When you have to replace your worldwide bestseller of an SUV, it better be good. It might come as a surprise to us Indians, but the Mercedes-Benz GLK, the GLC’s predecessor, sold over 6 lakh units globally. The boxy GLK, which debuted at the Beijing Motor Show way back in 2008, however, never came with a right hand drive configuration, which means that India couldn’t contribute to those numbers.
Cue to the new GLC, which was globally unveiled at the Hugo Boss factory in Germany in June 2015. Internationally, as well as in India, the midsize SUV fills the gap between the smaller GLA and the larger GLE in the German manufacturer’s high-riding vehicle portfolio. With the introduction of the GLC in India, Mercedes-Benz will have one of the widest model ranges in India, second only to Maruti Suzuki. When launched in India on June 2, the GLC will rival Germans like the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3.
Based on the current generation C-Class (W205) sedan’s MRA platform, the GLC, at 4656 mm long, is actually 30 mm less lengthy than its sedan cousin. However, at 1890 mm wide, the GLC sits 80 mm wider than the C-Class. Also, the GLC’s wheelbase, at 2873 mm, is 33 mm longer than the C-Class. Being a SUV, the GLC is significantly taller than the sedan it’s based on as well – at 1639 mm high, the GLC stands a lofty 197 mm taller than the C-Class.
As for appearances, the GLC is well-proportioned. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that it is one of the smartest looking Mercedes-Benz UVs on sale today, if you don’t count the iconic G-Class that is. Characterizing the front is Mercedes’ three-dimensional radiator grille with a twin, matt iridium silver finished louvres and a centrally positioned brand star. The headlamps are a nod to the GLE/GLE Coupé, and are available as LED High Performance lamps with illuminated ‘eyebrows’.
Initially, the GLC models sold in India (CBU) would come with the top drawer Edition 1 trim levels, as well as with the off-road and chrome packages. The off-road package includes a smaller front bumper (for a larger approach angle) with faux air intakes, and an ‘underguard’ that claims to provide protection for the entire under floor, apart from preventing the ingress of dirt into the mechanicals. It also includes a different rear bumper for a greater departure angle, and a suspension system that’s terminally raised by 20 mm from stock.
The side view showcases the almost coupé-like greenhouse with chrome beltline trim, while the familiar slashes on the doors and fenders visually link it to the C-Class. The wheelbase has been increased by 118 mm over its predecessor, the GLK, while aluminum-look running boards with rubber studs compliment the slim wheel-arch cladding. Destined for India models will ride on 18-inch, five-spoke light alloy wheels that look the part.
The rear end features broad shoulders, horizontal contour lines, split LED rear lamps, trapezoidal exhaust finishers (which are fake on the diesel variant and original on the petrol variant) and a rear ‘underguard’ as well. The chrome package adds shine to the front/rear ‘underguards’, exhaust finishers, and the functional roof rails which can be used to securely attach basic carrier bars. By integrating all the antennae into the exterior mirrors and the roof spoiler, a roof mounted fin has been done away with.
The new design has also bestowed the GLC with a class leading Cd value of 0.31 (GLK 0.34) and total aerodynamic drag of 0.794 (GLK 0.87). Apart from the vehicle’s substantially more aerodynamically efficient basic shape, Mercedes says that this commendable aerodynamic performance also results from a host of solutions relating to points of detail, such as sealing of the radiator and headlamp surrounds, a radiator shutter, the extended roof spoiler or the optimised underbody panelling.
The chromed ‘underguard’ promises to keep the muck off as well as keep the bling alive.
LED High Performance headlights with automatic cornering lights are adaptive to weather, lighting and driving conditions; are standard on the India-spec GLC (Edition 1).
Considering the GLC is a C-Class on stilts, these aluminum-look footboards with rubber studs genuinely help ingress, and look the part too.
These 18-inch, five-spoke light alloy wheels wrapped with 235/60 Hankook’s SUV specific rubber give the GLC some authoritative footwear.
These full-LED tail lamps will flash under hard braking, warning vehicles behind of a potentially hazardous situation.
