What is it?
This 220 d is currently the cheapest way into Mercedes’ fresh-faced SUV, the GLC. Under the bonnet is the same 2.1-litre in-line four diesel that’s found in the 250 d, but with its wick turned down a notch.
In this guise it offers 168bhp and 295Ib ft of torque, 33bhp and 74Ib ft down on its brawnier brother. While you might expect a lesser state of tune to reduce emissions and fuel consumption, they are in fact the same as the 250 d.
Our test car also gives us a chance to sample the GLC with Comfort passive steel suspension and smaller 18in alloy wheels in the UK for the first time; our previous test vehicle had a stiffer Sport set-up and 20in alloys.
What's it like?
As with the 250 d, the installation of Mercedes’ 2.1-litre diesel in the GLC has been a successful one. Yes, you can tell there’s an oil-burner under the bonnet when accelerating hard, but any clatter and coarseness is pretty well contained, especially at idle and cruising. That’s handy, as you will most definitely be working this engine harder than you would a 250 d.
Still, its 0-62mph time of 8.3sec is nothing to be ashamed of, although you do notice the 74Ib ft torque deficiency. In situations that would see the 250 d holding on to a gear, the 220 d has to shift down to keep up with the pace you're asking for.
At least you don't have to drop too much speed in the corners; it may be on Comfort suspension but the GLC is still feels quite firm. Roll is kept in check well and the 220 d is happy to change direction briskly without fuss.
The downside to the stiffness is a ride that transmits far more of the road surface to the cabin than you might expect. Over smooth Tarmac it’s fine, but regardless of speed, rough surfaces cause noticeable vertical movement.
Standard-fit four-wheel drive ensures there’s plenty of traction on exiting corners, but don’t expect the rear axle to edge round and help you out, it's always the front end that lets go first. Non-defeatable stability control makes sure it stays that way.
It’s a similar story with the steering. It’s easy enough to place the nose of the GLC where you want it, but you never have a concrete sense of what the front wheels are doing. The only change in weight we could ever detect came from switching from overly light Comfort mode to the meatier Sport mode.
Switching to the sportier end of the Mercedes driving spectrum also gives you a sharper throttle response and a gearbox that’s more eager to kick down. Ultimately, Eco mode seems a tad lazy and Sport a little keen for smooth progress; Comfort strikes a decent balance.
Indeed, the GLC seems much happier driven well within its limits. At a 70mph cruise, there’s not a great deal of wind noise and the engine is spinning at just 1500rpm. The nine-speed auto also shuffles smoothly through its many ratios.
Lesser speeds also let you take in the GLC's impressive interior ambiance. Everything looks good and is well laid out with controls that work with a feeling of precision. We also like Mercedes’ rotary infotainment controller, although some of the system's on-screen menus can be a little confusing.
Further to that, our test car came with the standard Garmin-based 7.0in navigation system, which suffered from a fair bit of lag. Our experience of Merc's upgraded 8.4in system suggests it's the slicker choice, but it only comes as part of a near-£3000 Premium Plus pack. It’s pricey but recommendable, and includes other attractive equipment.
In terms of practicality, the GLC's boot is a good shape with a capacity of 550-litres while there’s plenty of room for passengers. Even a couple of adults will be able to get comfy in the back seats and there’s plenty of adjustment for the driver's seat and steering wheel.
Should I buy one?
The GLC continues to impress with its combination of tidy handling and good looks combined with its more sensible strengths, such as practicality and competitive running costs. For buyers in the market for a premium SUV, it’s a very strong contender to BMW's X3 and the Land Rover Discovery Sport .
Yet, while the GLC has an awful lot going for it overall, we find it hard to recommend 220 d. It may be a little cheaper to buy than the 250 d, but the more flexible nature of its bigger engine makes it money well spent.
Mercedes GLC 220 d 4Matic Sport
Location West Sussex; On sale Now; Price £36,945; Engine 4 cyls inline, 2143cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 168bhp at 3000-4200rpm; Torque 295Ib ft at 1400-2800rpm; Kerb weight 1845kg; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; 0-62mph 8.3sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 129g/km, 23%