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Driven: Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic
Mercedes crashes the compact premium SUV party with the superb GLC.


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Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: attractive exterior, C-Class copy interior, exceptional refinement, quiet engine.

Not so good: pricey; air springs and forthcoming 2.0 diesel will improve it further.

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic AMG Line
Price: from £34,950; 250 d AMG Line from £39,595; £47,490 as tested
Engine: 2.1-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 129g/km (Band D, £0 VED first 12 months, £110 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Power: 204hp at 3,800rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,600- to 1,800rpm

Our view:

Drive around on the continent, while you're there on holiday or on a business trip, and if you're attentive enough, you're bound to spot an unfamiliar, boxy-looking Mercedes 4x4. With a profile not dissimilar to the original Subaru Forester. It's the GLK, an Audi Q5/BMW X3/Range Rover Evoque rival and it's a vehicle that, for some reason, we never got over here.

Clearly, Mercedes knew it was missing a trick and so the second-generation of its compact premium SUV does make it to our shores, complete with a shiny new nameplate: GLC. That switch from 'K' to 'C', a move recently taken by the was-SLK-now-SLC roadster, is designed to better link the GLC with the C-Class, with which it shares so much. And if Mercedes' primary objective in smoothing off the angles of the GLK was to immediately render the designs of its chief German opposition dated, then it's mission accomplished.

There's a real elegance about the GLC, which manages to strike a fine balance between looking compact externally without being cramped inside, appearing low-set like an estate car yet still offering a commanding driving position, and it's just generally a handsome creation with some clever touches that help its attractiveness. Such as the window line, which apes the C-Class Estate's and manages, in profile, to make the back end of the car look less upright than it actually is. There are two tapering crease lines running along the flanks that take the weight out of the GLC's sides. The sleek rear light clusters and that enlarged C-Class face enhance the car's width, and if any SUV can look good in white (designo Diamond White Bright Metallic, if you must know, for £845) then you know it has to be a great piece of design. We particularly like this AMG Line's 19-inch wheels and optional rubber-studded running boards, and there's no doubt this is both the most attractive Mercedes SUV of the current five-strong line-up and also the best-looking creation in class alongside the Range Rover Evoque.

The GLC's visual case is completed once you climb aboard, because its cabin - almost identical to that found in the C-Class - is a beauty. The concave passenger side of the dash, that big swathe of piano black trim in the middle, the clear and crisp dials with a 5.5-inch TFT screen in the instrument cluster, the reasonably neat integration of the 8.4-inch Comand display; it's a high-quality, spacious and wonderfully built interior that is largely free of some of the stranger ergonomic idiosyncrasies of a few modern Mercedes products, although there is the column-shift gear lever, lots of stalks on the left of the steering wheel and that two-method central control pad for the Comand system. Nevertheless, it all works intuitively and the GLC feels like a far larger SUV in terms of cabin space than others in its class.

However, a note of caution on the standard equipment. The UK GLC range, for the moment, is made up of two power outputs of the same engine with three trim grades for each - with AMG Line the top of the tree. That does bring a lot of creature comforts: satnav, climate control, Artico leather (it's man-made, but it looks and feels lovely), keyless start, an automated tailgate and quite a lot more. There's still room, though, for various packs to be added and our test car had a few bundles.

The £2,995 Premium Plus Package is certainly not cheap, but it does bring an awful lot of desirable luxuries to the specification list: that 8.4-inch screen we mentioned, which is a seven-inch item on the regular AMG Line and this car had upgraded Comand Online connectivity and infotainment; ambient interior lighting with a choice of three colours; Keyless-Go Comfort, which upgrades the regular tech to include hands-free access and a boot you can open and close by waving your foot underneath it; memory seats; a panoramic sunroof; and a bloody brilliant, 590-watt, 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system. We'd want this pack for that and the sunroof alone.

And plenty of buyers would want the £1,695 Driving Assistance Package, including blind spot assist, lane-keeping assist, brake assist with cross-traffic warning, Distronic Plus active cruise control with steering assist and Stop&Go Pilot and Pre-Safe Brake. Throw in head-up display (superb, although £825), Air Balance Package (leave it and save £350), a 360-degree camera (£335, it's useful), those aforementioned running boards (hmm, £450, but we really like the shape they give to the lower section of the GLC...) and an Artico leather dashboard (£400 - do you need it on the dash?) and you're left with a £47,490 GLC. That's about Audi SQ5-plus-a-few-options money.

