By Jim Bray
What's in a name? Perhaps not much, if you consider Mercedes-Benz' new GLC SUV/Crossover. It's a new vehicle that takes the place of an existing model - kind of a renamed update of the original version - but which also raises the bar on what was already a darn fine vehicle.
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The new GLC isn't just a rebadged GLK, however. Based on the C class car, it's longer and wider than the "old" GLK, with a roomier rear seat and more cargo space. It's also better looking - not that the GLK was an automotive troll by any means, but this new model is smoother and classier than the outgoing SUV, with a more muscular mien as well.
According to Thomas Weber, member of the Management Board of Daimler AG and the guy responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, "our new GLC represents a further, systematic step in the implementation of our successful SUV philosophy. It combines the ultimate in driving comfort with a sporty touch, impresses on the road and – more than ever – off it as well, and appeals to the eye with the new design and equipment line." And while it isn't surprise that a Benz boffin is bullish on the little bus, I can't argue with his assessment: the GLC is a terrific vehicle, kind of a bigger and nicer version of the little GLA I like so much.
Mercedes-Benz Canada's sample was of the all-wheel drive variety (Hence the "4MATIC" moniker) as opposed to the rear drive version that's available below the world's longest undefended border. Like all GLC's, it was powered by the company's two litre turbo four, a sweet engine that's rated at 241/273 horsepower/torque. Torque comes on a low revs and turbo lag is managed well.
And while most people may never take their GLC 4MATIC off the pavement, Mercedes says its off road prowess is "outstanding" nonetheless. I was like most consumers, in that I never took the GLC off the road (heck, it was the middle of winter so driving on city streets around here was like going off road!), but I have no reason to doubt Mercedes-Benz' assessment of its abilities.
Not surprisingly, the GLC is available only with an automatic transmission, but it's a good one - a nine speed unit that shifts very well and which includes paddles to sweeten the deal. You also get a bunch of driving settings, from the usual eco to a Sport Plus that's actually quite tight and interesting. The feature is called "Dynamic Select" and lets you alter the GLC's throttle response, shift points, and steering effort as well as tweaking the ECO Start/Stop system and climate control. There's even an "Individual" mode that lets you tailor your own driving experience, even down to letting you select 100 per cent manual shifting. I love that!
The GLC's multilink suspension also features something called "Agility Control," which firms up in corners automatically, without turning the ride into the type of bladder buster you can get from very sporty suspensions. There's also an active Air Body Control feature available that self-levels, offers adjustable ride height and will even lower the vehicle to help you load and unload stuff. Mercedes' Crosswind Assist, which I got to experience on the much more sail-like Sprinter van last year, helps keep you from being blown into the oncoming lane - or the shoulder - during gusty weather, and it works well.
GLC's boast a significantly larger interior than the GLK it replaces, including trunk capacity of 550 to 1,600 litres (depending on how you configure the seats), and it does feel like a larger vehicle than its predecessor. Not much larger, though - they have other models for that, and while I found the GLC nicely roomy it wasn't cavernous and the added bulk didn't cause the GLC to feel slow.
I felt very much at home in the classy and modern interior. Well, mostly. The COMAND system, which controls many of the vehicle's functions from audio to climate to navigation etc., seems to be a step backwards in the GLC from other versions I've used. I found this one more confusing than earlier versions and (note that this gripe isn't just about Mercedes) I'm not a fan of the touchpad you can use in place of the knob for controlling the functions. I prefer a knob, because it takes less attention on the part of the driver, leaving him/her/it more free to pay attention to the drive. The touchpad wasn't bad enough to make me pine for a BMW (I'm not sure that could ever happen, what with the state of BMW's interfaces) but it made me appreciate Kia and Volkswagen even more.
I wonder if Mercedes is falling into the same habit of some other carmakers, in upping the toy ante so high that you need to pull off the road to operate the stuff, thereby defeating its purpose.
Everything else about the interior was great, though, from the seats' comfort to the overall ergonomics (strange shifter and wiper stalks notwithstanding - and these are typical Mercedesisms owners would get used to quickly).
The sample GLC had optional aluminum running boards ($750) and while I appreciate them on taller vehicles I thought they were obtrusive here; they tended to get in the way when entering or leaving the vehicle, and they also tended to transfer slush onto my pants legs. Some companies, such as Ford and Kia, offer a "built in rocker panel" thingy that I lampooned when they first appeared, but which I've since discovered is actually a pretty good solution to keeping your pants clean.
I also liked the upgraded ($1,000) Harman Kardon audio system; it might be worth the bucks if your tunes are important to you.
Mercedes-Benz Canada's sample also came with the intelligent drive package, which will set you back an extra $2,700 and adds such annoyances as DISTRONIC PLUS (automatic cruise control) with Steer Assist, BAS PLUS with Cross Traffic Assist, PRE-SAFE Brake with Pedestrian Recognition, PRE-SAFE PLUS, Active Lane Keeping and Active Blind Spot Assist. Save the money and just pay attention to the world around the GLC.
More worthwhile are the $1,700 adaptive LED lighting system, the $250 heated steering wheel (if you live where such a thing is handy), and the $590 360 degree rear view camera.
The sample also contained three option packages (Premiums One and Two and Sport). The $1,500 Sport package gives you (well, the GLC, not you) an AMG-inspired front and rear end, fancier 19 inch wheels, classier exhaust tips and an aerodynamically shaped spoiler lip on the power tailgate. Not very sporty, but nice.
Premium Package One ($4,900) gives you a rear view camera (which really should be standard), a lovely Panoramic Sunroof, COMAND Online Navigation with MB Apps, the power tailgate, ambient lighting, a DVD drive and illuminated door sill panels. Premium Package Two ($2,900) gets you an integrated garage door opener (it operates on white and black-painted doors, I guess), PARKTRONIC with Active Parking Assist, a power adjustable passenger seat, memory package with power tilt/telescope steering column, "Keyless go" (Push button start/stop with proximity sensing door locks), heated rear seats and a power socket.
Adding all the extras that the sample had brings the GLC's $44,950 CAD starting price to a much more heady $62,640 - and I must admit I think some of the optional stuff should be standard, especially since this car is a Mercedes-Benz and all that implies. On the other hand, when I look around the marketplace at competing vehicles, such as ones from Audi, BMW and Lexus, the total price doesn't seem out of line at all. And if you can live without the extras you can have an honest to goodness Mercedes-Benz for a pretty reasonably entry price.
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
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