In the hyper-competitive segment of luxury crossovers, the Mercedes-Benz GLC makes a strong case for itself as a jack-of-all-trades.
Some athletes stand out from the crowd owing to the sheer scale of their talent. Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Tiger Woods come to mind. For others, their greatness derives from excelling not at any one thing, but instead from being very good at a great many things. Think Deon Sanders, Bo Jackson, or Jim Thorpe. The Mercedes-Benz GLC is the automotive equivalent of the latter category, great because it’s very good at a great many things.
If workman-like and well-rounded aren’t what you’re looking for in a luxury crossover, fear not, because, as is often the case with Mercedes, there are AMG versions too. Meaning next-level greatness is only a trim level upgrade away. But, seeing as the AMG versions often double the final price of an already expensive vehicle, the bulk of this review will concentrate on the GLC 300. And even with the base GLC, there’s plenty to impress.
Before you look at the GLC and conclude that without the AMG badging you’ll be compromising on performance, remember this is a Mercedes, and their best-selling model at that. Regardless of trim level, the GLC 300 has more than enough muscle to flex even at the base level. That base comes in the form of a 2.0-liter inline-4 posting 255hp and 273 lb. ft. of torque, that’s up 14hp from last year’s version. A 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds is respectably swift.
If you’re looking for a better fuel rating than the base engine’s 22 city/29 highway, there’s the GLC 350e. The 350e is a plug-in hybrid version of the GLC pairing the 2.0-liter with an 85kW electric motor netting 315hp and 413 lb. ft. of torque. The added weight, however, actually saps the 0-60 time ever so slightly down to 6.2 seconds. But the fuel economy sees a significant upgrade. It has a full electric range of 28-30 miles before the combustion engine kicks on. That’s a good deal more than the 9 miles from the 2019 version.
And then there are the AMGs. Mercedes’ high-performance division offers three variants the 43, the 63, and the 63 S. The GLC 43 started out with a larger biturbo V6 putting down 385hp and whittling down the 0-60 time to just 4.7 seconds. The GLC 63 goes two further to a biturbo V8, 469hp and a 0-60 time of just 3.8 seconds. As with all AMG variants you get what you pay for. Price jumps in excess of $50,000 on the GLC yield neck-snapping acceleration.
And then there’s the GLC 63 S coupe, but we’ll get to the wider topic of the “coupe” variants later. For now, note the 63 S notching the horsepower all the way up to 503hp and shaving off another two tenths of a second on that 0-60 time. These are Hellcat levels of speed in a compact SUV. Pretty neat trick.
The base biturbo engine provides the GLC with plenty of kick. Passing, merging, or just pinning down the throttle on an open stretch of highway demonstrate that you don’t have to go full AMG to get a lot of pleasure out of driving the GLC.
The GLC is not top of the heap when it comes to luxury crossover handling; that title goes to the Porsche Macan. But that’s also a pretty high bar, and the GLC acquits itself rather well, delivering an engaging drive on road and off. Turning radius is slightly shorter than average (shorter than either the Macan or X3) and body roll is almost non-existent.
As with other Mercedes models there’s multiple drive modes to choose from including Eco, Sport, Sport +, Comfort, and Individual. We found leaving things in Comfort mode to be the best for daily driving and, well, comfort. But if you’re feeling frisky, the Sport and Sport+ modes can adjust suspension, steering, and engine output to liven things up.
As good as the GLC is on pavement, it’s also impressively capable off-road. Ground clearance is 5 inches on the SUV and 5.7 on the coupe variant. The optional air suspension can add another 2 inches on top of that.
The one of the few nit-picks we could find with the GLC was the thickness of the B pillars. These make the optional blind-spot monitoring a must have.
When attempting to describe the ride and feel of a car, reviewers toss around words like cossetted, composed, and refined. Often, these are what they appear to be, adjectives outsized to the reality they reference. Not so with the GLC. Bumps, road imperfections, highway noise are all a distant memory (Comfort mode and the optional air-suspension only heightens this). In a vehicle that attempts to be very good, if not quite the best, across a number of key areas, the comfort on the road may be the single biggest stand out.
