► The GLC gets a facelift
► Not the V8 – that’s the AMG
► Tough competition
We never got the Mercedes-Benz GLK in right-hand drive format, so the UK’s first taste of a three-pointed compact SUV was the GLC of 2015. And very nice it was too – just as good as it needed to be to compete with the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, pleasingly premium and more than decent to drive. Not that exciting, but then what compact premium SUV is?
After four years on the market, though, it’s due a freshen up, so Mercedes has been back to the drawing board to give the GLC a bit of a spritz.
Doesn’t look that new…
In the best spirit of mild facelifts, not much has changed. Subtle changes have been made to the grille – of which there are four choices depending on your trim level – and front bumpers. Merc has also fitted reshaped headlights and LED daytime running lights, which are modelled after “a tiger, clawing its way down the road.” Sure, Mercedes. Sure.
There’s new lighting round the back, too, as well as some fresh alloy wheel designs and a bit of extra chrome. Inside, larger changes are afoot in line with the C-Class saloon – so the GLC gets a new 10.25-inch central display running Mercedes’ latest MBUX operating system.
Anything new under the bonnet?
Gone is the 2.1-litre turbodiesel – described by the kind as ‘venerable’ and the not-so-kind as ‘ancient’ and in its place is a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, available in GLC 220 d and 300 d forms. The petrol has been updated too – it’s another 2.0-litre four-cylinder, badged as GLC 300 and available later this year. The GLC is now four-cylinder only unless you opt for one of the V8 AMG models – which we’ll cover separately, as they’re totally different beasts.
The new diesel’s likely to make up the bulk of the sales in the UK – the 300 d we drove produces 242bhp and 369lb ft. It’s paired to the same automatic gearbox and 4Matic four-wheel drive as the rest of the range. Headline figures are a decent 39.2mpg and 157g/km – though if you’re choosing a company car you’ll be better off with the 137g/km 220 d.
The unrefined and metallic diesel rumble that characterised the 2.1-litre hasn’t been entirely stamped out with the new 2.0. It’s a bit vocal at low revs – definitely more grumbly than the equivalent units you’d get in an Audi Q5 or BMW X3. There’s enough poke, though, with 0-62 taking around 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 145mph.
The nine-speed ‘box shifts quickly and smoothly, and if pressed into service the steering wheel-mounted paddles let you row up and down the ratios with ease. But for the diesel, at least, it’s best to leave the gearbox to its own devices, where it’ll ride the wave of torque best.
There’s more choice of suspension than of engines…
Yes there is. You can choose from four suspension setups; three on coil springs, and one on air. Base Sport models are ‘Comfort’ tuned, while AMG Line and above get Sport tuning. Above that, you can select optional adaptive dampers or full air suspension.
None of these actually make the GLC a particularly inviting steer. There’s plenty of grip and the steering’s accurate, but it’s either too light in Comfort mode or artificially heavy in Sport. It tolerates being thrown around, rather than encouraging it.
The GLC’s at its best at a cruise, where the engine settles down and you can enjoy marvellous refinement. Wind, road and engine noise near enough disappear, and the bumpy low-speed ride disappears.
One point to note is the optional off-road package, which gives the GLC more capability on the rough stuff than most will ever need. It’s no Land Rover Discovery Sport, though – confirmed when the Mercedes representative next to us steered us away from the more taxing parts of the ADAC off-road course in Germany.
The GLC is the perfect size for a family runabout, without being big enough to cause problems in town centres or tight parking spaces. It’s no S-Class in the rear, but a six-foot adult can sit behind another six-footer with no issue. The boot is large, wide and flat too.
Obviously, if you want seven seats you’ll need to size up a class to the GLE, or opt for a seven-seat competitor such as the Discovery Sport.
What about that facelifted interior?
It’s very C-Class in here, which has good and bad points. The seats are the usual love-them-or-hate-them rock-solid Mercedes offerings – not exactly cushy, but superbly supportive. We couldn’t really set them low enough for our liking, though, and the pedal box is a bit cramped and claustrophobic for those with long legs or big feet.
Build quality is a mixed bag too, and there are areas that feel built to last sharing dashboard real estate with scratchy, hollow-sounding plastics. Opting for piano black interior trim also virtually guarantees scratches and scrapes, too.
At least the new screen (or screens, if you go for the 12.3-inch digital dial pack) are excellent – crisp, clear, and easy to read. Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment software is far better than its predecessor, too, even if the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant is a bit of a gimmick.
When it comes to speccing a GLC, all you need to remember is that the more words the trim level has, the better. The range kicks off at £39,420 and runs Sport, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus and AMG Line Premium Plus Ultimate, and if you can’t commit that to memory we’ll be disappointed. Our preferred 300 d starts from £47,045.
Mercedes-Benz GLC: verdict
It’s hard to get excited about cooking models of the Mercedes GLC, especially when the ballistic V8 AMGs are glaring at you from across the showroom. When it comes to practical, premium family transport, though, there’s plenty to recommend the 300 d model – a strong blend of easy driving manners, comfort and space plus the allure of the 3-pointed star.
A Jaguar F-Pace will provide more enjoyment, a Discovery Sport more practicality and an Audi Q5 is arguably a more complete package. But none are so far ahead of the GLC that they’re worth discounting it for.