Mercedes' GLC a thing of beauty
MERCEDES MAKES UP FOR PAST SHORTCOMINGS WITH NEW SUV
The luxury vehicle segment in New Zealand has always been a two-way fight between BMW and Audi — but not this year.
In 2015 Mercedes has stormed to the top of the sales charts, leaping over both the other Germans. Why?
While the magnificent new C-Class sedan will have made up a significant part of the reason, the big reason comes attached to three small letters — S, U and V.
In the past, Mercedes was caught short by the explosion of small and mid-size SUVs in New Zealand, leaving it standing in BMW and Audi’s metaphorical (and literal) dust as they made the most of the SUV boom.
But Mercedes came at the problem with typical German efficiency and diligently worked away at plugging literally every gap in its product range with some seriously convincing SUVs.
And now we have the final piece in the SUV puzzle and, it is safe to say, the biggest missing piece — a mid-size SUV.
Aimed squarely at the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the new GLC comes to New Zealand in three models, with a choice of three engines and two equipment levels.
The GLC 220d starts the range with a 125kW/400Nm 2.1-litre 4-cylinder diesel turbo engine and comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, park assist, power tailgate, electric mirrors and side steps, Artico upholstery, electric seats, Garmin navigation, keyless start, ambient lighting, collision prevention assist and blind spot warning. The GLC 220d costs $89,900 and comes standard with Mercedes’ 4matic AWD system and a 9G-tronic 9-speed automatic transmission, as do all GLCs sold in New Zealand at launch.
Photo / Damien O'Carroll
The GLC 250 is up next and adds 20-inch alloys, keyless entry, privacy glass and Mercedes’ full driver assist package to the GLC 220d’s spec. The GLC 250 is powered by a 155kW/300Nm 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol turbo engine and costs $94,900.
Rounding out the range is the GLC 250d that features the same standard equipment as the petrol GLC 250, but is powered by a 150kW/500Nm version of the 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel and costs $96,900.
Handsome and surprisingly elegant for an SUV, the GLC successfully takes current C-Class looks and scales it upward and inward (the GLC is 18cm taller and 4cm shorter than a C-Class Estate) to create a look that is distinct to the GLC, yet instantly recognisable as a Mercedes SUV.
Inside, the GLC is almost literally a C-Class, with an interior that is all-but indistinguishable from the sedan and estate. This is both a good thing — the C-Class interior is a thoroughly excellent thing of beauty — and a not-so-good thing, as it leaves the GLC without a distinct identity of its own from behind the wheel. This is hardly a huge downside, however, as the C-Class’s identity is a pretty special one to have.
On the road the GLC feels very much like a C-Class, albeit one that you sit significantly higher in. The higher centre of gravity has the expected effect on handling, which while remarkably sharp and car-like for an SUV, isn’t quite as sharp and precise as the C-Class.
The ride, on the other hand, is slightly more compliant and relaxing than a C-Class, with a remarkable ability to soak up some truly awful road surfaces and retain its composure, although this is also somewhat dependent on the size of the wheels fitted. Even with the larger wheels, however, the ride remains composed, with just a tiny amount of brittleness over some of the worst of the Victorian B-roads we drove on during the Melbourne-based launch event.
The two diesel engines are impressively torquey and frugal, the 250d being slightly smoother and quieter, with a more prominent mid-range shove under acceleration, although GLC 220d buyers are hardly missing out with the lower-output engine, an impressively strong unit for an entry-level engine.
The petrol-powered GLC 250 was our pick of the range, however, with strong, smooth power available across the rev range that was reminiscent of a 6-cylinder engine and a growling soundtrack to match.
Mercedes have pretty much taken the C-Class Estate and done everything required to make it into an SUV. And that is the beauty of the GLC; it is much more than just a C-Class Estate on stilts, yet every bit as compelling and convincing as a C-Class.
And just think: Mercedes managed to take the lead in the Kiwi luxury segment without this car in their range. You wouldn’t want to be BMW or Audi next year, would you?