Some compact luxury crossovers can seem like cynically created cash cows, seemingly thrown together using parts from sportier cars or fancier SUVs its makers produced first (and would rather be making). The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is not one of them. It looks, feels and drives like a fully realized member of the Mercedes family. Its styling, despite being subtly updated for 2020, looks like it belongs to the car it was designed for, rather than a corporate face being slapped onto an otherwise generic shape. The interior, though not of the latest Mercedes design trend, is nevertheless handsome to behold, luxurious to touch and technologically advanced thanks to an infusion of the new MBUX interface and features for 2020.
Admittedly, there are roomier vehicles in the segment. There are cheaper ones, too. However, the GLC’s well-rounded nature, well-balanced driving experience and genuinely luxurious interior help justify that cost. There’s value in quality. There’s also something to be said for variety, as the GLC also offers an abundance of options to ensure customization and four engine choices that include the bread-and-butter turbo four-cylinder, an enhanced-for-2020 plug-in hybrid and the bonkers, V8-powered AMG GLC 63. There’s a little something excellent for everyone.
What’s new for 2020?
The GLC gets its first comprehensive update since it debuted for 2016. The GLC 300 gets a more powerful 2.0-liter inline-four (up 14 horsepower) and the next-generation 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. The GLC 43 also gets a 23-hp boost. The GLC 350e plug-in hybrid gets a bigger battery pack that brings with it more range and quicker acceleration.
The exterior of all versions has been tweaked rather imperceptibly, but it’s the interior that gets the bigger update. The design is the same, classy place it’s always been, but the fitment of Mercedes’ latest MBUX tech interface as standard results in a bigger display stuck to the dash and a square, leather-like touchpad in place of the old glossy plastic pad hovering over a rotary wheel. You can also now fit a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument panel, while all of the latest Mercedes tech advancements that go with MBUX like wireless charging and augmented video for the navigation system are available as well. The optional adaptive cruise control has also been “upgraded” with automated responses to speed limit signs and GPS input. You can thankfully turn it off (see Safety section).
What’s the GLC’s interior and in-car technology like?
It may not have the current Mercedes aesthetic on display in the new GLB-Class, but newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. The GLC cabin remains special with its broad, waterfall-like center console of real wood trim, high-end switchgear and snazzy rotary airvents. The standard MBTex vinyl upholstery will fool your friends into thinking it’s the real stuff – distinctively, you can even get it colorful hues. The AMG models add Dynamica faux suede upholstery and red seatbelts, but like every GLC, you can upgrade to real leather.
Adding to the ambience a bit for 2020 is the addition of the MBUX tech interface. The central display is now a standard 10.25 inches and the instrument panel can be upgraded from its traditional gauge pack (speedo, tach, trip computer) to an all-digital 12.3-inch display. Supporting them are MBUX’s multitude of inputs: center console touchpad, touchscreen, steering wheel track pads and natural speed recognition voice controls. Admittedly, the last one doesn’t work very well, but the others provide a welcome amount of redundancy that allows you to do things the way you prefer. The steering wheel controls in particular may seem off-putting at first, but are actually intuitive with use.
Overall, MBUX is an improvement over what was in the GLC before, but is still awfully complex as there’s so much available to control and options to tweak to your preferences. We’d highly recommend trying it out thoroughly during a test drive (as you should with all tech interfaces).
How big is the GLC?
The GLC is one of the smaller “compact” luxury crossovers. It’s as wide as most competitors, but it’s a few inches shorter overall, which can mostly be seen in its diminished cargo space. Although we’ve found Mercedes is short-changing the GLC’s cargo capacity (the official spec is so low it’s not even worth noting here), it still can’t hold quite as much as an Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 or Volvo XC60.
On the upside, though, the GLC has a longer wheelbase than all of those, and as a result, boasts a competitive back seat. In back-to-back testing, we found a bit more legroom in the RDX and XC60, but it was basically equal to the X3 and Q5. Head- and shoulder room are comparable all around.
Note that there’s also a Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, which is effectively the GLC reviewed here but with a sloped roofline that reduces rear headroom and cargo capacity.
What’s the GLC’s performance and fuel economy?
There are four powertrains available for the GLC-Class, all of which are indicated with the different model names.
The GLC 300 has a 2.0-liter inline-four, which produces 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, but “4Matic” all-wheel drive is an option. Mercedes says the GLC 300 will go from 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is quick for the segment. Fuel economy is 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive – 4Matic is basically the same at 21/28/24.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 (pictured below) has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 good for 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. An AMG-tuned nine-speed automatic and 4Matic are standard. Mercedes claims a 4.7-second 0-60 time, while EPA fuel economy estimates are 18/24/21.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 is the only compact luxury SUV that offers a V8 engine, a hand-built 4.0-liter turbocharged unit that pumps out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft (the Coupe is offered with an even-more-powerful 63 S version). The 0-60 estimate is 3.8 seconds. Wow. Fuel economy isn’t actually much worse than the 43 at 16/22/18.