And that’s not to ignore the high-quality interior of the GLC either. There are soft touch materials wherever you look. So much so it’s actually difficult to find a piece of hard plastic. There’s leather galore and your choice of wood trim (linden, ash, or walnut) or carbon fiber.
The seats come in leather (obv.) or, at the base trim level, MB-Tex, Mercedes’ vinyl alternative. MB-Tex isn’t necessarily the step down you might expect, however. It does a very good tactile imitation of leather and is easier to clean and maintain. The seats themselves are great, well bolstered and cushioned. The overall theme of ease and comfort in the GLC translates all the way to your backside.
In the GLC there are bells, whistles, and then some; features and upgrades abound. Most notable among them is the new infotainment software, the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz user experience). The MBUX improves over earlier versions with a more intuitive interface and adds a new voice command feature. The system works pretty seamlessly with a “Hey Mercedes…” followed by the appropriate voice command. The only hitch is the system tends to be overly sensitive, not waiting for the “hey” preceding the Mercedes. In practice, you’ll frequently turn on the voice command system just by talking about the German automaker.
This sensitivity may be related to the AI feature which supposedly learns from its driver’s habits and preferences to adjust everything from advanced safety features to climate controls. All this tech is housed in an expansive 10.5-inch touchscreen display. But that’s not the only big screen in the GLC. The optional digital gauge cluster is a generous 12.5-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not only available but come standard, unlike BMW (who up until recently was charging a monthly fee) and Porsche (who still doesn’t bother offering Android support).
The list of optional amenities is long. There’s the Burmester 13-speaker stereo upgrade (standard on the AMG models), the ambient lighting, headed seats, and an exterior lighting package to name just a few.
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Driver assist and advanced safety features include forward collision warning and automatic breaking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, parking assist, “route-based” speed adaptation, traffic-sign recognition, and surround view parking systems.
Luxury doesn’t necessarily have to mean exclusive in the case of the GLC. Starting at $42,500, the base GLC still provides a lot of value in comfort and tech to contend with the higher-level trims from non-luxury brands. With that said, there’s a lot of room to add on features, along with dollars to the final price tag. And then there are the AMGs.
RWD, memory power front seats, 2 USB ports, Multimedia package including MBUX and navigation, parking assist and driver assist packages (opt.). 4MATIC AWD adds $2,000; Coupe version starts at $50,000.
Rain sensing wipers, power liftgate, rear headed seats (opt.), panoramic sunroof (opt.), max towing capacity of 3,500 lbs.
Hands free liftgate (opt.), keyless entry, mirror memory, remote trunk release.
Wheel locks (opt.), remote start, leather wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control (opt.). 63 S Coupe version – $81,800.
You will have noticed that up to now the coupe version has gone almost unmentioned. I felt that the final considerations ought to include a discussion of aesthetics versus practicality. And, perhaps of equal importance, how we decided to let European car companies start throwing around the term coupe so willy-nilly.
To wit, the coupe option on the GLC adds a good chunk to the overall cost of the vehicle (see above). But it also looks great, and, in the case of the 63 S, it’s faster. The coupe option also cuts into the head room for backseat passengers. But it also looks great. So, you’d have to weigh the cost-versus-cool and headroom-versus-cool, or maybe that’s cost times headroom divided by cool? My math is fuzzy here. I for one wouldn’t sacrifice either the funds or the comfort of my friends and family just to look cool or be fast … oh so very cool … and oh so very fast.
There’s also the question of whether crossovers deserve the benefit of the doubt on the dubious “coupe” title. Is it because they’re built on a car frame and then expanded vertically that they ought to still be eligible for coupe-dom? Color me skeptical. But if you absolutely need to go as fast as possible in a GLC, you’ll need the AMG 63 S coupe and it’s 503hp.
Bottom line, whichever version you land on, be it the base 300, 350e, or an AMG, the Mercedes-Benz GLC won’t disappoint. It’s got stiff competition from the BMW X3 and Porsche Macan, but they’re all three neck-and-neck.