The subtle roof spoiler has all the antennae integrated within itself, thus negating the need for a roof mounted ‘fin’.
Chrome package: Check.
The fake exhaust finishers of the GLC 220d give way to the original ones in the GLC 300 (below).
The interiors, with its C-Class like architecture, evoke familiar feelings at first, but then you notice the finer details that make it feel more premium than its sedan sibling. Like the hand-made leather clad dashboard and door beltlines with contrast stitching, or the high-gloss “brown line structure” wood trim on the large, one-piece console panel water falling its way from the centre air vents to the armrest. The door trims also benefit from similar wooden inserts. Mind you, this is all Edition 1 stuff, and the silk beige/espresso brown leather upholstery is a part of the Exlcusive interior package that’ll come standard with the GLE sold in India.
You sit higher up than you do in the C-Class, which befits an SUV’s seating position, and get a commanding view of the road ahead. Finding your desired seating position is just a few taps on the ergonomically placed buttons on the door that electronically adjust the front seats with 4-way lumbar support. The seats themselves are immensely comfortable; with perforated leather upholstery and substantial bolstering that cosset you. The rear bench features a 40/20/40 split, apart from including a collapsible arm-rest with integrated cup holders in its midst. Space and comfort at the back, especially headroom, is significantly more than the C-Class, while 57 mm more rear leg room, along with 28 mm more rear shoulder room is now available as compared to the erstwhile GLK.
The load capacity behind the rear bench is rated at 550 litres, with space increasing to a cavernous 1600 litres with the rear seats folded flat. The rear backrests have power release buttons, both on the left and the right. In-cabin storage is taken care of by a spacious glove-box in the dashboard, two hidden cup holders in the water fall center console, and a massive, covered storage area between the front seats. The door pockets can swallow 1-litre bottles with ease, while there’s one more lockable stowage compartment under the load compartment floor.
Infotainment duties are handled by Mercedes’ Audio 20 CD multimedia system which is connected to a ‘floating’ 7-inch screen and COMMAND Online. The system is controlled through a newly developed touchpad in the handrest over the rotary push button COMMAND controller that nestles in the centre console. As on a smart phone, this provides for an intuitive operation of all the head-unit functions using finger gestures. The touchpad also permits letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in handwriting – in any language supported by Mercedes’ Audio 20 CD sound system or COMAND Online. Other salient features of the infotainment system include navigation via SD card, MB apps with internet capability, 2 USB ports in the center console and 12 V sockets. Sound quality from the stock speakers is great, but still not a patch on, say, the Burmester system on the S-Class.
Other notable comfort and convenience features in the GLC include an engine start-stop button, three-zone climate control with individual temperature controls, rear vents and three airflow modes, reversing camera with guides, full-LED ambient lighting with three colours and five dimming levels, powered steering adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, roller sunblinds in left and right doors, automatic headlamps and automatic wipers.
I spy the C-Class in here.
Hand-made leather with contrast stitching adorns the top half of the GLC’s dashboard; makes it tower above the C-Class’s cabin
Get. Seat. Go – these lovely, door mounted, front seat adjuster buttons will make you fiddle with your seating position more than necessary.
The brown leather wrapped, multi-function steering wheel is a bit..er.. too brown, but feels great to hold.
Instrumentation is straight off the C-Class, but nobody’s complaining.
The high-gloss “brown line structure” wood trim on the large, one-piece console is another Edition 1 speciality.
These beautifully knurled knobs on the circular vents control the three airflow modes – diffused, medium of focused.
Gotta love these cool, metallic power window switches too.
The 360-degree reversing camera with a 180-degree rear view works like a dream.
The power release buttons for the rear backrests, placed both on the left and the right.
The rear bench’s collapsible, central arm rest with integrated cup holders.
The 12 V socket in the load compartment on the left.
Finally, the new GLC’s key fob. For more detailed images of the GLC’s interior, head to the gallery below the article.
Engines and performance
The engines on offer in India include a 2143 cc, twin-turbocharged diesel engine (GLE 220d)with 170 bhp on tap, along with 400 Nm of torque, while petrol power comes from a 1991 cc, twin-turbocharged engine (GLE 300) capable of ousting a respectable 245 bhp and 370 Nm of torque. Both are paired to Mercedes’ 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels using the brand’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Both drive-trains also offer a choice of five driving modes – Individual, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+.
