“It’s a GLC, which replaced the GLK. It’s basically a lifted C-Class,” said my friend Aaron as the gray Mercedes-Benz pulled up in front of the showroom doors. Whatever it was, I wasn’t expecting to be wowed – another compact crossover, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, automatic transmission of many gears, and all-wheel drive. Check. After four days in the GLC, though, it was apparent that not all crossovers are created (entirely) equal.
[Mercedes-Benz wanted me to drive a GLC300 so badly that when I brought Euro Motorcars, the local dealership, a 27-year-old 560SEC for transmission work, they let me have one from their fleet of loaner cars.]
What Is It?
This is a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300. First introduced in 2016, it replaced the compact GLK crossover. Both vehicles are, as Aaron said, related to the C-class compact sedan. The GLC300 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 242 hp and 273 ft-lb of torque. The torque peak is at just 1,300 rpm, which means the “9G-Tronic” nine-speed automatic transmission shifts quite a bit to keep the crossover moving.
Mercedes claims the GLC300 can hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, a bit quicker than the Land Rover Discovery Sport that I tested earlier this year. Mercedes’ “4Matic” all-wheel drive system is optional, and was a part of my car’s options list.
How’s It Equipped?
My GLC300 came pretty well-equipped. Notable options included a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights and taillights, heated front seats, blind spot assist, Apple CarPlay and Burmeister audio. The car also had the “LED logo projectors” on the front doors, so whoever is nearby can be reminded that your Mercedes-Benz is a Mercedes-Benz when you get in at night. I found the projectors tacky, but they are a separate line item when ordering the car.
The Selenite Gray Metallic paint was a nice shade, if predictable. Paired with black MB Tex (vinyl) seats, the base 18″ wheels, and black “ash” wood trim, the GLC looked good if unremarkable. My loaner car had a MSRP somewhere around $50,000.
What’s It Like To Drive?
Turning the key (no “keyless go” here, it costs extra) produces the same mildly-clattery, quiet four-cylinder hum that every other compact crossover emits at idle. Mercedes-Benz, for all their prior accolades, hasn’t figured out how to make this car sound good. That said, it’s very quiet inside at idle and on the move.
And once you’re on the move, the GLC impresses. The turbocharged engine makes all its torque down low, and paired with a fairly well-calibrated electronic throttle, it steps off the line quickly with very little lag. The drivetrain is punchy around town and does well on the highway, although certain passing maneuvers revealed it to be a little out of breath given the gear it selected when downshifting.
The transmission is excellent, with crisp and smooth shifts. Paddles on the steering wheel allow you to choose a gear, but even in Sport+ mode, the car will upshift on its own if you really wail on it. Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive was imperceptible, but I was constantly amazed at how composed the chassis was as I tossed it around highway off-ramps and other sharp-ish turns. Mercedes equips all GLCs with “selective damping” – shock absorbers that use a magnetic fluid to firm up or soften based on driving style and road conditions. Clearly, they work well.
Visibility out the back is poor, with huge pillars blocking your sight. Thankfully, the backup camera provides an incredibly sharp picture for tight maneuvers. The window sills are also very high, which does not allow for easy access to drive-through ATMs or parking garage ticket machines. At 6’1″, I had to open the door and lean forward to reach the ATM when I stopped by my bank.
Forget the Driving Experience, Tell Me About the Rest
Burmeister provides their name for the upgraded audio system in the GLC300, and it is worth every penny of the $895 upcharge. The audio system in my loaner was phenomenal, with nice definition and quality even at higher volumes.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available for a $395 upcharge, but Mercedes’ latest “COMAND” infotainment system does not have a touchscreen. So, the phone-based systems are a bit of a pain to use. COMAND is also not super intuitive, though it is at least functional. I’d hope for a bit better font choice in the upcoming “MBUX” system – what looks more or less like Arial Narrow Italic is both hard to read and kind of a cop-out in my eyes.
The GLC had an odd quirk, in which it would remind me to take my keys… as I unlocked and entered the car to go for a drive. Weird.
Mercedes’ switchgear was largely pleasant to use, although the window buttons were very light and felt cheap, not fitting for a $50k vehicle. I appreciated the silver buttons next to each rear seat, which would fold the seatbacks for more cargo space. The power liftgate moved quickly.
As I mentioned in the Discovery Sport review, I’m not the target customer for a compact crossover. That said, I was impressed enough with the GLC300 that I had my parents sit in it before we parted ways at dinner mid-week. They currently have a Subaru Outback, and something like the GLC would be a nice upgrade, should they feel that urge later.
Ultimately, I was left wondering how the GLC’s C-Class sedan sibling drives, given Mercedes did such a nice job here. Were I in the market for a compact crossover, the GLC would be toward the top of my list.