The Mercedes-Benz GLC finally marks the three-pointed star’s proper entry into the compact SUV segment. It’s been a long time coming especially for us Malaysians because its predecessor, the GLK, never made it here because it was never made available as a right-hand drive. It’s a pity, really, because BMW have been reaping the sales of their X3 since 2004.
With the demand for SUVs continue growing all over the world, Mercedes can no longer afford to miss out on this timely opportunity to introduce the GLC for the global market. Launched in 2015, the X205 GLC rides on the highly-adaptable MRA platform that debuted on the W222 S-Class in 2013, and Mercedes also made a sleeker variant called the GLC Coupe. The GLC is closely related to the W205 C-Class, therefore the powertrain options are almost similar to the compact sedan.
|Name||Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 4MATIC|
|Engine||1,991cc; turbocharged inline-four|
|Transmission||9G-TRONIC, 9-speed automatic|
|Max Power||211 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Max Torque||350 Nm @ 1,200 – 4,000 rpm|
|Price (OTR without insurance)||RM328,888|
For the Malaysian market, we only get the GLC 250 4MATIC in either the Exclusive Line or the AMG Line. They differ in terms of equipment level but both are powered by the same hardware underneath; a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder coupled to a nine-speed automatic gearbox which sends power to all four wheels. Now that Mercedes has a contender in this segment, does the GLC have enough to play catch up with the rest of the premium compact SUV pack? Let’s have a closer look.
If you imagine a hatchback W205 C-Class on stilts, you’re not far off from it. There’s that sporty-elegance vibe going on with the design – especially in this AMG Line guise – but with a dash of ruggedness. The bold front conveys that multiple personality with a bewinged three-pointed star that “floats” the middle of the grille, and an aggressive AMG Line front bumper with a wide center air dam. The side vents with double strakes on the front bumper are purely cosmetic though.
Flanking the grille is a pair of shapely headlamps with LED DRL cum turn indicator ‘eye brows’, and they are equipped with LED Intelligent Light System. With these you can crank up the high beam and forget about it, because the computers will make sure that you won’t blind oncoming traffic.
The side profile is clean and simple, and even the roof rails are integrated subtly along the roof line. Down below, the rubber-studded side step stands out from the plain and smooth bodywork, although it’s rather pointless for the rear passengers because it tapers off towards the back. The AMG Line also brings a set of 20-inch multi-spoke wheels wrapped in 255/45 R20 rubbers, and I find that they fill the wheel arches just about right; any smaller would probably make the GLC look under-wheeled.
The back is probably where the designers dozed off. Remove the three-pointed star on the tailgate and you’re probably looking at some generic SUV, and with the wide horizontal tail lights, some actually thought it was the Audi Q5 from afar. The detailing is nice though, the roof spoiler melds with the design nicely, and I especially like the LED arrangement in the tail lights and the dual chrome tailpipe finishers at the lower edge of the bumper. At least they add some eye candy to the rather uninspiring rear end.
The slick interior from the W205 C-Class has been ported over to the GLC, and I’m glad that they did it. Save for the screen that stands out like a sore thumb in the middle of the dashboard, it’s hard to fault the solid build quality and the classy ambiance. Leather covers the seats and door trims, but the black open-pored wood trim splits opinions. Some say it’s charming, some find it weird, and GC thinks the wood grain is similar to the pattern on salmon fillets. Hmm…
The column mounted gear selector also received flak from some, but yours truly find that it’s very intuitive and there’s no doubting that it neatens up the centre console. What’s left between the two front seats is a simple Comand knob to control everything on the screen.
The screen not only shows the GLC’s information such as fuel consumption, driving mode, and navigation, it also displays live feed from the four cameras outside to stitch together a bird’s eye view of the vehicle. Very useful when you’re navigating through narrow roads or tight parking spots, and it saves you from craning your neck out of the glass sunroof, which I hope you probably never did anyway.
However, not everything is in favour inside the GLC. A couple of niggles are the wide transmission tunnel that eats up the front occupants’ foot space, and the placement of the audio control next to the Comand knob. It looks like an afterthought when the rest of the buttons are lined up neatly underneath the CD slot.
As we move over to the back, a ‘robot face’ will greet you every time you step inside. Depending on which side of the robot’s cheek you tap, you can adjust the fan speed or the temperature for the air that comes out of the robot’s round eyes.
Apart from the ‘robot face’ aircond vents, rear passengers also get some privacy with the roll-up blinds. Space is no issue for three adults in the back; there’s ample head and leg room, although the middle seat passenger won’t get as much space as the two outer seats’ occupants.
With the key in your pocket, doing the foot sweep below the rear bumper swings up the tailgate to reveal the 550 litre boot. If you want more space, the entire backrest split 40/20/40 and fold down flat with the boot floor, granting you a total of 1,600 litres worth of cargo space. The absence of a spare tyre means there’s a cavity under the boot floor for extra storage, and other practical features you can find in the boot include anchor points, hooks, as well as a 12v power outlet socket.
