Mercedes has had a sizeable hole in its UK line-up in recent years: a genuine rival to the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Continental buyers have been able to pick the GLK but that car was never engineered for right-hand drive and, despite intense pressure from British dealers, the costs of factoring it in later on never stacked up.
Here, then, is the solution - the GLC, order books for which will open in mid-June, with deliveries due to start from November. The car itself will be officially unveiled next month too, although the light disguise worn by the prototype we’ve just had a spin in should give you a fair idea of what to expect.
The GLC is based on the same modular underpinnings as the latest C-Class, although it looks like it gets a longer wheelbase than the small executive saloon. It has an impressively short front overhang and a modest one at the rear - enough, Mercedes claims, to allow it more than acceptable levels of off-road ability.
To prove this, the firm lined up a disused quarry and an hour of abuse and asked us along as ballast in the front passenger seat. Merc’s engineers were quick to point out that the GLC does without proper differential locks; we’re talking an electronic ESP-based system here, coupled with an air suspension set-up that has three ride heights beyond normal: raised by 30mm or 50mm, or lowered by 15mm.
You add this feature as an optional ‘off-road’ pack, and while you can also specify greater ability on regular steel suspension, that only adds up to an extra 20mm of ride height. Mercedes’ product wizards expect most customers who want this sort of functionality to go for the air option, and we’re inclined to believe them. The full ‘off-road’ pack also includes settings for snow and towing, and a natty data display that shows everything from ramp and lateral angles to throttle and brake pedal percentages and a compass.