2018 Mercedes Benz GLC 300 4MATIC

 

They’re everywhere, and we can understand why

Words by: Adam Allen

 

I saw, like, ten of them on the way to work today.

Yeah, the GLC is a bit of going concern for Mercedes Benz, and in a case of ‘timing is everything’ the compact luxury crossover segment happens to be red hot and the GLC happens to be very good. Although it’s been around for a few years, its torrid sales numbers show no sign of tapering off. It also helps that it’s a vastly better car than the outgoing GLK it replaces.

Compared to the old GLK, it’s bigger, lighter, achieves better fuel economy and is just as quick despite being down two cylinders.

Let’s get one more thing out of the way; in addition to all those aforementioned assets, the GLC is much better looking than the stocky and ungainly GLK. It’s 2.0 litre turbo is down on horsepower compared to the now-shelved 3.5 litre V6 but matches it in torque- a meaty 273 foot pounds worth. It gets to 100km/h in a negligible eyeblink or two slower than the bent six but returns superior fuel consumption numbers. It’s also much kinder to rear seat of occupants who will find accommodations are vastly more comfortable that the cramped confines of the GLK. Everyone on board will be able to bring more stuff along for trips short and long because the rear cargo area is also more commodious. We’re left to conclude that the GLC is far superior to its predecessors on many key metrics. The only thing we’d wish for would be the old diesel engine that could be had with the GLK; it was smartly efficient and churned out an impressive 369 lbs/ft of torque. So, before we even turned a wheel, we were impressed- but how would the GLC fare in the real world?

We can say this: it certainly has the whole ‘Benz’ thing down pat.

M-B marketing bumf never misses an opportunity to tell you that nothing else on the road quite feels like a Mercedes Benz, and unlike other such hyperbole it is absolutely true. It’s been a while since we’ve been behind the wheel of a Mercedes press vehicle, and the virtues of driving the brand came flooding back not long after we turned out of the parking lot at their head office. All its control interfaces, from the steering to brakes to throttle, are thoughtfully calibrated and well-weighted. Like many meticulously engineered German cars, the GLC discreetly disguises speed- and it is so incredibly serene and composed on the highway that you need to constantly glance at the speedometer to make sure you aren’t significantly exceeding the speed limit. The structure is resolute, and the suspension offers a creamy yet disciplined ride that never feels floaty or imprecise. Even the most scabrous tarmac or wonky expansion joint do not faze the GLC. We cringe at the thought of busting out the beleaguered ‘it’s like a tank’ descriptor because its best before date has long passed, but, well, it’s true. It inspires a great deal of confidence. And although you might be hard pressed to call the driving experience fun instead of serious, it won’t embarrass itself when you want to unleash your inner child. The steering might be a bit too light for our tastes, and you’ll need to make Sport mode your default drive mode because the engine feels lazy in Comfort and Eco. But despite this car not being built as a dedicated apex slayer, you can tell there’s proficient engineering at work by personnel who know what they’re doing. We also have to tip our hat to the team responsible for the 2.0 litre turbo four. It is smooth as silk from idle to redline and moves the GLC around with breezy effort. It’s vastly superior to the unit in the Audi Q5, and only the BMW 2.0 turbo found in the X3 might challenge the Benz for class supremacy- it feels more lively and eager to rev but the Mercedes’ unit has exceptional low-end torque and feels perfectly matched to the cut and thrust of urban driving. Similarly, the 9-seed gearbox proves a willing partner to the engine. We’ve sampled 9-speeders before, and they haven’t exactly impressed us, what with their low speed uncertainty of what gear to be in, the constant hunting for the right ratio once underway and the refusal to hit 9th gear unless the conditions are just abut perfect, which is just about never. The GLC’s 9G-TRONIC exhibits none of those unpalatable behaviours, proving itself to be excellent in all circumstances.

Sounds great, but I need more power. Mercedes has never been shy about stuffing one of its zanier engines into everything they build.

We get it. From where we stand, there’s never been a situation where more horsepower would fail to ratchet up the excitement factor, an adage Mercedes seems to understand quite well. Almost every model they make can be had with an AMG upgrade, be it the AMG Sport models (which feature a “43” in their nomenclature) or the full fat AMG versions that boast a hand-built engine assembled by one person. Here’s how you tell them apart- the AMG 43 versions are like Tabasco sauce- certainly hot enough to make you sit up and take notice. The no-holds-barred AMG examples are like merciless Habanero pepper sauce, spicy enough that they threaten to melt your face clean off. In the case of the GLC, you’ll soon be able to choose which level of lunacy to indulge in- the 43 models are available as you read this and the GLC 63 won’t be too much longer before it lands in dealerships, enveloped in a cloud of tire smoke, probably.

What might go wrong?

The biggest complaint we had with our GLC 300 tester was with the COMAND infotainment system. It’s beautifully presented with hi-resolution graphics and the knobs and buttons you use to manipulate it feel quality and high-end. It’s the way the menus and interface that you use to control everything from the radio stations to the navigation system that prove to be bewilderingly complicated. It isn’t so draconian that you couldn’t feel your way around without consulting the owner’s manual, but even after a few days we never really got used to it. More concerning was the amount of time we had to take our eyes off the road to execute a command. We also found it frustrating that an accidental brush of the arm that would throw you completely off course from whatever it was you set out to do. We’re a bit mixed on the next bit of kvetching which happens to involve the interior. Don’t get us wrong, it is a very nice, comfortable place to be and the open pore wood accents beg you to run your finger along them. It might be a little to austere for some, however, and all the black surfaces (everything, basically) would get very warm on a scorching summer day.

Should I buy a GLC?

If the GLC 300 is on your radar, then so are its main competitors- the Audi Q5 or the BMW X3. We’ve driven both and can tell you that they are each solid choices. That being said, we’d avoid the Q5- its far too machine like and sterile for us, devoid of any personality. The new X3 has seriously upped its game this time around, so it really boils down with the subtle nuances that set it apart from the GLC. You can’t go wrong with either one, but we must admit that the GLC 300 exceeded our expectations. No matter which flavor you choose, from mild GLC 300 spec to the gloriously belligerent GLC 63, you’ll end up with something you can be proud to park in your driveway.

2018 Mercedes Benz GLC 300 4MATIC- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $56,100
  • Body Type: 2-door, 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.0 litre turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 241 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 273 @ 1,300 rpm
  • Transmission: 9-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,852 kg (4,084 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 12.2L/100km (19 mpg)