From £34,9108
Our first opportunity to get behind the wheel of Mercedes' new GLC SUV on UK roads shows it has the ingredients to worry its established class rivals

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Merc’s mid-sized SUV gets its UK debut. Has it been worth the wait?

Richard Webber
15 January 2016

What is it?

It’s the all-new, BMW X3-rivalling Mercedes GLC, driven in the UK for the first time. Its predecessor, the GLK, was only available with left-hand drive, so this really is new territory for Mercedes in Britain.

We’ve already tried the lesser-powered GLC 220 d, which uses a 168bhp version of the same 2.1-litre twin-turbodiesel four-pot, on foreign soil. That car used the adaptive damping that’s standard on SE and Sport models, and also the optional air suspension, but our 201bhp test car’s AMG Line trim brings a firmer passive set-up with coil springs.

AMG Line spec also means more aggressive front and rear bumpers, new side skirts, 19in alloys and interior touches such as AMG steering wheel, pedals and carpet trim.

What's it like?

The GLC is based on a stretched version of the C-Class’s platform. The interior is based on that of the compact saloon, too, which is a good thing: it’s stylish and well laid-out, with multimedia functionality centred on a slick 7.0in screen and materials from the top drawer of the parts cupboard.

The firm front chairs, which offer plenty of electric adjustment as standard, yield the obligatory lofty seating position, and the generous rear cabin will swallow two adults in comfort; three if you’re among friends. The rear seatbacks split into three, and a powered tailgate is standard-fit, too, giving access to a largely uniform, lip-free boot that matches the X3’s for volume at a useful 550 litres.

At idle, the engine emits only a distant rumble; as revs rise it becomes quite loud, but doesn’t turn coarse. There’s minimal turbo lag, and strong, steady shove is available all the way from 2000rpm to the upshift point just below 5000rpm.

The nine-speed automatic gearbox (the only available transmission) manages progress well. It splashes serenely through the ratios in town, where choosing the drive control’s miserly Eco mode keeps revs low to subdue the engine. Firm suspension disrupts the peace, though, thumping over ridges in a controlled but hard-edged manner that’s exacerbated by our car’s optional 20-inch wheels.

At 70mph in ninth gear, the crankshaft turns at just 1500rpm, and while the engine’s distant rumble persists, the GLC is refined at a cruise save for tyre roar over coarser motorway surfaces.

The car is game for B-road sorties, too. There’s a fluidity to the body control that’s genuinely enjoyable as you leverage the 250 d’s 74lb ft advantage over the 220 d between corners and its traction-bearing four-wheel-drive system through them. Sport mode makes the gearbox’s shifts more aggressive, but there’s still a delay between requesting a manual shift on the steering wheel-mounted paddles and getting it.

The steering is a more serious gripe, though. It’s overly light in Comfort mode, and while it’s responsive enough and there’s more heft to the helm in Sport, there’s a lack of weight variation, which muddies messages of grip from the front wheels. The brakes disappoint, too - they’re certainly effective but have a wooden pedal feel.

Should I buy one?

The adaptively damped GLC with air springs we drove impressed for handling and comfort, so there seems little call for the AMG Line’s firmer passive set-up. You can add air suspension to mid-range Sport specification for the same price as upgrading to AMG Line, and that seems the smarter move.

Sport is the only trim eligible for the £495 off-road pack, too, adding tools such as hill descent control, 20mm-raised suspension, underside engine guard and special traction programmes.

Official figures say there are no emissions or combined economy disadvantages to choosing the 250 d over the 220 d, meaning it beats the slightly thirstier and slower BMW X3 xDrive20d which, in M Sport trim with an auto gearbox, costs within a tenner of the GLC 250 d AMG Line. Given the Mercedes’s superior refinement and fresher interior, the X3 definitely has a battle on its hands.

Mercedes GLC 250 d 4Matic AMG Line

Location Bedfordshire; On sale Now; Price £39,595; Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, twin-turbocharged, diesel; Power 201bhp at 3800rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1600-1800rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1845kg; Top speed 143mph; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 129g/km, 23%

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Comments
9

15 January 2016
Nice to see Mercedes have fitted reasonable sensible tyres with decent side walls even on the AMG Line spec.

15 January 2016
So current car designers, instead of spending time refining their overall designs (in most cases much needed), seem to spend a lot of time designing a bewildering range of alloy wheels and, in the case of Mercedes, every model appears to have its own seat shape (vertical pleats, horizontal pleats, wide band, narrow band, integrated headrest, separate headrests ... )

15 January 2016
Not one mention of the XC60 that often outsells everything in the premium midsized off roaders. Including the Evoque

15 January 2016
'...materials from the top drawer of the parts cupboard.' Cupboards tend to have shelves rather than drawers.

15 January 2016
I' thinking the other day about another Marc review that says in 9th gear it's sitting at 1500rpm @ 70. This sounds like DMF destroying revs to be sat at continuously. I tend to try to keep mine over 1700rpm to prevent this.

15 January 2016
The XC60 is ok but loses far too much on depreciation although a great second hand buy

18 January 2016
I wonder if this car will get the new engines to be fitted to the E-Class. Journalists don't seem to like the 2.1 diesel although I found it to be both powerful and economical in the C-Class I had. I presume the new 2 litre diesel will eventually replace the 2.1 diesel across the Merc range.

jer

18 January 2016
ahem significant discounts. I was bit gob smacked this 4 pot was 40k and its the same price as an X3. Rest sounds good but having spent time in a few of these I don't feel that centre stack feels at all premium, quite the opposite.

10 April 2016
Are people serious about the XC60? Its available with massive discount for a reason. Have you seen the interior? looks like something your granddad would sit in, the sat nav screen so small as to embarass a Tom Tom unit! There's no paddle shift even on the "Sport" model.

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