Mercedes-Benz GLC has the styling, tech and driver appeal to win buyers, and it will definitely go some way into stealing sales from BMW and Audi. The four-cylinder diesels offer all the performance, economy and refinement you could ask for, while the high-performance AMG models add serious punch. In terms of practicality, the GLC is pretty much a match the X3 and Q5 for passenger and boot space, although the Jaguar F-Pace is slightly more spacious in the boot.
The AMG GLC 43 offers the exclusivity of an AMG with plenty of practicality, while the AMG 63 models are stupendously quick. While these models will be lightning-fast in a straight line, they can’t match quite the Porsche Macan for handling, which does a better job of hiding its SUV mass.
It was later to market than most rivals, but the Mercedes GLC and GLC Coupe have made up for lost time by being among the front-runners for sale in the premium compact SUV class. There are a wide range of models, and whether you buy or lease a GLC, you’ll be getting a high-class car with plenty of appeal.
It needs to be classy to help it take on rivals in the premium SUV class, and shares much of its DNA with the C-Class saloon. The main opponents are the Volvo XC60, BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace, but there are a number of other cars it must face. This includes the Audi Q5, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Lexus NX and Porsche Macan.
The GLC can take on this range of rivals because it has a broad model line-up, from the GLC 220 d and GLC 300 machines, all the way up to the storming AMG GLC 63 variants. As a result, prices range from around £40,000 to a heady £80,000-plus.
The GLC range was overhauled in 2019, with the compact SUV gaining some mild style revisions, updated infotainment and a variety of updated engines, some of which now benefit from hybrid tech.
All cars get a fresh LED lighting signature, and the bumpers are subtly reprofiled based on trim level. The entry-level Sport gets silver 4×4-effect cladding along its lower edge, while the AMG Line models get a cleaner body-coloured look with a larger front air dam. The grille sets the Sport and AMG Line variants apart, too: the former gets a twin-louvred design, while the latter features a single span and small silver dots arranged in a diamond pattern.
Trims comprise of Sport and AMG Line models, with the latter progessively upgraded to Premium, Premium Plus and Premium Plus Ultimate, each with increasing levels of equipment and cost. The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 (and even faster 63 S) are considered separate models in their own right. The Sport is offered with the entry-level 220 d and the 300 four-cylinder petrol unit, but you’ll need to step up to the AMG Line to get the best of the in-car tech, plus 19-inch wheels, privacy glass, heated front seats and a reversing camera.
All cars feature 4MATIC four-wheel drive and Mercedes’ smooth shifting 9G-Tronic Plus nine speed auto gearbox. The top spec Ultimate trim comes with air suspension.
The GLC was one of the first cars to be launched under Mercedes’ new naming structure for its range. GL means this car is an SUV, while the C refers to its size, because this model is based on the same MRA platform as the C-Class saloon. This platform was designed with four-wheel drive in mind from the outset, so all models in the GLC range boast all-wheel traction that helps out in slippery conditions.
If you want a sporty SUV, take a look at the Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Macan. The Mercedes GLC majors on comfort and refinement, and as a result, isn’t particularly dynamic. That’s despite having a rear-biased torque split; in other words, while it’s four-wheel drive, more than half of the power is handled by the rear wheels in normal driving.
That’s not to say it’s bad to drive. While the GLC isn’t particularly playful and feels quite heavy through the turns, it is calm and composed on all but the very worst roads – and thanks to the standard 4MATIC four-wheel drive and raised ride height, can hack it in the rough stuff if you give it opportunity.
With air suspension, the GLC is more comfortable than rivals such as the Volvo XC60 and Audi Q5: It reacts to bumps in the road with more fluidity. This flowing ride quality is the GLC’s calling card and makes it the nicest, most comfortable car over rough surfaces.
Body control is on the looser side, however, but this means where the Volvo and Audi transmit some harshness through to the passenger compartment over the worst surfaces, the Mercedes filters out more nasty wheel movement. However, even in Sport+ mode, which stiffens up the chassis settings, the GLC’s set-up is still the softest, which allows more roll through corners.
It means the Mercedes is the least agile choice, while the steering is also the heaviest, and in this setting you lose the languid ride but don’t gain much else. This trait at least makes it extremely comfortable on the motorway, but turn onto a country road and you won’t be able to keep pace with the Volvo or Audi, which feel sportier.
Regardless of the model and you’ll find that it’s not as sharp to drive as a Jaguar F-Pace S, because the steering is a bit numb and is on the light side. You can add weight using the optional driving modes, but it’s somewhat artificial and doesn’t give the feeling of agility you get in the Jaguar. The Merc rolls through corners to the degree we’d expect of a big SUV, but that’s because the car is set up more for comfort.
Whether it’s big potholes or speed bumps, the GLC feels smooth and rides well. Bigger bumps are softened off, and at speed the road surface is smoothed out. It goes well with the big engine, and the GLC will suit those who prefer a softer set-up.
