The second-generation Mercedes GLC is better prepared for off-road and offers more agility and proverbial comfort. Test with the more powerful PHEV version Mercedes GLC 400 e 4Matic, which now develops 381 ps (376 hp) and 650 Nm (479 lb-ft).
Why change the winning team? It’s a principle that applies successfully to football, perfectly true of the Mercedes GLC. Mercedes didn’t want to assume any risks and radically change its premium mid-class SUV, the best-selling in Europe in its segment. That’s why the body design has undergone only discreet changes towards a more masculine look conferred by the long, strongly contoured bonnet and a more upright grille. In addition, the new generation, codenamed X254, comes with more electric technology. All versions have a 48V mild hybrid system with an integrated 23 ps (22.6 hp) starter generator, and no less than three PHEV versions are offered, two petrol and one diesel.
We had the most potent PHEV version at our disposal, which now has 61 ps (60 hp) more than the old model, 381 ps (376 hp) compared to 320 ps (315 hp) before. A 2-liter 252 ps (248 hp) turbo engine (211 ps/208 hp before) is mated to a 136 ps (134 hp) electric motor (122 ps/120 hp before). The combination delivers 381 ps (376 hp) and 650Nm (479 lb-ft), enough for 0-100 kph (62 mph) acceleration in just 5.6 seconds despite a respectable 2,355 kg (5,192 pounds), 430 kg (948 pounds) more than the GLC 300 4Matic equipped with the same combustion engine.
Big battery, huge kerbweight
Why so heavy? Because Mercedes has fitted the GLC with a huge 31.2 kWh gross (23.4 kWh net) battery, giving it an electric record range of between 118 and 130 km (73.3 and 80.7 miles). On the day of the test, the temperatures were just a few degrees above zero, and we recorded an electric range of 101 km (62.7 miles), which is high enough for driving pure electric even in big cities. Driving in pure electric mode in such an SUV for more than 100 km (62.1 miles) is refreshing.
And you don’t just crawl around town at 50-60 kph (31-37 mph); you can also use electric power at highway speeds because the Mercedes GLC 400 e 4Matic can run with an electric engine only up to 140 kph (87 mph). You can even press the accelerator pedal a little harder when overtaking, and the thermal engine doesn’t kick in if you’re in electric mode. Big battery, fast charging: Mercedes offers optional fast charging stations with up to 60 kW so you can charge the battery as fast as a pure electric car.
Dedicated off-road mode
There are two new additions to the drive modes: the B-mode, which conserves battery power, and the off-road mode (including hill descent assist) which is standard on all versions. At the same time, the digital instrument cluster display modes also feature an off-road-specific display with beautifully colored graphics, compass, geographical coordinates, altimeter, clinometer, front wheel steering angle, and, if you order the Engineering package (3,320 euros/$3,502, not present on our test car) which includes air suspension and integral steering, the rear wheel steering angle is also displayed.
Also, for those who want to go more adventurous than on the tarmac, there’s the Engineering Off-road package with 20 mm increased ground clearance. The GLC comes with the so-called ‘transparent bonnet’ included in the optional 360-degree camera package, proving that Mercedes wants to appeal even more to adventure lovers. This camera allows the driver to see up to 8 km/h (5 mph) what’s ahead under the car and between 8 and 20 km/h (5 and 12 mph) if there’s an obstacle in front of the vehicle. The image is very clear and helps a lot in off-road when you can see if there’s a boulder or other obstruction in the road.
Another new feature is the option to drive 100% electric off-road mode and not pollute in remote areas like national parks or ecozones. And in this case, the 440 Nm (324.5 lb-ft) developed by the electric motor is sufficient.
Better dynamics and comfort with the standard suspension
The GLC uses the same platform as the new C-Class with a four-link front and five-link rear suspension. But now, even the basic suspension offers more comfort, while agility has been substantially improved. However, because of the heavy battery, PHEV versions come standard with air suspension on the rear axle, maintaining a constant ground clearance on the back. Even without integral steering, which at up to 60 kph (37 mph) swivels the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front and reduces the circle diameter by 90 cm (35.4 in), the GLC is unexpectedly agile. The steering, heavier in Sport mode, offers excellent feedback and is surprisingly incisive for a Mercedes.
The new GLC feels more communicative, more engaging to drive, and closer to a driver’s car. In fast corners, however, you feel the extra inertia caused by the heavy battery pressing on the rear axle, so the ESP system kicks in a little quicker when pushing the limits. But the handling remains secure and extremely neutral in all situations, and it’s a pleasure to drive this GLC on long motorway journeys. Certainly, the Mercedes GLC 300 4Matic version is much more incisive.
Returning to the drivetrain, it offers plenty of refinement and dynamics. When driving in Hybrid mode, the dynamics are superb as long as the battery is charged. When the battery has run out of energy, acceleration isn’t quite as quick, but it’s still close, and the thermal engine is more audible under acceleration. But whether the battery is empty or not, the GLC is a highly dynamic SUV. And the price paid for dynamics is small because, in hybrid mode with a charged battery, the Mercedes GLC 400 e 4Matic needs only 7 l/100 km. Once the battery is discharged, consumption rises to 9 l/100 km but remains decent. However, given the long electric range, you’ll hardly ever need the engine in town.
Mercedes has modified the rear suspension to place the high-capacity battery as low as possible. However, the increased battery capacity takes up some volume of the boot because the boot floor is higher but about 6-7 cm (2.36-2.75 in). So, 130 liters (7,933 cu in) are lost from the 600 liters (36,614 cu in) of the traditional petrol version, and the GLC 400 e 4Matic has a 470-liter (28,681 cu in) boot that can be extended by folding down the split seat to 1,530 liters (93,366 cu in). Furthermore, by placing the battery above the rear axles, there was no need to raise the floor in the rear seats, and passengers sit comfortably without having their knees in the air. There’s plenty of legroom in the back, but the backrest is too hard, and the cushion could be longer.
Interior from the C-Class, instrument cluster with off-road graphics
The new GLC comes with the layout from the C-Class with the second-generation MBUX multimedia system with a portrait display and the 12.3-inch display for the instrument cluster that’s nicely configured and has excellent graphics. Also new is the C-Class’s steering wheel with its dual arms with touch-sensitive surfaces that are very easy to operate. The upper left arm controls the digital instrument cluster, and the right arm oversees the multimedia system.
The touch surface works flawlessly, is responsive, and is easy to work with. Unlike some of its rivals, Mercedes offers direct access to seat adjustments from door buttons, including seat heating, but you can also access the seat menu in the multimedia system. Also convenient are the two lidded compartments on the center tunnel, the front one with holders for drinks cans and well-protected space for inductive phone charging.
Is everything perfect? At a base price of 74,922 euro ($78,948) it should be. But our critical eye saw some hard plastic on the front seat backs, in the inner area between the rear doors and the backrest, and the rear pockets lack padded bottoms. Instead, the trunk offers a nicely padded floor.
The new Mercedes GLC is more agile and comfortable, with a more refined suspension underpinning. It’s also better prepared for off-roading by offering the option of a raised suspension for off-road in addition to the Engineering package with air suspension and integral steering. As a PHEV model, it impresses with its long electric range and fast battery charging. Criticisms: some hard plastics in places too visible.
– Long electric range
– Fast charging
– Dedicated off-road package
– A powerful and economical propulsion system
– Excellent agility
– Top ride comfort
MAX vs MIN
– Some rigid plastics in the rear
– Costly options