Mercedes’ new midsize SUV carries big-boy luxury and a price tag to match.
What is it? 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300: two- or all-wheel-drive, midsized SUV
Price range: $40,000-$65,000
Pros: Truly luxurious interior mixed with an engine that excels at low revs
Cons: That engine note sounds a bit agricultural and the rear seats lack legroom
Would I buy it with my own money? Probably, yes. I’d have a hard time shelling out roughly $50,000 on any car, let alone a relatively compact SUV with just 241 horsepower. But there’s a level of luxury Mercedes offers that remains tough to find elsewhere.
The primary vehicle any carmaker needs in their lineup—luxury brand or not—is a relatively compact SUV. For the first time, SUVs are outselling sedans, and if you crave sales, here is where you need to play. For Mercedes, its midsize choice was the GLK-Class.
So what is the GLC-Class? Well, it replaces the GLK, and the platform it derives from is that of the new C-Class sedan. This ensures many of the updates that graced Merc’s new four-door have filtered across to the GLC, explaining the luscious interior that punches way above its $40,000 weight.
The GLC is also lighter than the GLK—to the tune of 200 lbs.—allowing its turbocharged 241 horsepower 2.0-liter four cylinder to feel just as spritely as the V-6 that goes away. In fact, low-end torque is one of this motor’s greatest assets (surprising given the turbos), although the torque curve does fall flat shortly thereafter.
Being a four-banger, the engine features the same agricultural rattle found in the CLA-Class. While it’s not a deal breaker, that—plus Mercedes’ incessant usage of column-mounted gearlevers—feels rudimentary and outdated.
Arriving with rear-wheel-drive as standard (all-wheel-drive requires a $2,000 premium), the GLC 300 is remarkably on its toes during spirited driving; give thanks to that aforementioned weight loss, but also the relatively stiff suspension. This doesn’t ruin the ride, but it does feel harsh on bumpier stretches of road. The offset, though, is great handling.
And it gets even better when you put the SUV in Sport+ mode. Here, the throttle response quickens, the gearshifts arrive faster and with a more evocative snap, and the steering feels more precise. Flicking between Eco and Sport+ doesn’t wildly alter the SUV’s characteristics, but it does up the engagement level.
You can option the GLC 300 with Merc’s clever adaptive cruise control and steering assist, which when used in conjunction with one another, will effectively allow the vehicle to cruise along the highway autonomously. My test car didn’t boast these features, but as standard, you’re still granted keyless entry, collision avoidance and other welcomed additions.
Mix that with the interior I mentioned—which arrives with far nice switchgear, a stitched dash and other high-end materials—and the GLC 300 makes a strong case for itself. Sure, not every surface within the cabin feels of the same excellent quality—it remains evident to see where corners were cut—but the appearance still screams luxury, comfortably outdoing its competition.
What would I like more of? Rear legroom, but again, it’s not a deal breaker—unless your kids play for the Lakers, in which case you probably shouldn’t be shopping for a midsized SUV anyway.
Mercedes offers multiple ways to adjust the iPad-like infotainment screen—from its fancy pad to the button next to that pad to the buttons on the center stack itself—giving you the option to feel as if your hard-earned dollars are providing a tangible level of technology, while not locking you into said tech; for instance, you can change the radio with the central pad. It’s cool, your friends will be impressed, but it’s a bit cumbersome. If you’re in a rush, you always have the old-fashioned buttons on the stack. I like that. I don’t want to be boxed in.
The outgoing GLK sold well, keeping pace with BMW’s X3 and the Audi Q5. The GLC-Class will only strengthen that position, which, given the rise in popularity for midsize SUVs—even luxury ones like these—couldn’t come at a better time.