Atlanta, GA — The 2016 GLC-Class debuts as the latest example of the change in nomenclature going on over at Mercedes; technically, it’s the replacement of the GLK-Class luxury compact crossover, but you probably wouldn’t know it from looking at it.
It’s the GLK’s replacement. We swear…
First of all, the GLK was one of the more distinctive -- if not the most distinctive -- luxury crossovers on the market. It was boxy yet modern, had a touch of C-Class here, a touch of G-Class there, and a distinct profile.
The GLC 300 -- which starts at $44,950 -- is a little rounder, a little softer, and just a little more derivative of what we’re seeing elsewhere in the segment; the new shape does reduce the drag coefficient from 0.34 to 0.31, which makes for some quiet progress. The MB folks at the launch, however, insisted that the new styling is merely a further evolution of what happened when the GLK got a facelift for the 2013 model year, where it was made more modern looking thanks to LED DRLs, different wheels and some other detailing.
I’m not so sure I agree with that 100%; the GLC is much more GLE than it is G (stick with me here), and I guess I feel that’s too bad. It’s not bad looking by any means; I just really liked how individual the old car seemed. The new one? Not so much. Especially from the rear. At one point, I mistook a GLC in the distance ahead of me for a different car completely.
Still, that’s not to say there’s nothing to like -- far from it. The overall appearance is a handsome one, with details like the distinctive LED headlights and grille shared with the rest of the Mercedes stable, an athletic stance, and some remarkable wheel choices. The car I drove was riding on optional 20” items, while 19s are standard on all Canadian market cars.
Oh, but that interior though…
One word: Gorgeous. Especially in our tester, which had gorgeous, black open-pore wood paneling both on the doors, and centre console and stack; at first, both my drive partner and I thought it covered only a portion of the centre console, but upon closer inspection, we realized the whole thing was covered in the stuff.
It’s not just that it looks good, either; it’s not a dust magnet like piano black is, and the warmth it provides makes for a more cosseting interior. The GLC is not the first car to have this treatment but my, does it ever do it well.
It doesn’t stop there, either. In typical Mercedes fashion, the detailing is spot-on; the silver Burmeister speakers (they’re a $1,000 option) and matching door tweeters, the brushed aluminum finish on the seat controls, the wonderful toggle switches for your HVAC, and rotating dials for the audio and drive-mode controls are all premium luxury features that I’d expect to see on the upcoming seven-seater GLS, if not a compact ‘ute like this one. Fantastic.
Tech? Plenty. There’s a touch pad and in a nod to those who prefer redundant controls like knobs and buttons, there’s a control wheel nestled beneath the pad. Me? I hardly found myself using the pad at all, and when I did, it was mainly for a single function: a button that brings up your radio controls, no matter which menu is on the main display. It doesn’t cover the whole screen, either just a band on the bottom, which is perfect. It may seem trivial, but it’s smart, user-friendly additions like this that help make the cockpit such a great place to be.
The well-cushioned leather seats, meanwhile, do their part, too. I was especially impressed by the adjustable, lower seat cushion, as they are a little short for taller drivers in their standard form.
Taller passengers, on the other hand, will be happy with the optional memory front seats, and heated rear seats; a longer wheelbase and longer overall length make for added legroom, and the optional moonroof that comes courtesy of the $4,900 Premium Package is a nice addition. The package also adds navigation, a rear-view camera and power tailgate. The full-length moonroof’s the star, though, as it makes the spacious rear seat seem even airier.
The road awaits…
At launch, the only available engine is a 2.0L turbo four, good for 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque; a diesel is on the way, but we’re going to have to wait a year or so for that one.
The four-banger is paired with a 9-speed torque converter automatic -- a first in the luxury market – and on-hand to ostensibly make forward progress smoother, help fuel economy and make for nice power delivery no matter the speed you’re holding.
Indeed, it works almost completely as advertised. Power delivery once you get past a spot of turbo lag is strong, making at-speed passes a breeze, and cruising even more so. It even makes a bit of a growl, which is a little unexpected in this company. I like it, and it does well to kowtow to the active buyers Mercedes is targeting with the GLC. The 4Matic AWD system, meanwhile, uses a multi-clutch differential to better metre out power, which sits at 45:55 front:rear under normal driving conditions.
The handling is a further reflection of this; there are five drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport +, ECO and individual, each with a unique set of traction control, steering, transmission, and throttle settings. We kept it mainly in Sport for our drive, as both myself and my drive partner found Sport + a little too harsh for the roads we were on. If there was one thing I would ask, it’s a little more jump off the line; even the sportier drive modes, a full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal start returned average acceleration. A little more creep for low-speed work wouldn’t hurt, either.
Really though, in the end…
Like the GLK before it did, the GLC 300 is sure to sell in droves. It’s well engineered, the powertrain delivers in almost all facets and that interior is just so freaking good that it alone could sell this over much of the competition.
This is an important segment not just for Mercedes, but in the luxury game as a whole, and the GLC 300 is a more-than-worthy entrant.