2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC review, first-drive - finetuned to perfection?
The Mercedes-Benz GLC is the brand's strongest-selling model globally, even in India it is their most successful SUV, and the latest generation is now available in India. It continues to have the same attributes as before but also injects a healthy dose of new and innovative ideas that enhance its appeal. I can't exactly recollect just how good the previous generation GLC was, since it has been a very, very long time since we last drove it. It's been almost a decade since the previous-gen SUV was introduced to India. The GLC has been a runaway success for Mercedes, so there really wasn't a need to get in an all-new GLC. Now however with stronger demand for something fresh, and with the competition coming up with refreshed models in the same segment, the GLC has upped its game.
EXTERIOR STYLING AND DESIGN
The basic silhouette is still very familiar, the lines continue to stay the same as do the curves and the softer touches around the edges. It's a well-chiselled SUV, that has a strong stance accentuated by its meaty flanks and a high riding stance. The interesting bit is that there are certain colour shades that give the GLC a sophisticated appearance, and other shades that lend it a hint of sportiness without actually changing any elements. So the Mojave Silver shade we drove, much like the white and the grey I presume, have a very sleek but subtle appearance. This shade clearly accentuates the 600mm increase in length. The other Nautica Blue coloured GLC has a more vibrant and agile appeal to it, which also highlights the musculature. You can see the GLC's muscular bulges and its strong lines better on the blue. I did like the silver better though.
The front end is a bit of a miss to me. The vertically slatted grille with the vented horizontal slat stretching out from the M-B logo sitting in the centre of that grille is a good-looking design element, it just does not sit well on the GLC though. I'm just glad Mercedes haven't resorted to putting on big ugly faces on their vehicles that scream for attention. And, viewed from certain angles the GLC, in totality, has this old-school charm and a polished demeanour, typical of most Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. The wheelbase has grown longer by 15mm and the 19" alloys and tyres add some height to the package further complementing its stately stance without increasing its height.
Chrome continues to make a significant contribution to Mercedes's design. The grille surround as well as the intake on the lower lip of the front bumper has a large chrome surround as does the remodelled rear end which also sports a chromed element that envelops the dual exhaust tips, also accentuated in chrome.
A significantly remodelled interior makes this a very calm, premium and slicker cabin than ever before. The dashboard though as chunky as before tries to minimize mechanical elements on it. There are fewer buttons, and the ones that are visible are smaller and less clunky. I liked the wood trim panelling on the dash that cascades from the top of the dash elegantly. The long, broadly spaced lines on this panelling lend a very stylish appearance to the GLC as do the simple, bezel within a bezel-styled air-con vents. The GLC continues to offer the 5-vents for the front passengers system which works quite well in spreading the airflow through the entire cabin. Mercedes have now also added an air-filtration system that filters out PM2.5 particles and other harmful noxious fumes, so this should come as a bit of cheer, especially for those customers in the NCR. It cannot be retrofitted onto other cars in the M-B field, but whatever comes henceforth from the carmaker can have this feature included.
The cabin also gets the same large 11.9-inch infotainment display as seen on other newer M-B models, placed at the same 6-degree angle as the dashboard. It has the same intuitive feeling of operation and with simple menus, clear iconography and large text is easy to read and operate. This system is also the first SUV in the M-B portfolio to offer the enhanced and latest NTG7 telematics. The instrument panel behind the steering wheel carries forward the high-definition tablet-like feel seen in Mercs and it offers a vast array of readouts and information that can be accessed from the controls on the steering wheel. The centre console has a carbon-finished veneer that is now standard across all trims and variants of the GLC and it looks good.
A benefit the extended wheelbase and length brings to the cabin is the increase in seating space as well as a larger boot that adds 70 litres taking the overall volume to 620 litres. So passengers in the rear seats get better knee room, though if you have a taller driver, then knee room for the passenger behind can get significantly compromised. There's adequate headroom and enough space for four occupants. A high transmission tunnel and the large centre console that also doubles up as a storage bin under the armrests and houses the air-con vents for the rear passengers can impede space for a fifth passenger. The seats on the whole are comfortable and supportive, so long distances in the GLC would be a breeze. Of course, you also get seat kinematics for the driver and passenger seats that further provide dynamic support, and those seats can be controlled a million ways electronically! It's a cosy cabin overall, and some state-of-the-art features make it a better experience than the previous generation car.
