The driving position is sound, with raised seats affording good visibility all round. The front seats are fairly flat in the squab, but the more contoured backrests offer good levels of lateral support. The rear seats split 40/20/40, with two full sized outer positions and a narrower central seat that’s partly compromised for legroom by the central tunnel. Sizeable door pockets, a lidded bin and drink holders in the front section of the centre console provide plenty of oddment storage.
With 201bhp at 3800rpm and 369lb ft from just 1600rpm, the GLC 250 d’s longitudinally mounted engine proves to be both punchy and flexible. It is also impressively hushed for a diesel, with little chatter evident in the cabin at low to middling revs. Mercedes claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 56.5mpg, beating both the X3 xDrive20d (54.3mpg) and the high-powered version of the Q5 2.0 TDI (53.3mpg). With a standard 50-litre fuel tank, this points to a theoretical range of over 600 miles.
The fitment of a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, which uses a column-mounted stalk instead of a more conventional centre-mounted lever, provides the basis for strong standing start and in-gear acceleration, owing to the broad spread of ratios on offer. Mercedes claims a 0-62mph time of 8.3sec and a 131mph top speed. The shifts are quite smooth and proficient in Comfort mode, although it is sometimes recalcitrant on downchanges in Sport Plus mode.
The new gearbox really shines on the motorway, with a ninth gear ratio of 0.60:1 working in combination with a final drive of 3.07:1 to provide calm and relaxing cruising qualities. The claimed 56.5mpg may be difficult to match in real-world conditions, but for a car weighting close to 1800kg it proves remarkably efficient at constant motorway speeds.
The GLC comes close to matching the X3 for sheer agility. There is always sufficient traction out of slower corners to allow you to make full use of the strong low-end torque. The constant varying of drive to the front and rear axles, along with excellent body control and direct properties from the electro-mechanical steering system, provides the GLC with pleasingly neutral cornering traits despite a nominal 227mm ground clearance in combination with the optional air springs fitted to our test car.
On winding roads, understeer is effectively suppressed, allowing you to build up a good deal of momentum before the front end eventually runs wide and the stability control steps in, making the new Mercedes more engaging and enjoyable to thread down a winding B-road than just about any other mid-sized SUV.
With the air springs fitted at the rear, the GLC also rides with aplomb. It delivers impressive compliance at speed out on the open road, with low levels of tyre roar. If there is a dent in its armour, it has to do with its ability to handle transverse ridges, which tend to send a shudder through the structure, especially at lower speeds.
Mercedes knows that few potential GLC customers will seek true off-road capability. However, this has not deterred the car maker from providing its new SUV with impressive ability in the dirt. With approach and departure angles of 30.8deg and 24.8deg respectively, along with a breakover angle of 19.7deg and tipping angle of 35deg in combination with the optional Off-Road Engineering package, it goes places few rivals, save perhaps for the new Land Rover Discovery, are likely to take you.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market for a premium brand SUV, you might want to wait until the GLC reaches the UK before signing on the dotted line. Few if any of its direct rivals manage to combine style, quality, performance, handling, ride, economy, practicality and off-road ability so successfully.