► We drive the niche-plugging GLC Coupé on UK roads
► Best-selling 250d model, with 204bhp 2.1-litre 4cyl diesel
► A punchy £43,695 on the road, and hefty £53,425 as tested
Although we have already driven the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe in Europe, we were keen to try it out on UK blacktop to see if it could take our craggy and scarred roads in its stride.
We’ve opted for the 250d in AMG Line trim – expected to be the best seller in the range – and priced at £43,695.
The example we drove weighed in with an extra £9730 worth of extra kit including: the £1695 Driving Assistance package that adds an alphabet or two of safety acronyms into the mix; the £2795 Premium Plus suite of goodies including Comand Online, glass sunroof, Keyless-Go and Burmester audio system; and a raft of other top-end niceties including LED headlamps, shiny Designo paint, 360deg cameras and an integrated pot of pleasant-smelling air freshener. We could go on…
I get it – lots of gear and a smart German badge on the nose. But it’s still no looker, is it…
Well, if the word coupé still means a sleek and lissom two-door head-turner to you, then Mercedes-Benz’s GLC Coupé – and pretty much every other niche rival that seeks to plug a Rizla paper-thin gap in the SUV market – might leave you cold. Yes, its lowered roofline has been ‘cut’ compared to the straight-laced GLC, so it can, I suppose, legitimately call itself a coupé. Styling is subjective, so we’ll say the Mercedes-Benz is more than a little awkward on the eye, and leave it at that.
Things improve considerably when you climb aboard – the handsome cabin looks and feels solidly hewn from plastics, metals and leathers that major on tactility, and all the controls are intelligently configured. Rear passengers might not be so effusive in their praise, however. That sloping roofline restricts headroom, the fifth central passenger will hate their narrow perch, and it’s rather dark and sombre back there.
On paper, boot capacity is a decent 500 litres (just 50 litres less than the standard GLC) and this will rise to bike-swallowing 1400 litres when you toggle the buttons to release the seat backs to that they can fold flat. The reality, though, is that the loading lip is very high, and the boot space is bisected by a lockable floor that splits the loadbay cavity into two thin layers.
How does it fare on the road?
The ageing 2.1-litre four-pot under the bonnet provides decent step-off urge and usefully brisk in-gear acceleration, but my, for a glossy model from a premium brand, it’s woefully short of charisma and aural engagement. While the cabin remains well insulated from its lazy four-pot soundtrack at low revs – intergalactic gearing in ninth means fast motorway runs are a soothing and cocooned delight – extending the engine means having to endure a dull and uninspiring grumbling that’s difficult to reconcile with the car’s image and price tag. It’s a clanking powerplant that’s oddly out of step and character with the car’s status and projected dynamism.
Our test car came fitted with £1495 Air Body Control adaptable air suspension. You get the choice of Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, accessed by toggling a knurled chrome roller on the centre console. In Comfort setting the GLC Coupé does a fine job of wafting you along with a plump and cushioned ride quality that only abrupt intrusions and lateral ruts can disturb. The C setting also means very heavily assisted steering, an engine that takes its time when responding to throttle inputs and a transmission that’s mustard-keen to shift to ninth as quickly as possible. Perfect for trundling around town, then, but more than a little wallowy around corners.
Upgrading to Sport sharpens up everything nicely – although some might find the firmer ride a little too stiff-jointed – allowing you to spirit the car along with a precision and neatness that belies its generous dimensions and chunky 1845kg kerb weight.
Browse Mercedes GLC for sale
The this-means-business Sport Plus is best reserved when you’re on your own and running late for your chiropractor’s appointment. In this ultimate setting, the ride is uncompromisingly tough, crashing and skittering over anything but the smoothest of roads, and the nine-speed transmission jumps three or even four gears at the slightest hint of an axle flex. It’s all a bit too much all the time. Fortunately you can dial in your own choice of settings in the Individual mode – comfort ride married to mid-level engine, steering and transmission modes worked fine for us.
Hmm… bit of a mixed bag then. Anything else we should know about?
There were some unexpected issues that had us frowning: the surprisingly number of times the nine-speed transmission clunked and jolted between ratios rather than slipped and slurred; the judders that rocked the cabin as the all-wheel drive system wound up during low-speed parking manoeuvres; and the economy which never scaled the dizzy heights beyond 38mpg even when driven with a helium-filled right foot. Frustrating, when so many aspects – the brilliant Comand interface, the hushed and refined insulation from the outside world, the supremely comfortable and supportive seats and excellent driving position – are straight out the top-drawer.
If the sight of the GLC Coupe leaves you weak at the knees, and you’re prepared to pay the £3005 premium it commands over the standard GLC, then knock yourself – and your bank manager – out. You’ll be buying a car that, despite being seemingly hamstrung by a too many contradictory marketing goals, is a relatively comfortable and versatile runabout with a prestigious badge on its nose.
Our advice, for what it’s worth, is that if you want something interestingly leftfield in this sector and at the Mercedes-Benz’s price-point, then look at the Jaguar F-Pace (the 300bhp V6 diesel weighs in at £52k) and Porsche Macan (the 258bhp V6 diesel-powered S model is yours for £46k). They top our list of visually engaging, athletic and charismatic all-wheel drivers. Both are far more dynamic to drive, and arguably better looking than the awkward and ungainly GLC Coupe. Or, if that star-spangled grille is a must-have then you could, of course, opt for understated class over overt trendiness and get yourself behind the wheel of the brilliant new E-Class Estate.