The new GLC has two engine options available for India petrol and diesel. Both engines are 2.0-litre turbocharged units and both integrate a 48V electric architecture including the starter generator. Both options now come with an all-wheel drive architecture as standard, and 4MATIC also gets its own sub-menu on the infotainment screen from where you can see some interesting information, one of them being the transparent bonnet feature, we will come to that.
The variant we didn't drive was the 220d 4MATIC, this is the OM 654 M diesel which had the distinction of being the first diesel engine to have an integrated starter generator. So you get a genuine mild hybrid effect in the GLC, which means better efficiency throughout and a bump in power when needed. So you then get 197 horsepower with the diesel, but that can get bumped up by an additional 23 horses with the ISG. Peak torque is rated at 440Nm with an additional 200Nm in reserve.
I drove the 2.0-litre petrol which displaces 1999cc and can generate 258 horsepower with 400Nm of torque. The ISG system can bump that up by an additional 23 horsepower and 200Nm. These are very healthy figures for an SUV in this segment and they make the GLC a very quick car. 0-100kmph is a claimed 6 seconds! And it does feel quick, punchy even, rolling off smoothly but rapidly enough to knock your head back into the headrests. More impressive, is its refinement. This is a super quiet engine, and if you want almost electric-like levels of quietness when cruising, and similar levels of acceleration with some good old-fashioned engine noise, this is the SUV for you.
Both engines come matched with the 9-speed DSG, and it's superbly quick, responsive and best left in sport mode.
I did say the GLC 300 4MATIC was quick. It also rides like a Mercedes should, soft with a firm hand on things when needed. This new suspension architecture uses a 4-link setup at the front with a multi-link suspension system mounted on a subframe at the rear. No electronic damping on this one, though would Mercedes India offer the optional AIRMATIC suspension that will only be clear at the time of launch? Ride quality is impressive as is handling, it is well-planted at high speeds and agile around corners with fairly positive steering. The GLC comes with rear-wheel steer, the steering angle at the rear axle is up to 4.5 degrees and this brings down the turning circle to 11 metres. Some of that agility is also down to the rear wheel steer effect. The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system will take you far, though the side steps can be a bit of a hindrance. They are a boon to stepping up into the cabin which sits well over 300mm from the ground (GC is just a little over 200mm) but can be a hindrance when navigating through the rough stuff.
The off-road mode has a fantastic transparent bonnet feature that is handy in both urban and outdoor landscapes. It uses the front camera and powerful computing to create a 2D image of the ground 3-4 metres ahead of the front bumper and then projects it as an underbody image. This shows you exactly the terrain you are driving over and gives a better overview of any obstacles that need to be avoided. In the future I hope Mercedes can use the other sensors in the front end to also indicate the height of some of the objects that may lie ahead of the vehicle, so you know if you can drive over small rocks or if they need to be avoided.
There's lots of new stuff that the GLC comes with, some very apparent, like the stunning infotainment system, the carbon fibre veneer on the centre console, the multi-zone climate control with the air purifier system, one-touch seats, a more advanced connected technology set attuned for Indian conditions and more. Then there are the others that work in the background like the advanced driver assistance systems which even though just a Level 1 suite of features, is a robust safety enhancement.
I especially loved the interiors. They are soothing, calm, and elegant, and my favourite is the striped veneer on the dashboard, a very classy touch that one! Mercedes could have done better, and added in more features, but overall this is a good enough package. While I do think every car in India must come with ventilated seats, and the GLC not having it is a big miss, Merc's massage functions at this price point don't really matter to those asking why it isn't offered.
The GLC is a significantly more accomplished SUV than ever before. I'm not too enamoured by the way it looks on the outside, but for someone looking for great value in a premium badge, the GLC comes close to delivering everything you'd need. Demand will probably outstrip supply, there s a global crunch even for the GLC, so if you are looking for an SUV in this space and particularly the GLC, you might do well if you book early.
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