speeds.
All GLCs have nine airbags: two directly ahead of the front-seat occupants; one to protect the driver’s knees; four to protect the upper bodies of front and rear occupants from side impacts; and a head-protecting curtain airbag down each side.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the GLC its maximum five stars for crash safety, in January 2016.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
Provided you approach the GLC with the understanding that it’s a taller, heavier, softer C-Class wagon, with a less sporting focus, then yes: you’ll enjoy driving it. Particularly if you like your cars smooth and quiet, with a serene ride.
If you’re a demanding driver, you’ll enjoy the GLC a lot more if you place a giant red tick against Air Body Control in the options catalogue. With air suspension, the GLC corrals all its other great qualities and takes a clear step above the obvious SUV alternatives.
Without air suspension, the ride and handling is not disciplined enough to attain true excellence. That’s less true of a GLC fitted with an AMG Line package, as its sports suspension resolves much of the standard car’s softness under load. But even the AMG-tweaked version lacks the polish of an air-sprung GLC.
Finally, engines. While both diesels are great workers, and fuel-sippers, neither can match the zest of the GLC 250 petrol, especially as velocities and demands rise.
While the GLC has all-wheel drive, the standard car is designed only for light-duty off-road driving – think gravel tracks or snow-covered roads. It does not have the underbody protection or wheel articulation of dedicated off-roaders. Additionally, should you puncture a tyre there’s no spare. The optional Off-Road Engineering Package improves performance significantly, however, and lets you tackle surprisingly challenging tracks.
How is life in the rear seats?
One of the chief reasons for choosing a GLC over its C-Class wagon relative is its improved rear-seat space. An additional 20mm of rear-seat width, combined with 30mm more legroom, 30mm extra headroom, and a cushion mounted 20mm higher from the floor, unleashes vital dimensional increases, right where they count. For example, two adults can sit comfortably either side of a correctly fastened baby seat.
Then there’s the vision improvements espoused by the GLC’s taller, airier, more expansive cabin, not to mention the refreshing benefits of rear-seat vents for the climate control. The combination of a widescreen forward view and a vast, comfortable rear-seat with climate control vents is the stuff long-distance dreams are made of.
How is it for carrying stuff?
As good as any premium mid-size SUV for volume, enhanced by one-touch, fold-flat backrests on the rear seats (achievable from both the cabin and the boot).
The GLC offers 550 litres of boot space below its roller-blind-style luggage cover, and a sizeable 1600 litres with the rear seat folded completely flat. This is supplemented by a lockable storage compartment below the boot floor. And all GLCs have a power-opened and closed tailgate.
The rear-seat backrest is split 40/20/40, so it’s quite adaptable for all sorts of longer loads while still carrying three or four people. A luggage net and 12-volt outlet are standard.
Where is it made?
All Australian-delivered GLCs are built in Mercedes-Benz’s recently expanded plant in Bremen, Germany.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
About the only feature noticeably absent from the GLC is a seven-seat option, which is the domain of just one medium-sized premium rival – Land Rover’s Discovery Sport.
The Discovery Sport also offers more accessible off-road performance.
If you would like significantly more power and sharper handling from a GLC, consider the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43.
Alternatively, the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe offers a sportier looking, if less practical, take on the basic GLC package.
Among other cars you might consider are the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
Any of the current trio of engines on offer does the job admirably. But while it uses more fuel, the GLC 250 petrol is the best to drive and the easiest to refuel, and its leather seats are preferable to the Artico. Think seriously about optioning the Air Body Control suspension.
Asking your dealer to delete the standard side steps would be another clever move. While they help small children climb into the car, they also accumulate grime and protrude from the body – which often means dirty calves or a soiled dress.
Are there plans to update this model soon?
The Mercedes-Benz GLC went on sale in December 2015, and the more powerful Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 arrived early in 2017. Expect a GLC 350d with diesel V6 power in the second half of 2017.
A high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S is due about the end of 2017 (with 375kW from a turbocharged petrol V8).
A mid-life update for the GLC could be expected about 2020.