The AMG mode is also too firm for the road, but it’s easy to rectify both flaws by switching back to the Comfort setting. The ride is softer (although more severe bumps do still send a thumping shockwave through the chassis, despite the tall tyres) and the transmission is smoother. It changes up quickly to maximise efficiency, but because of the GLC’s portly 1,845kg kerb weight, even if you ask for a gentle burst of acceleration, it will kick down two or three gears. It makes for slightly disjointed progress where the Macan is keener to hold a gear.
We wouldn’t bother with the more powerful GLC 300d, as the 220d is almost as fast and costs less. The latter will do 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, while the 300d cuts this to 6.5 seconds, topping out at 144mph.
From 2019, both use Mercedes’ 2.0-litre unit first fitted to the C-Class. It’s a step up over the old 2.1, being smoother, quieter and a little bit faster, too. They offer 191bhp and 242bhp respectively, while the more powerful model also packs an extra 100Nm of torque for a significant 500Nm. It is livelier when you floor the throttle, but the standard car should be enough for most people.
The nine-speed auto features short, closely-stacked lower ratios. The box is a little sluggish to change, but it’s smooth, so when you’re driving around normally the Mercedes feels silky, while the engine is hushed at normal pace.
As with the Audi Q5’s twin-clutch S tronic ‘box, the Mercedes often changes down from top on the motorway, but it doesn’t suffer from the same big gaps in ratios, which makes for more relaxing progress. And while the 2.0-litre engine might not quite be on a par for the smoothness of the BMW X3’s 2.0-litre diesel, it’s more refined than the Jag’s Ingenium diesel.
The GLC 43 uses an AMG-designed twin-turbo V6 petrol with 385bhp and 520Nm of torque. It’s eye-wideningly fast for a 4×4, and will crack a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds, where conditions allow. Sport+ mode gives a lovely crackle from the exhaust on gear changes, punctuating the engine’s musical wail. But, in this most aggressive setting, the gearbox’s upshifts feel a little jerky.
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 uses a thumping 4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8 that features in a wide range of 63-badged Mercs. It delivers sensational performance – a 0-62mph time of just 3.8 seconds for the S version, makes it a tie for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in a straight sprint, and quicker than a BMW X3 M. It delivers a thunderous soundtrack too, if not quite as full-bodied as it sounded before the WLTP-enforced emissions tweaks.
As a mid-sized SUV, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the GLC can’t quite match the fuel economy of the C-Class saloon.
Still, the engine improvements introduced for 2019 resulted in small improvements across the board. The latest GLC 220 d delivers between 40.9mpg and 47.9mpg on the WLTP combined cycle, dependent on chosen optional equipment. The GLC 300 d is slightly thirstier, offering 39.2mpg to 44.1mpg. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, the GLC 220 d manages 137g/km, while the 300 d achieves 157g/km. Both cars see a slight increase in emissions when larger wheels are fitted.
The petrol GLC 300 returns up to 34.4mpg and has emissions of 166g/km to 174g/km depending on wheel size. The 300e has an all-electric range of around 30 miles, which translates to overall economy of 117.7mpg and 54g/km of CO2.
At the other end of the scale, the AMG GLC 63 S emits 283g/km and returns up to 22.1 mpg, while the GLC 43 manages 234g/km and up to 27.7 mpg.
Servicing and maintenance costs should be on a par with a BMW and Audi, and the fact it shares a number of parts with the C-Class saloon should bring down costs in the long term.
Premium SUVs are a popular part of the market, and the GLC has strong residual values to reflect this. The conventional range sits in the ballpark of around 47-52 per cent, which is in line with rivals. The more powerful AMG cars are on a par in percentage terms, but obviously their higher price means that they lose more money.
The insurance groups for the GLC generally range from around group 28 to group 40 for the standard models, depending on engine and trim level. The AMG GLC 43 has a group 41 insurance rating, while the AMG 63 models tops out in group 47. Insuring a premium car such as this could be a big chunk of your annual running costs, and when we tested the previous-gen GLC 250 d AMG Line against a Volvo XC60 D4 R-Design and Audi Q5 2.0 TDI S line, the GLC was the most expensive to insure: our sample driver was quoted at around £1,200, compared to around £850 for the Volvo and Audi.
Undeniably recognisable as a Mercedes SUV, the GLC gets the distinctive family face, jacked-up suspension and a high-quality interior. The purposeful grille and LED daytime running lights give the GLC an imposing nose. Updates for post-2019 cars introduced slimmer headlights with revised LED graphics, and subtle adjustments to the front grille. Around the back the new models can be distinguished by LED tail lamp graphics which feature a ring-like design. The high roofline of the GLC results in decent practicality.
Sport models get 18-inch wheels, heated seats, Garmin sat-nav and an ambient interior lighting package. AMG Line cars are bigger sellers thanks to a tougher bodykit, 19-inch wheels, sports suspension and AMG details for the interior.
