FIRST DRIVE: New Mercedes GLC rides on air
The C-class on stilts has become the brand’s best-selling car globally, and the latest version excels with a bump-soaking ride
Mercedes-Benz has launched its third-generation GLC in SA, in three diesel and petrol all-wheel drive variants priced between R1.2m and R1.4m, with a coupé body shape to join the line up early next year.
The SUV based on the C-Class has sold 2.6m units globally in its previous two incarnations to become the brand’s most popular model, and the latest version has grown in size and become more sophisticated.
The new GLC arrives with a higher level of standard features than before and throws more driving enjoyment and ride comfort into the mix, especially when ordered with the optional Airmatic air suspension and rear-wheel steering. The flagship GLC 300d I drove at the media launch was fitted with these extra cost features and cruised Cape Town’s roads with finesse.
The ride quality was particularly impressive and the midsized SUV floated over bumps with a cushy feel, even on its 20-inch wheels. The bump-absorbing comfort is matched with good agility and the car scooted nimbly through twisty roads without the top-heavy feel associated with SUVs. The rear-axle steering helped it tuck into turns quicker while optimising high-speed stability.
It was a pleasurable and confidence-inspiring ride and, aided by its 4Matic all-wheel drive, the car displayed great traction on rain-sodden roads. Later I drove a 220d on 18-inch tyres without the air suspension, and it also delivered a very comfortable ride.
The mild-hybrid drivetrains in all three variants combine 2.0l four-cylinder turbo engines with fuel-saving integrated starter-generators (ISGs) that recuperate energy and provide an additional boost of 17kW and 200Nm. Transmissions across the range are nine-speed automatics.
With outputs of 198kW and 550Nm the 300d is the most powerful of the three and its performance felt enjoyably punchy and instant, promising a 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, a top speed of 243km/h, and a frugal 6.1l/100km consumption.
With 145kW and 440Nm, the 220d felt satisfyingly swift and does 0-100 in 8.0 seconds and reaches 219km/h and sips a claimed 5.9l/100km.
The petrol-engined 300 (which I didn’t drive) has 190kW and 400Nm for performance figures of 6.2 seconds and 240km/h.
Both diesel versions felt very refined, whisking along in near-silence.
The latest GLC comes optionally with an AMG line styling package, or standard with an Avantegarde exterior that has a Chrome package and a chrome-look simulated underguard. The front end has been redesigned with headlamps that connect directly to the radiator grille to emphasise the vehicle’s width, and a new radiator grille has a chrome surround and a sporty louvre in matt grey with chrome trim. The AMG Line’s radiator grille has a Mercedes-Benz pattern.
The 3D rear lights also emphasise the width of the rear end, which has a simulated chrome underguard and chrome-look tailpipes.
LED headlamps come standard, while digital lights with targeted distribution are available as extra-cost options.
Inside, the new GLC lays on a smart and modern vibe with its digitised dashboard and high-class materials. Modern Mercedes interiors are certainly not dour, and ambient lighting enhances a hi-tech look that gives the cabin an almost party-like atmosphere.
The digital interfaces comprise a 12.3-inch high-resolution LCD screen in front of the driver and an 11.9-inch infotainment display. The finicky haptic-feedback controls on the steering wheel take some getting used to, but I liked the bank of buttons beneath the infotainment display, which had a good old-fashioned “click” when pressed.
Voice commands are understood more intuitively by the car; for instance the driver and front passenger can separately set their own climate settings by saying “I’m hot” or “I’m cold”. The system cleverly recognises where the voice command is coming from and sets the right temperature for that side of the car.
The new GLC is available with a leather-lined dashboard with nappa-look beltlines (optional in the Avantgarde and standard for the AMG Line).
The new GLC is 60mm longer than its predecessor and fits passengers and luggage more easily across its 4,716mm length. I was able to sit very comfortably in the rear seat, with my legs barely touching the backrest.
The boot has grown 70l and holds an impressive 620l of cargo, with the tailgate opening and closing electronically.
The new GLC is capable of some off roading due to its 4Matic all-wheel drive, raised ground clearance and descent control. With the optional 360º camera the car offers a “transparent bonnet” that allows the driver to avoid obstacles by seeing a virtual view under the front of the vehicle, including the front wheels and their steering position.
Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic — R1,211,220
Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic — R1,339,430
Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d 4Matic — R1,410,194
Pricing includes a two-year unlimited distance warranty and five-year/100,000km maintenance plan
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