Like on the W205 C-Class, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder in its ‘250’ tune yields 211 hp and 350 Nm, but on the GLC it’s hooked up to the 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission. The 4MATIC all wheel drive system on the GLC is permanent but it’s slightly biased towards the rear wheels. It splits the torque 45:55 front to rear under normal load and it will vary the split accordingly when it detects insufficient grip from any of the wheels.
It’s quite a brisk car too. Off the line it takes about 7.3 seconds to get to 100 km/h, and the top speed is 223 km/h. It’s also claimed to be one of the most frugal in its class, sipping 6.5 litres of petrol per 100 kilometers.
If you’ve never driven an SUV before, the GLC 250 is a blissfully easy car to drive. Trekking through a metropolitan maze of narrow streets shouldn’t be a problem with the GLC. The light steering, the raised driving position, and good all-round visibility from the driver’s seat is further boosted by the 360 degree camera, so first-time SUV drivers can quickly gain confidence behind the wheel.
Despite riding on AMG sports suspension and wearing a set of huge 20-inch rims swathed in low profile tyres, potholes and road irregularities are filtered out from the cabin very well, just like how the quiet interior is insulated from the outside noise.
Getting away from the busy city streets, the turbocharged mill will provide you more than enough grunt to rack up speeding tickets, but the GLC seems to prefer a more relaxed style of driving. The throttle pedal promotes a steady gradual progress from stationary and the transmission complements it well for that duty.
Most of the time it only uses seven out of the nine gear ratios, where under normal circumstances it will skip the first gear unless you’re in Sport mode, while ninth is reserved for highway cruising in Eco mode. Shift quality is butter smooth and you may want to leave the steering-mounted shift paddles alone. There’s really no need to play with them.
Not only will the GLC cruise in a calm manner, body roll is kept to a minimum if you push it hard into corners. You can put it in Sport Mode to keep the throttle lively and the steering meaty when you feel like taking the GLC to your favourite B-road. But let’s be honest here. That’s not the reason you buy the GLC.
There’s loads of traction from the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system to provide you with extra security on slippery twisty roads, so the GLC always feels safe and predictable. However, a permanent all-wheel drive system means it requires more fuel to get moving. Regardless what the claimed fuel consumption is, I averaged around 12.0 litres per 100 km during my stint in the GLC, which is neither shocking nor spectacular.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
If you wished the W205 C-Class could do more than just glide on the road and carry more luggage, look no further. The GLC retains most of the C-Class’ desirability and adds on a huge dollop of extra practicality allowing you to do more with just one vehicle. The RM40k price difference between them is pretty much justifiable considering the additional ability and the all-wheel drive system the GLC has to offer, so what’s not to like?
The GLC has definitely caught up with the two main rivals, the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5. Over here in Malaysia, all three compact SUVs are quite evenly matched in terms of hardware, but they differ slightly in terms of power output and not to mention the price. Every car here utilises a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, but the GLC edges out by having an extra cog compared to the eight-speed auto in the X3 and the Q5.
You can’t dismiss the Audi Q5 because it’s the oldest of the bunch. A glance at the stats reveals that it packs the most punch, and it’s cheaper than the less potent GLC. Meanwhile, the X3 is only available in the sole xDrive20i guise, therefore it’s the least powerful of the German trio. Recent facelift connects the headlights to the kidney grille, otherwise the styling is as fussy as before.
Also worth mentioning is the Porsche Macan, another German that has just been recently updated with 252 hp and 370 Nm. However, if you don’t fancy any of the German brands, there’s the swanky Range Rover Evoque, the sharp-suited Lexus NX 200t, and the powerful underdog, the 306 hp and 400Nm Volvo XC60 T6.
|Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 4MATIC AMG Line||BMW X3 xDrive20i||Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro|
|Type||inline-4, DOHC, turbocharged||inline-4, DOHC, turbocharged||inline-4, DOHC turbocharged|
|Type||Electronic Power Steering||Electronic Power Steering||Electronic Power Steering|
|Transmission||9-speed automatic||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|Front||Multi-link||MacPherson Strut||Double wishbone|
|Front||Ventilated & Perforated Disc||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyre||255/45 R20||245/50 R18||235/60 R18|
|Wheels||20-inch Alloy||18-inch Alloy||18-inch Alloy|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT|
|Max Kerb Weight||kg||1,735 kg||1,795 kg||1,730 kg|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||Litres||550 litres||550 litres||540 litres|
|Tank Capacity||Litres||66 litres||67 litres||75 litres|
|Consumption||litres per 100km||6.5 litres||7.2 litres||7.9 litres|
|0 to 100 km/h||sec||7.3||8.2||7.1|
WILL I BUY IT?
With so many choices, the GLC 250 4MATIC might not be the quickest or the best handling premium compact SUV out there, but it offers just the right amount of style, pace, and practicality rolled into one neat package. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s definitely one of the best all-rounder from Mercedes in recent years. If I have to settle with just one car in my garage I’d be happy with the GLC, but I’ll be sure to reverse-park it every time to avoid sight of the rear end.