On top of the basic cars, you can also spec a series of optional packages, adding more desirable kit to each trim level. The Premium Package gets 20-inch wheels, memory seats and keyless entry. Premium Plus builds on this, with all the aforementioned kit plus a panoramic roof, road sign assist and a high-end Burmester stereo. The top end Premium Plus Ultimate adds air suspension.
The full-fat AMG models gets a flashy radiator grille and unique alloy wheels, plus sportier-looking bumpers and more pronounced tailpipes. There are some nice touches to differentiate it from lesser diesel models, but it doesn’t feel quite as nicely crafted as a Porsche Macan, for example. The AMG 63 models gets a grille design that’s similar to the AMG GT sports car, plus blistered wheel arches, big wheels and chunky bumpers.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Inside, all cars feel suitably upmarket, with loads of well-finished surfaces and top-notch materials. The interior facelift, save for a couple of new options, results in a cabin that looks much the same as it did before. However, there’s a new infotainment set-up with a larger screen. It houses a sat-nav system which, like that in the latest A-Class, features augmented reality navigation instructions.
These features are only available higher up the GLC range. Entry-level models don’t even get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; it’s disappointing to see software that’s often fitted to basic superminis doesn’t come as standard in a £40,000 SUV.
The menu layouts are largely the same as the old car, but they’ve been tweaked to allow touch inputs for the first time. If you’d prefer, it’s still possible to control the menus via the click wheel employed on earlier GLCs. Graphically, the system is very sharp, and the menus are fairly easy to navigate. The mapping screen is uncluttered and easy to read on the move.
Higher trim levels come fitted with a high-end Burmester sound system. It’s a worthy upgrade over the standard system, with a warm, punchy sound quality. It’s not quite a match for the glorious Bowers and Wilkins systems offered as (pricey) options with both BMWs and Volvos, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The connected services and live traffic info are nice touches, and from the 2019 update onwards, the infotainment setup comes equipped with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. It’s standard on all but the base Sport and AMG Line trims.
The Mercedes GLC sits perfectly alongside rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, but the Jaguar F-Pace is a larger car, so has more room inside for passengers and luggage. Storage spaces are plentiful, with a decent-sized glovebox, roomy door bins and nets in the boot. There’s also a handy cubby in between the front seats, and another ahead of the infotainment selector.
The GLC measures in at 4,655mm in length, 1,890mm wide and 1,644mm tall. It’s almost identical in size to the BMW X3.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Rear seat space is pretty good, with plenty of head and legroom. There’s a rather large transmission tunnel thanks to the four-wheel drive system, but with large footwells, there’s enough room either side to spread out and get comfy. The centre seat is wide and soft too, so while an Audi Q5 is a more comfy car for two tall rear seat passengers, the GLC just edges things with three across the back. The high roofline means that headroom is plentiful.
Sitting in the Mercedes feels initially promising, with soft seats and plenty of adjustment. It’s hard to find a truly comfortable set-up, though, and we had to keep adjusting the settings. While the fully automatic GLC range means all cars only get two pedals in the driver’s footwell, if you have big feet, you might find that your left foot rubs against the transmission tunnel next to the large brake pedal.
The GLC’s 550-litre boot capacity matches the latest Audi Q5’s, but both trail the Jaguar F-Pace by 100 litres. Still, the Mercedes gets a power tailgate and electronic remote releases for the folding rear seats, plus there’s more underfloor storage to tuck things out of sight.
Fold down the standard-fit 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats and you’ll reveal a 1,600 litre boot – which is identical to an X3. Storage is good, too, with plenty of cubbies and trays.
In our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the GLC finished 61st out of 100 cars, with some concerning feedback for buyers to reflect on. Plus points included a high-quality, well-styled interior, with decent interior space and a great stereo sytem. However, reliability was a key issue as was high levels of road noise and running costs, while a surprising 44% of owners had experienced a fault with their car – including engine, electrics and interior problems.
You’d expect a premium brand’s garages to rank well, but Mercedes dealerships only tend to place in the lower half of the Driver Power dealer survey. Again, Mercedes is fighting with BMW in a similar position, with both well behind rival premium brands such as Volvo and Jaguar, and especially Lexus, which is a frequent chart topper.
All GLCs get ESP with Dynamic Cornering Assist, Crosswind Assist and Collision Prevention Assist Plus. Of course, like many new cars there’s a host of airbags, seatbelt reminders and ABS brakes, while buyers can also spec Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot. This allows drivers a degree of autonomy – with the car able to accelerate, steer and brake of its own accord in busy motorway traffic.
Thanks to its arsenal of safety kit, the GLC earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating in 2015, while a 95 per cent score for adult occupant protection, and an 89 per cent score for child safety, mean the GLC is a very safe place to be.
Every GLC comes with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which is fairly average for the class, although some rivals put a mileage cap on their warranty coverage.
Mercedes GLC buyers can make a one-off payment to cover a list of service items, with servicing plans available from one year right up to four years.