Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV (2019 - ) review
The Mercedes GLC is a prestige compact SUV to rival the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque. It’s a cracking all-rounder and a very tempting ownership proposition.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The Mercedes GLC is a very compelling choice in the super-competitive prestige mid-size SUV market, because it provides all the things that are important to buyers, those being handsome looks, desirability, quality and practicality. It also delivers very polished driving manners and an impressive amount of luxury and safety kit. No wonder it’s become one of Merc’s best-selling cars.
- Interior is spacious and smart
- Generous on luxury and safety kit
- Good to drive
- Unsure how it’ll drive in standard form
- Complex infotainment system
- Question marks over reliability
Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz GLC Class?
How good does it look?
Style is the main reason people buy compact SUVs like the GLC, so it’s good news that the Mercedes is handsome enough to compete with either of its key rivals from Audi and BMW. The styling has all the rugged-yet-sophisticated appeal to match the Q5 and X3. Having said that, cars like the similarly priced Range Rover Evoque and Alfa Romeo Stelvio do offer a bit more glamour than any of the German alternatives. The standard Sport car has roof rails, privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, while the AMG Line car adds sportier body styling, 19-inch alloy wheels as standard and lowered suspension.
What's the interior like?
Climb into the GLC, and you’ll find a cabin that’s every bit as appealing as a big Mercedes should be. It’s trimmed with high-quality materials and thoughtfully finished surfaces, and even if you hunt around, you’ll struggle to find a single surface that lets the side down. It feels like a high-tech environment as well as a classy one, too, with a sharp, high-definition video screen on the dashboard, and another behind the steering wheel in the place of traditional dials.
Getting used to how everything works does take quite a bit of getting used to (not least because there are seven different methods by which you can operate the infotainment system including touchscreen, steering wheel controls, touchpad controller and voice control), but once you’re familiar with it all, it works reasonably intuitively.
There’s loads of adjustment in the steering wheel and driver’s seat to help you find a comfy driving position, but we hope that when we eventually get to try a UK-spec right-hand-drive model, the pedals aren’t as offset as they were in the left-handers we’ve driven. The thick rear pillars and small back window mean your over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t as clear as in some rivals, but it shouldn’t cause you too many problems.
How practical is it?
This is an area in which the GLC competes with its very best rivals. The generous boot is on a par with the Q5’s and X3’s for capacity, and the back seats fold virtually flat at the touch of a button when you need to carry bigger loads. The rear bench is more comfortable for two than three, due to the middle seat being hard, raised and positioned above a bulky transmission tunnel. But, if you only have two adults back there, both will enjoy generous head and legroom. The rest of the cabin is stuffed full of useful cubbies, and the door bins are helpfully shaped to take two big bottles in each side. Five seats are standard, and you can’t add a third row of seats like you can in rivals like the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but with insufficient space for them, that’s probably a good thing.
What's it like to drive?
The suspension you get on your GLC depends on which version of the car you go for. Sport cars come with the standard suspension, the AMG Line cars come with a lowered setup. We haven’t tried either on the current generation of GLC, but if the situation is the same as on the pre-facelift version (which it more-than-likely is), the lowered setup will jiggle and jostle you around in your seat more than some buyers would like.
Instead, we tried the current car on optional air suspension, which is a cost option on most versions (a pretty pricey one at that), and standard on the most powerful and expensive models. It’s really good, altering the firmness of the suspension according to whether you select a sporty driving mode or a more sedate one. You can certainly feel the difference, but in truth, the ride stays nice and comfy whichever mode you find yourself in. Exterior noises are also really well isolated, helping even further towards a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere inside the car.
The GLC handles really tidily, too. It’s super-grippy, the steering is weighty, responsive and reassuring and the body stays well controlled. You can feel the height of the car when you’re changing direction, and it does feel rather heavy when you’re braking, but overall, it still delivers a very polished driving experience.
How powerful is it?
The mainstream GLC models come with diesel engines, both Merc’s latest 2.0-litre four-cylinder units, but with 194 horsepower in the best-selling 220 d, and with 245 horsepower in the 300 d. We haven’t yet tried the 220 d, but there’s a lot to like about the 300 d. It’s generous power and muscle gives it a fair-old burst of pace when it’s required, but the best thing about it is that it’s so civilised. The engine is smooth, quiet and relaxed at all times, and it works really well with the smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox that comes as standard. The only petrol versions available are the super-powerful Mercedes-AMG versions, both of which have a twin-turbocharged V8. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether you pick the ‘standard’ version with its mere 476 horsepower, or the S version with its 510. Both are ludicrously fast and sound absolutely fantastic.
How much will it cost me?
Look at the purchase prices, and the GLC isn’t the cheapest option compared with a Q5 or X3, but it is competitive on price once you factor in the standard automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive system. It’s also generously equipped for the money you pay. Resale values should be as solid as those of its main premium competitors’, too, which will be an important factor in reducing whole-life running costs. The GLC’s published efficiency figures look to roughly be on a par with those of rivals, although if you’re nit-picking, its fuel economy looks to be a fraction behind. In terms of overall running costs, them, the GLC looks to be there-or-thereabouts with its main competitors.
How reliable is it?
In the 2019 JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study, Mercedes sat towards the bottom of the list in the manufacturer rankings, which could be cause for some concern. That said, the brand still placed higher than its main rivals in Audi, BMW and Jaguar, and the same has also been true in the same study over the last few years. Like other Mercedes models, the GLC comes with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which is a bit more generous than the industry average.
How safe is it?
Every GLC comes with seven airbags and stability control, but the standard safety roster also includes a system that detects fatigue in the driver and advises them to take a break, as well as another that applies the brakes automatically if an impending collision is detected and the driver takes no action. A whole host of other clever driver aids are also available from the options list. These include a head-up display, 360 degree parking camera, and a pack of bundled driver assistance systems that allow the car to pretty much drive itself given the right circumstances. The car has been crash tested by Euro NCAP, and it achieved the full five-star rating.
How much equipment do I get?
We’re yet to see detailed equipment specs for the latest GLC, but we have been given a brief overview of what each version will get. Sport models have voice control, heated front seats and parking assistance with reversing camera, while AMG Line adds the lowered suspension, beefier bodystyling and sports seats. AMG Line Premium adds a bigger instrument screen, ambient lighting, LED multibeam headlamps, smartphone integration and leather upholstery, while AMG Line Premium Plus models give you a panoramic sunroof, a stereo upgrade, keyless entry-and-go and memory seats. The AMG Line Premium Plus Ultimate gets air suspension and gesture control.
The GLC will appeal to anyone who’s looking for a prestige mid-size SUV (of which there are a great many), and especially to those looking for a comfortable, practical, sophisticated and posh-feeling option in the class. It’s a very worthy adversary to popular cars like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.