SUV Reigning Supreme
The replacement for the GLK, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC may just be the most sensible choice in the sea of SUVs
Mercedes have been fiddling with their nomenclature of late when it comes to SUVs. Now if the term 'Gelaendewagen Leicht' in GL represents all off-roaders, the third alphabet in their SUV's 3-alphabet name represents their sedan counterpart. For example, the big 7-seater GLS relates to the limo-like S-Class, the GLE shares the middle spot with the E-Class and similarly, the GLA with the baby A-Class. Capiche?
This week, we look at their less-than middleweight soft roader - the all-new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC. As you guessed, it is the C-Class of their SUV lineup. It also replaces their unexceptional GLK.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
In recent times, Mercedes-Benz vehicles have seen a tasteful evolution in their styling. It has been for the better, helping Merc move away from the image of a middle-aged man's go-to car to more of a road-going ornament for youthful spirits across all ages. The 2016 GLC embodies signature styling to form, possibly, the best-looking SUV in its class. Some would argue the Audi Q5 has its charms, but the fact is that it has aged. As for the BMW X3, the sales figures speak for themselves. If there were a better-looking SUV, it would have to be the Lexus twins - the NX and RX.
The car features pulled-back headlamps that organically incorporate elements like LED headlamps and LED day-time running lamps - and these day-time runners are not your usual set. When you click unlock on the keyfob, they start off with a blue hue and gradually turn bright white. It's special, alright! Also on that pretty face are twin-louvre grille and a bash plate. The car is the perfect size for driving in the UAE. It's spacious enough to accommodate a family of five in comfort whilst being small enough to be steered easy within city limits, without fear of hitting every curb, pillar or passerby. And that's incredible, considering the GLC is some 140 mm longer, making it 4656 mm in overall length.
Mercedes has also managed to sandpaper off the boxy edges of the GLK, improving the wind tunnel score or Cd value from 0.34 to 0.31. We certainly think it makes the GLC quieter, faster and more economical. Also, the 80kg weight must help too. Sizes begin from 18 inches for the wheels, and they go up to 20-inch, like our test car, which had the slim multi-spoke alloy that we've seen so many times on the new S-Class. It's a classic design that merges well with the GLCs outlook - both when stationary and on the move.
Rear design is often a forgotten page in the style guides of automotive designers - few manufacturers get it right. But this GLC hind portion is leagues better than the GLE's, with compact horizontal enclosures and red strip lighting.
If you love the exteriors, moving into the cabin and experiencing the comfort-oriented ambience will give you a feeling of closure. The one-piece console panel was made of an open-pore veneer in black. It's got smooth sand-finish to it, quite unlike the polished lacquer finish we used to love pre-y2k. Situated on the top console are familiar five round air outlets finished with metallic "cool touch" effect that is a smooth satin grey colour brightening up the dashboard. All of the switchgear, i.e. buttons on the centre console and the seat adjustments located on the door, borrow the same finish. If you opt for a high-end sound system like the Burmester audio, you get the perforated speaker sets that are quite the craftwork - they are even fitted as art on your wall!
In tech offerings, making its appearance yet again is the standing iPad-like infotainment screen controlled via the COMMAND rotary knob. For added control, you can use the black piano finished touchpad - which acts like a cowl over the controller btw - permitting letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in handwriting. It even supports Mandarin and Arabic. More importantly, as you settle into the driver's seat, you notice that the GLC's size is manageable and the visibility out all four directions is good. The 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel is a masterpiece - its three dimensional structure provides a perfect grip. Instrument gauges are split into three - a digital readout flanked by the traditional analogue tachometer and a Speedometer. The well-damped effect of the buttons and ergonomics involved raise the build quality by much.
In comparison to its many plus points, the one problem we faced with the GLC was rather elementary. The centre-console is an inch too wide, meaning that my tall legs kept bashing into it and the brake pedal is too high in comparison to the accelerator pedal. Although these are not deal breakers by any means, we hope Merc resolves them in the first fix.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
As you hit the starter button, you may think, this is a 3.0-litre V6 like we used to have, but it is not. The GLC 300 has a smaller displacement turbocharged 2.0-litre 4 cylinder. This keeps the weight down and the torque up.
So let's look at the math. At 5,500, this makes 241 bhp and the 370 Nm is a healthy dose of torque required of a luxury workhorse such as the GLC.
It is hooked to a 9-G TRONIC gearbox which is speedy to shift and smooth in operation. No NVH problems here! It flies through the rations, both up and down, so quickly that you will be thankful this is not one of those dodgy dual-clutch transmissions. So how much 'go' does Dh200k get you? Company claims the 300 will hit a ton in 6.5 seconds, but in our practice sessions, it averaged around 7 seconds - plenty good for a day out with the family or feisty friends. If need be, it can get fast enough to scare your in-laws on the highways too.
That said, the engine note is a bit of a letdown. Leaning into the pedal gives you a very mechanical and slightly jarring sound, which completely overwhelms the exhaust note. But the ride quality is something no one will detest. In fact, it works rather well - almost as compliant as the Audi Q5. The 4MATIC in the name means that it's got an intelligent all-wheel drive system that splits torque the good old-fashioned way, with 55 per cent going to the rear, the remaining 45 per cent to the front axle. It can shuffle those numbers between the wheels if necessary. It isn't designed to be like a corner-carving Porsche Cayenne GTS, but there is tactility in the steering to make you want to drive really fast, especially around corners, and not have to worry about harming yourself.
One of the many benefits of the turbocharged 2.0-litre is that in spite of thrashing the GLC around a couple of roads with heavy throttle and braking application, you still get decent mileage. Mercedes claims an economy of around 7.5l/ 100km, but we averaged about 10-11 l/100km and that isn't too bad for something that weighs almost two tonnes.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
To keep with the theme of flexibility, the rear seats can be split in a 40:20:40 manner and folded down raising the cargo capacity from 580 litres to 1600 litres. The maximum luggage compartment length is 1320 mm. Back there, you also get a net for holding stuff and 12V outlet. The underfloor compartment is totally vast and usable.
Virtually all of the driver assistance systems which are familiar from the C-, E- and S-Class are available for the new GLC. You can get just about everything, save x-ray vision and teleportation. The Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Pre Safe are like eyes looking out for you, scanning the road and prepping the brakes, if needed. Systems like Cross-Traffic Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist look out for dangers in areas you don't usually notice easily. Even the airbags have staggered deployment, depending on the detected severity of impact, and seat position.
The GLC offers a competent infotainment for its occupants. It starts with a 7-inch screen, but with the COMMAND Online installed, the display increases to 8.4 inches with a higher resolution. With a smartphone with a data connection, it also becomes internet-ready, to go along with the Bluetooth® hands-free convenience. Controlling the navigation system using the COMMAND rotary controller is something you need to get used to, because you'd find yourself reaching out for the screen for input, but it's not a touch sensitive.
The five front air-con vents keep the air distribution uniform throughout the ride, depending on the manner of alignment. A choice of a lighter shade of upholstery and parking in shade might be something to keep in mind, as the summer months approach. Overall, the AC does justice to your cooling needs despite the large glazing areas.
With the benefits of the evolved German design and selective sizing, Mercedes has made the 2016 GLC 300 4MATIC a compelling choice for individuals and family. The only chinks in its armour are a mono-tonous engine/exhaust note and wide centre-console that's a knee-knocker.
The GLK may be long gone, but the GLC is sure to live on. in style!