So, 47-and-a-half is a lot for a four-cylinder diesel X3 rival, right? Well... yes. But somehow, that doesn't put us off the GLC. Mainly because it's a fantastic vehicle to travel in, largely thanks to a quiet 2.1-litre engine. No, we've not lost the plot; this is the traditional old 2.1 twin-turbo diesel and as this is the 250, that means 204hp and 500Nm. The only alternative, for now, is the 220, which is the same engine rated at 170hp and 400Nm, although plug-in hybrid 350 e and AMG 43 models are in the pipeline. Yet we've never heard the 2.1 more hushed and cultured than it is in this GLC. Maybe it's just a lot of sound deadening, yet it feels like the unit has been re-engineered to be smoother and less vocal. At no point did the 250 d ever become raucous or uncouth and it feels as strong as its 500Nm figure, all delivered below 2,000rpm, would suggest.

The diesel lump is coupled to the magnificent 9G-Tronic automatic, again working better here than in other Mercedes applications we've tried. It never hunts for gears nor refuses to select the right ratio for the job in hand, while it also shifts slickly when you're cruising and rapidly when you're pressing on. Such drivetrain refinement means you're then free to concentrate on the ride and handling qualities of the GLC, and again it's good news. Admittedly, when we drove this car on its international launch, every example had the optional air 'springs' (£1,495), but this white GLC was on the sports AMG Line suspension. Some have said the Mercedes' ride suffers badly as a result, but our car didn't have such issues. Its 19-inch wheels on 235/55 rubber never thumped into potholes, the secondary ride was next to unnoticeable and, in general, the GLC felt more comfortable and pliant than the last two examples we drove of its big brothers, the GLE and the GL (this was before the latter received its S). If air suspension really improves the Mercedes markedly, it must be technology imbued with a sprinkling of magic.

Such a supple ride might have you thinking the GLC was a wallowy old mess in the corners, so we're pleased to disappoint you. There's body roll, naturally, as it's a big old machine on reasonably soft springs and dampers, yet the 4Matic chassis, surprisingly clean and informative steering and a decent set of brakes all combine to ensure this mid-sized GLC can handle a few challenging corners. It might not be as involving as a Porsche Macan or a BMW X3, of course, but by the same token neither of those two rides as well as the Mercedes and while we love the Macan in particular, in reality most people buying cars in this class are going to favour comfort over acuity. What we're trying to say is that, for its target market, the GLC 250 d is about bang on the money dynamically.

The GLC is reasonably frugal, too. Its combined quoted economy is 56.5mpg; we managed to elicit 38.6mpg from this 5,500-mile example, and as more miles free up a turbodiesel engine, that figure should improve as the GLC beds in. What's more remarkable about it is that, aside from one jaunt up to North Yorkshire and back accounting for around 180 miles of the 450 we covered in a week behind the wheel, the majority of the distance driven was slow country lanes start-stop stuff and short journeys with the turbodiesel not running at optimum temperature for much of the time. Remember, this is a tall, heavy, 4WD, automatic vehicle with an eight-year-old engine. Given it was indicating c.50mpg on a motorway cruise, that's good stuff from the GLC - especially as even this more powerful 250 variant will only cost £110 a year to tax after a complimentary first 12 months of VED.

This is a fairly glowing review, then, so why have we lopped half a star off the GLC's rating? There are three reasons for that. One, our head says that if we're offering car-buying advice then we really can't ignore the near-£50,000 list price of this particular example, much as our heart wants us to. Two, as brilliant an installation as the 2.1-litre diesel is in the 250 d, its days are inevitably numbered and the GLC would, somehow, be even more refined with the all-new OM654 2.0-litre engine Mercedes is going to distribute across its fleet in the coming months - so hold on for that. And three, this GLC 250 d would have been perfect with the air suspension, which paradoxically would make it even more expensive than it already is.

Regardless of those issues, though, this is our new mid-sized SUV class leader and one of the best off-roaders of any dimensions or price we've driven. We might never have benefitted from the angular GLK, but that doesn't seem to have stopped Mercedes getting the GLC very close to spot on at the first time of asking. It also makes us very keen to try the forthcoming Coupé and Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 derivatives, the latter of which could be absolutely epic. Here's hoping.


Audi Q5: competent and the prettiest of the Audi SUVs, it's at its best in punchy SQ5 format, as in lesser specification it's just a little bit dull.

BMW X3: BMW's dynamic prowess is being eroded in the 2010s, although it bizarrely is preserved in some unusual models, like the Mk2 X3 - this thing is a lot of fun to hustle, if the mood takes you.

Range Rover Evoque: not anything like as big inside as the GLC, the Evoque nevertheless leaves JLR showrooms like there's a closing down sale on. It's also striking to behold.

Matt Robinson - 16 May 2016    - Mercedes-Benz road tests
- Mercedes-Benz news
- GLC images

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.


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