The turbo-diesel engine is the more pragmatic choice, with a fairly linear power delivery that is smoothly rolled on by the capable transmission. However, performance isn’t as punchy as the C250d sedan I drove the other day, as the GLE 220d’s 2.5-tonne gross weight takes some serious grunt to shift briskly. Rest assured, performance is adequate for Indian roads and fast paced cruising, but do not expect to set speed guns go haywire. Mid-range is strong and this is where the GLE 220d revels in – it’s a proper highway bruiser this, without burning the more expensive fuel that is. That said, fast overtaking maneuvers are best left in Sport+ mode. At moderate engine speeds, it’s uncannily well refined for a diesel engine, and the well-insulated cabin filters out the engine noise really well. However, the engine noise becomes a bit intrusive beyond 3,000rpm. On paper, the GLE 220d shoots from naught to 100 kph in 8.3 seconds, and on to a top speed of 210 km/h.
The petrol powered GLE 300, in comparison, is a blast to drive. Naught to 100 kph is dispatched in a mere 6.5 seconds, while top speed is rated at 222 km/h. Performance is linear, progressive and strong. The crisp transmission just accentuates the performance and up shifts automatically at a high 6,000 rpm, unless intervened manually with the steering mounted paddles. The motor revs cleanly, and has enough grunt to move the 2.4-tonne heavy (gross) GLE 300 to barely legal speeds in no time. Straight line pull is hugely satisfying and more than enough for Indian roads. Refinement levels are brilliant, with the GLE 300 barely making a whisper at low engine speeds. Bury the go-faster pedal and the engine wakes up with a resounding, subtle growl that changes into a muted scream as the redline approaches.
Ride and handling
Ride quality on both the variants is a cut above the C-Class. There’s none of the jitteriness felt in the sedan’s ride, and the GLC rides with the authority of a SUV. The pliant suspension smoothens out rough roads remarkably well, as befits the three-pointed star badge. Though the ride is on the plusher side, there’s a tinge of tautness that accounts for it predictable dynamics. Steering feel is nice and light, yet fairly direct. There’s no dead zone around the straight-ahead position, but the steering isn’t particularly quick either. When pushed hard, there is the expected all-wheel-drive under steer, but in general, it’s hard to completely unsettle the car. Around the corners, the GLC actually feels smaller than it is, and is relatively agile, as the vehicle’s weight has also been cut by 80 kilograms over its predecessor. The main contributory factor to this reduction is the totally new body, which is 50 kilograms lighter than the smaller GLK counterpart, thanks to a mix of materials comprising aluminium and high- to ultra-high-strength steels. Overall, we’d say that the GLC offers the best mix of ride and handling for everyday usage in its class.
The new GLC, in India, is also equipped with the Off-Road Engineering package, which comprises up to five programs. “Slippery” and four off-road driving programs are totally new here. “Off-road” is predestined for easy off-road terrain such as gravel or sand tracks. “Incline” boosts climbing capabilities on steep ramps or long, slow uphill stretches. We didn’t get to try all of the rough road modes to their fullest, but can vouch for the confidence they instill while negotiating rough patches. The GLC also offers a long list of standard safety and assistance features including parking assist, attention assist, adaptive brake lights, seven airbags and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLC is a smooth operator. It does all the things it was meant to do with sublime accuracy, and is the perfect all rounder that the premium midsize SUV buyer is looking out for. It’s got the style and the plush interiors, is well refined and fast (petrol), and even tackles moderately rough roads with ease. Dynamically, it isn’t as involving to drive as, say, a BMW X3, but rides better. Rest assured, it’s the smartest Mercedes-Benz SUV on the road right now. The luxury compact SUV is priced at INR 50.9 lakhs for the GLC 300 and INR 50.7 lakhs for the GLC 220d – both prices ex-showroom Pune. Initially, the first batch of GLC models will come via the CBU route, and all be fully loaded Edition 1 trim levels.