Our first test drive of the new Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 ahead of its Australian launch shows the popular Benz continues to up the game.
The styling may look rather familiar, but the Mercedes-Benz GLC has been comprehensively re-engineered as Benz strives to emulate the success of the Mk2 GLC, which has racked up more than 2.6 million sales since its 2015 launch, making it the brand’s best-selling model worldwide.
So it’s a somewhat audacious move that Mercedes-Benz Australia is bringing just one version of the GLC to local showrooms with the GLC300. It will arrive early next year, and will no doubt offer many of the bells and whistles we’ve tested here overseas, although pricing and specifications are yet to be confirmed.
Key among the developments is the adoption of a more advanced version of the Modular Rear Architecture. As well as being 15 per cent stiffer, it affords the option of all-wheel steering and supports 48V electricals, providing the scope for a new range of engines and other functions, including more efficient energy recuperation.
A longer body, resulting in a larger cabin, complements the extra wheelbase length. Starting up front there’s plenty of storage bins, including a large split-opening central armrest cubby. The position of the gear selector on the steering wheel column also means the centre console features an additional compartment. Although, the piano black top is expansive and easily scratched. The rest of the interior’s build quality and choice of materials is very similar to that of the new C-Class, which is certainly no bad thing. It feels every inch the premium SUV inside.
The dash is dominated by an 12.3-inch touchscreen (again, the same as the C-Class) and in front of the driver there’s an 11.9-inch display. The MBUX infotainment system can look a little daunting at first with lots of information displayed at once, but stick with it because it’s one of the more intuitive systems on the market.
The new GLC can also be specified with a head-up display that can be tailored to show nine different layouts. What’s more impressive is the new optional “Transparent Bonnet”. It’s similar to Land Rover’s system and uses a 360-degree camera to display a virtual view underneath the front of the vehicle making off-roading easier (although the typical GLC buyer might find it more useful for kerb avoidance).
Passengers in the back will appreciate the extra leg and headroom over the old model – which doesn’t come at the cost of boot space. In fact, the new car has 70 litres more luggage room than its predecessor, at 620 litres with the rear seats up and 1680 litres with them folded down.
The GLC 300’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine makes 190kW and 400Nm and gets an added 17kW/200Nm from a 48V motor-generator on request, meaning a sharp 0-100km/h sprint in 6.2 seconds. As you’d expect, there are various driving modes that switch up the way the GLC drives, including Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.
In Sport mode the GLC’s steering, engine and suspension (with AIRMATIC, at least) all feel sportier. The steering gains some extra weight, the transmission is keener to hold onto gears and change down early, and the suspension firms up. There’s also fake engine noise that is ducted into the cabin – but don’t worry, it can be switched off.
The GLC has an added touch of directness to its lightly weighted electromechanical steering and greater resistance to body roll than before, giving you lots of confidence on more challenging roads. All-wheel steering (which can be had only along with air suspension) makes the GLC a more serious rival to the BMW X3 and Porsche Macan in pure dynamic terms than ever before. With up to 4.5deg of angle applied to the rear axle, the electrohydraulic system gives the car more sharpness and agility, while the 4Matic system ensures there’s also always plenty of front-end grip.
The result is a neutral-handling character that’s not only enjoyable but also highly dependable. The ride on the steel, multi-link suspension is excellent, the GLC dealing with imperfections with the soft-edged compliance that we’ve come to expect. However, the air suspension with variable dampers affords it even more control and comfort, always delivering strong shock absorption.
Among the refinement-boosting measures brought to the new GLC is the injection of foam into hollow sections of the body, and it’s this kind of attention to detail that makes it so impressive. This not only applies to its quality but its on-road behaviour, too. It exudes the well-engineered feel that every memorable Mercedes model through the years has done.
What’s more, when specified with the off-road package which brings an extra 50mm of ground clearance via the air suspension at up to 239mm, the GLC is outstandingly capable over rough terrain.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLC appears to have improved in every area over the old model. The GLC has class-leading technology on board and feels more premium, but perhaps most surprisingly, it drives as well as any of its rivals. This all bodes well for the incoming more powerful Mercedes-AMG variants.