The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 is an all-new small crossover utility vehicle. In addition to being redesigned for 2016, it has been renamed, having formerly been called the GLK.
The GLC is now more closely related to the C-Class sedan, built on that chassis, with a similar interior.
Indeed, the GLC feels like a wagon version of the C-Class sedan. It’s agile and responsive like a compact car, but with the high driving position. Its class includes the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
This latest GLC has the stance of an SUV, but it’s 5 inches longer and 2 inches taller than the previous version, with 2.2 inches more legroom in the rear, and more cargo space. In spite of being larger than before, it is 176 pounds lighter, breaking the under-two-ton barrier.
The 2016 GLC comes in two models, the rear-wheel-drive GLC 300 and all-wheel-drive GLC 300 4MATIC, each powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with direct injection, making 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The torque comes at a very low 1300 rpm, giving it early oomph like a diesel engine.
The engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, and with standard Dynamic Select there are five driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual, controlling the traction, steering, and suspension. The Eco mode is tuned to allow the car to coast farther, in the chase for fuel mileage. The Sport+ mode lowers the chassis on the springs nearly an inch.
The GLC300 ($39,875) and the GLC300 4MATIC ($41,875) offer many options, including five different wheel designs. We like the sound of 19-inch Himalaya Grey wheels with the Night Package. There’s an Off-Road Appearance Package that we’ll pass on. We want the real Off-Road Package with mechanical upgrades, only available in Europe. All models come with a long list of active and passive safety features.
Options include heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, head-up display, parking assist, Burmester concert-hall sound, and a scent stolen from the S-Class: a fragrancing system.
The GLC is soft and somewhat rounded, not boxy like its predecessor the GLK, and the front end is striking, by comparison. The Mercedes-Benz design direction is to homogenize its vehicles, not a bad thing if you get a touch of sedan styling with your SUV.
The cabin design is stunning, essentially the same as the sedan. It’s flowing, flamboyant, and graceful, with inlaid metallic bezels and soft-touch materials. The dash is strongly horizontal, with a wide center stack and a cluster of round vents, and with the standard 7-inch infotainment screen on top, doing Bluetooth and Frontbass. Navigation is an option.
We noticed a fair amount of wind noise.
We haven’t driven a GLC300 yet, but we did drive the European GLC250, same chassis, transmission and suspension, with a smaller engine making 30 less horsepower, which is still responsive and very smooth. We expect strong performance from the new turbo four, especially in the low/mid rpm ranges.
Handling is agile and responsive. The steering tracks well, is comfortably weighted, and centers nicely out of tight corners.
The 9-speed automatic shifts unobtrusively, although the timing varies a lot between Comfort and Sport modes, and if you forget to reset when you come out of Sport and into Comfort, it gets confused and lurches.
The 4MATIC all-wheel drive is split 45/55 front/rear distribution of power, during normal driving. It continuously and smoothly varies the torque split using a multi-disc clutch and planetary differential. Stability and traction are further enhanced as the brakes are applied at individual wheels.
We drove models with the optional air suspension. We have our doubts if it’s worth it, over the standard adjustable four-link front suspension with springs and upper wishbones, and a five-link rear axle, with its dynamic settings and a 60-millisecond reaction time to road changes. The air suspension controls body lean so well that there’s no suggestion that you might be pushing things with tire grip.
The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLC offers smooth styling, agile handling, a stunning cabin, and a beefy 2.0-liter turbo motor with 9-speed automatic transmission, for less than $40,000 with rear-wheel drive.