The GLC’s predecessor, the GLK, was never engineered for right-hand drive, costing Mercedes valuable sales in a burgeoning area of the market as a result.
The new car will fill that gap. It’s based on the latest C-Class platform - Merc’s Modular Rear Architecture - but features a longer wheelbase than the small executive saloon. The GLC’s chief target is clearly the X3, with Merc’s offering being just 1mm shorter than the BMW, and 9mm wider. It is considerably lower, though.
Despite their similar lengths, the GLC’s wheelbase is 60mm longer than the X3’s. You notice this in the rear cabin, where there’s enough space for four grown-ups to sit in comfort. Headroom and legroom are especially ample.
The GLC will be offered with two diesel engines to start off with, badged GLC 220d and GLC 250d. They’re actually differently tuned versions of the same motor - in this case, Merc’s M274 2.1-litre unit. The more modest version will have 168bhp, while the 250d will offer 201bhp. As they are both based on the same engine, they also claim the same economy and emissions rating. They both produce 129g/km of CO2 and claim an average of 56.5mpg.
Unsurprisingly the 250d is the faster of the two, with 0-62mph coming in 7.6 seconds, and a top speed of 138mph. The 220d manages 0-62mph in 8.3sec, and has a top speed of 130mph.
The standard gearbox across the regular GLC range will be a nine-speed automatic - no manual transmissions will be offered. Four-wheel drive will be standard on all editions of the car, too.
A plug-in hybrid version will follow soon after launch. Badged 350e, it will mix the 208bhp petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor, and feature a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Merc sources say it should be able to drive on electric power alone for about 20 miles, and will emit “less than 60g/km” of CO2.
Merc will offer the GLC with two conventionally sprung chassis set-ups: Comfort and a stiffer Sport. The car maker expects many customers to choose the optional air suspension. It can be combined with an off-road pack that adds selectable ride heights, lifting the GLC by an additional 30mm and 50mm, or lowering it by 15mm. This feature also adds an extra data page to the GLC’s infotainment system.
The GLC will get a performance version but, initially at least, it won’t be a full-house AMG V8. Instead, the GLC 450 AMG Sport will use a twin-turbocharged V6 petrol, producing around 360bhp. We expect it to arrive in the first half of 2016.