Finally, there’s the GLC 350e 4Matic EQ Power plug-in hybrid. The EQ bit indicates it gets a bigger battery pack for 2020, and although official U.S. fuel economy and range estimates weren’t available at the time of this writing, we expect a range of 25 miles. It was previously an anemic 10. Time has also been sliced off the 0-60 time: 5.6 seconds from 6.2.
What’s the Mercedes GLC like to drive?
Although it’s now been around a while, the GLC remains one of the most refined and well-executed vehicles in its segment. There’s a solidity and poise to the way it moves down the road, ably swallowing up bumps yet maintaining composure around corners, feeling more like a C-Class hatchback than a small SUV. Its steering is communicative, quick and fluid in its motion with weighting that feels natural. Throttle and brake response are excellent as well. In short, it drives like a proper modern Mercedes, not a small SUV slapped together using bits and pieces from other vehicles.
The vast majority of GLC buyers will end up with the GLC 300, which means you’ll get a smooth and powerful turbocharged four-cylinder. Admittedly, it exists in a segment rife with smooth-and-powerful turbo-fours, so it’s not like it represents any great advantage.
The other GLCs are a different matter. The plug-in hybrid GLC 350e is really only comparable to the Volvo XC60 T8, and although we haven’t driven 2020’s updated version yet, we suspect it would trade some all-out performance for greater refinement in comparison to the Volvo. On the other end of the spectrum there’s the mighty AMG GLC 63, which you can fully read about in our first drive review. Its fire-breathing V8 flies in rarified air with the Porsche Macan Turbo, Jaguar F-Pace SVR and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. They’re all bonkers-powerful with astonishing performance capability for compact SUVs.
The more reasonable upgrade is the AMG 43. It sharpens the GLC’s reflexes and makes the ride firmer courtesy changes to the suspension (which can be further upgraded with air springs). Its acceleration is a substantial improvement over the base GLC, but it’s also not absurd overkill like the 63. There aren’t many competitors at its performance level or price, either, but against a BMW X3 M40i or Audi SQ5, the GLC 43 could easily be chosen as pick of the litter.
2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 First Drive
Experience the mightiest GLC, also updated for 2020. Read this for more info about the GLC 63 S Coupe.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 First Drive
Our first drive in the new GLC 300 highlights in-depth all the changes for 2020.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350 4Matic EQ Power revealed with bigger battery pack
More in-depth information about what’s new for the plug-in hybrid GLC, including its improved performance and electric range.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 Luggage Test
We load up the GLC’s cargo area with luggage and discover that it can haul far more than its meager specs imply.
What features are available and what’s the price of the GLC?
Pricing is broken down into the five GLC-Class models, which correspond to powertrain: GLC 300, GLC 300 4Matic, GLC 350e EQ Power plug-in hybrid, AMG GLC 43 and AMG GLC 63.
Standard equipment on the GLC 300 includes LED headlamps, adaptive dampers, 18-inch wheels, a power liftgate, power-folding mirrors, a full complement of safety tech features (see Safety section), dual-zone auto climate control, heated eight-way power front seats with driver memory and a power-operated steering wheel, MBTex premium vinyl upholstery, two USB-C ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the MBUX tech interface that includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen, center console touchpad, steering wheel controls and natural voice recognition.
There are far too many options and packages to list here (including those included in the AMG models), so to dig deeper, you can find all the GLC-Class features, specs and local pricing linked to below for each model. All the prices include the $995 destination charge.
– GLC 300: $42,500
– GLC 300 4Matic: $44,500
– GLC 350e EQ Power: $50,650
– AMG GLC 43: $59,500
– AMG GLC 63: $73,750
What are the GLC’s safety equipment and crash ratings?
Every GLC comes with a comprehensive array of standard safety equipment that includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, a driver inattention warning system and Mercedes’ distinctive Pre-Safe system.
Then there are the extra features (many of which are unique) included in the $1,700 Driver Assistance package. These include evasive steering assist and higher speed thresholds for the forward collision avoidance system, active steering intervention for the blind-spot system, a cross-traffic automatic braking system, lane keeping assist and one of the most advanced adaptive cruise control systems on the market that can operate in stop-and-go traffic, do most of the steering (you have to keep a token hand on the wheel) and can even automatically adjust your speed based on speed limit signs and input from the navigation system. We find the latter element overly HAL 9000, and although buried in submenus, we thankfully managed to turn it off for regular human-set adaptive cruise. Everything else, though, are extremely well-executed driving aids/tech that are worth the extra cash.
In government crash testing, the GLC got a perfect five stars for overall, frontal and side crash tests. It also got the best possible crash scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.