Mercedes-Benz GLC: Steady as she goes
CASTING LEADFOOT TENDENCIES ASIDE, WE RESEARCH THRIFTY DRIVING TIPS
It’s something I freely admit I’m bad at — driving efficiently. I’m often clocking way above the recommended manufacturer figure in my test cars.
Sure I’m impatient, with no time for proficient driving, and yes I often treat the motorway onramp lights as a 0-100km test for my vehicles.
So I decided I’d attempt to meet the fuel efficiency figure with my long-term loaner Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Launched last September, there are three models in the range: two diesel versions, the 2.1-litre 220d (with 125kW of power and 400Nm of torque) and the 150kW/500Nm 250d; plus my vehicle, the 250 petrol with a 2-litre, four cylinder turbocharged engine, producing 155kW/350Nm.
Prices start from $89,900 for the 220d while the petrol has the price tag of $94,900.
My long-term loaner was specced up to include a $990 black metallic paint; the $2990 Command Package (including the Burmester surround sound system) and the $3900 Vision package (with a panoramic glass sunroof), giving it a total cost of $102,870.
The GLC sits on 20in, which help give it a strong presence on the road, and has Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic permanent all-wheel-drive system, paired with the nine-speed auto transmission.
The 250 had the combined fuel consumption figure of 7.2 litres per 100km, but during the majority of my time in the GLC I was hitting double figures.
But there were some plausible reasons for my high figures; during the humid summer I needed the air conditioning on full blast on the “Arctic winter” setting whenever I drove; I spent the majority of my three-plus months in the GLC in city driving, so was in stop-start traffic. Okay, and truth be told, I’m just a leadfoot.
So in an attempt to reduce my average figure, I attempted a few economic driving road trips after researching tips on how to drive effectively (see below).
The GLC weighs 1735kg and is 4656mm long, 1890mm wide and 1639mm high, so it’s not a small vehicle, competing alongside Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3.
Trip one was to Piha Beach travelling along suburban roads with 50km/h limits as well as open road speed limits before returning home on the motorway.
Air conditioning was turned off, windows were wound down, and I accelerated slowly, instead of my usual launch mode.
I kept to the speed limit on Scenic Drive and, turning off to Piha, I went at least 20km below the limit thanks to a slow driver holding up traffic.
Now the fuel-inefficient me would have attempted to overtake as soon as possible, but instead I took lots of deep breaths and gained more respect for Piha locals who would have to cope with slow-poke tourists during their commutes.
On the hill descent to the beach, I let the car’s momentum do the work.
Added to the 60km/h average speed to the beach, this saw my fuel figure drop from the average of 10.5 to 9.2 litres. Not great but better than I had accomplished in previous weeks. By the time I arrived home — road works limited motorway speed to below 80km/h — I was down to 8.9 litres. The next trial was a return day trip to Hamilton. Following the tips, I had air con off and, instead of cruise control, I used Distronic-Plus as often as I could.
Distronic-Plus is like semi-autonomous driving, keeping a set distance between me and the vehicle ahead plus speeding up and slowing down depending on the traffic. It’s an amazing feature and, with the increase-decrease of speed, my figures increased from 9.2 to 9.8 litres.
The following week I continued my thrifty techniques, mainly by engaging a more Zen approach to driving than engaging the accelerator and, success, I began to average 7.9 litres. Hey, I wasn’t going to win any economy run competitions but for me, it was impressive.
Pedal off the metal
1. Accelerate gently: The harder you accelerate, the more fuel you use, so ease on to the accelerator pedal gently and gradually. Take five seconds to go from stop to 20km/h. A good tip is to imagine there is an egg under the gas pedal and an open coffee cup on the dashboard. Don’t break the egg or spill the coffee.
2. Maintain a steady speed: Keep your pace even and don’t have sudden bursts on the gas.
3. Anticipate traffic: Plan manoeuvres in advance to maintain your vehicle’s momentum. Look well ahead and read the road conditions, such as cars suddenly applying their brakes or traffic lights about to turn orange. Keep a sensible following distance between you and the vehicle in front so you don’t have to brake suddenly.
4. Avoid high speeds: Most vehicles operate most fuel efficiently between 50-80km/h. If you go above this, you’ll use more fuel.
5. Coast to decelerate: Instead of stomping on the brakes to stop, by anticipating the traffic slowing down (ie approaching traffic lights/pedestrian crossing/intersections) you can decrease your speed to slow down and take your foot off the gas.