Mercedes-Benz GLC worth the wait
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MERCEDES HAS GOT IT RIGHT WITH THIS PREMIUM SUV-WAGON CROSSOVER
Full marks to Mercedes-Benz for pioneering the premium-crossover segment: the ML of 1997 was arguably the first such model on the market and proved the catalyst for an entire family of models.
But points off for failing to follow through in some crucial areas. In 2008, when it came to creating a medium-sized model called GLK to join the large ML and even larger GL in its SUV range, Mercedes-Benz decided to stick to its core left-hand-drive markets and never thought about engineering its newcomer for right-hand drive.
Worse, some packaging idiosyncrasies meant that the GLK couldn’t be reverse-engineered to put the wheel on the other side. That must have been a see-me-after-class moment at Stuttgart R&D.
Mercedes-Benz isn’t making the same mistake with its GLK replacement, the GLC. There’s a new name and whole new attitude — especially in New Zealand, where a medium-sized SUV could be just the thing to help the Three-Pointed Star achieve its ambition of being the number one premium brand in the country next year.
Where else could you drive across three countries in 30 minutes with very little effort? It’s the kind of pseudo-adventuring these vehicles are made for.
So the new GLC is the SUV version of the C-class and aligns with that model in engine specification and equipment.
But unlike the C-class, all GLC models have a new nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic four-wheel drive. Mercedes-Benz says it’s unlikely there will be a rear-drive GLC in the short term.
Even the entry-level model gets 19-inch wheels, pushbutton start, power tailgate, intelligent LED lights, satellite navigation, power-operated seats and a 360-degree camera. The GLC 250 models add 20-inch alloys, keyless entry, leather upholstery, privacy glass and Driver Assistance Package Plus, which includes Mercedes-Benz’s brilliant adaptive cruise control and steering assistance technology.
It’s harder to place the entry GLC 220d, but with the C 200d estate at $76,400 the new SUV should sit in the $80k bracket.
The 220d is surprisingly sprightly given its price-leading status: 400Nm is still a generous dollop of torque for a mid-size SUV and the nine-speed gearbox shifts adeptly. The diesel can be gruff once the revolutions rise, but with such a slick transmission there’s no need to work it beyond peak torque at 2800rpm.
The final word on the GLC’s handling will have to wait until a drive closer to home, as every launch car was fitted with the optional Air Body Control suspension, adding even more adjustability over the standard (yet still adaptive) Agility Control.
Mercedes-Benz did use Air Body Control to showcase the GLC’s considerable off-road ability when equipped with the optional Off-Road Engineering package. Few are likely to take their GLCs off the beaten track: but it helps with crossover credibility to know you can.
Those three GLC models will be launched here in December, but there are more to come.
Mercedes-Benz is up to its old tricks with the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid, which is only available in left-hand drive at this stage. The wisdom of that decision remains to be seen: it will never be a big seller, but it does give the GLC range a green hero model.
There’s also a GLC coupe on the way to rival BMW’s X4.