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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class First Drive

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/16/2015 The Manufacturer, Christian Seabaugh

Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for overengineering its vehicles. For example, the E63 AMG S Wagon is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and reaching 186 mph, and yet most drivers will spend their days tooling around Beverly Hills at 2 mph. The G-Wagen was designed for military use and yet most civilians will never leave peaceful tarmac. As I found out in Switzerland, Germany, and France, the brand-new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class crossover is the latest in a long line of overengineered Mercedes vehicles.

Based on the new C-Class sedan, the 2016 GLC is bigger in just about every dimension than the GLK-Class that it replaces. Although it’s larger because of the extensive use of aluminum components, Mercedes says the GLC is more than 100 pounds lighter than the GLK. It’s more efficient too, thanks to a more aerodynamic (not to mention attractive) design, a standard nine-speed automatic transmission, and a wide variety of fuel-sipping four-cylinder powerplants. Though just one variant is available at launch, American GLC buyers will ultimately have three engines to choose from: the base GLC 300 and its 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 producing 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, the GLC 300d and its 2.1-liter turbodiesel I-4 producing 201 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid, which is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 and an electric motor good for 315 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque ( the European-spec GLC is shown here ). The gas-powered GLC 300 is available with rear- or all-wheel drive, but the other two models are all-wheel drive only. Like the related C-Class plug-in hybrid, the GLC 350e uses a seven-speed automatic transmission.

2016 Mercedes Benz Glc250d 4Matic Front Three Quarter 04© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz Glc250d 4Matic Front Three Quarter 04 I had a chance to spend some quality time with the GLC 250d 4Matic (badged as the GLC 300d in the U.S.) and the Euro-only GLC 250 4Matic, which has the same four-cylinder gas engine as the U.S.-spec GLC 300, but with 30 less horsepower. On the road, the GLC is as civilized as you’d expect a Mercedes-Benz to be. The cabin is quiet, the ride of our air-suspension-optioned testers was supple (steel springs will be standard), and the steering feedback is generally pretty good, if a bit lacking in outright feel. Between the gas and diesel versions, I preferred the diesel. The nine-speed automatic is paired perfectly with the low-revving diesel, with the Mercedes-designed transmission always ready to make the most of the low-revving engine’s powerband. The GLC 250d is clearly geared for city driving but was equally at home on the German autobahn. Merging onto an unrestricted section of the autobahn was no issue for the oil-burning Benz, and it quite happily passed slower traffic at 100 mph with the transmission in ninth gear and the engine humming along just under 2,000 rpm.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class First Drive

2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Rear Three Quarter In Motion 01© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Rear Three Quarter In Motion 01 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Front View In Motion 01© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Front View In Motion 01 The gas version is pretty good too. The turbo-four revs nicely without sounding thrashy and was plenty powerful around town. Americans will be well-served by the GLC 300’s extra 30 horsepower, as the GLC 250 runs out of steam quickly at freeways speeds more than 70 mph. With similar power outputs to the GLC 250d, there’s really no compelling reason to by a gas version in Europe. On a clear section of French highway, some fellow journalists and I did a side-by-side comparison of the gas and diesel versions, with an acceleration run from around 60 mph. The diesel easily pulled ahead a car length ahead of the gas version, and kept that distance until we shut down. The diesel’s extra torque really worked in its favor. Mercedes says its oil-burner can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds, and the gasser needs 7.3 seconds.

Like other recent Mercedes products, the GLC offers up a wide variety of drive modes. In Comfort, steering feel is light, the ride is supple, and the transmission seeks out higher gear ratios to maximize fuel economy. Sport mode is nice, too, firming the ride up (but not too much), eliminating roll, and giving the GLC’s helm sharper steering feedback. Eco and Sport + were a bit too soft and too hard for my liking, and so I found myself switching between the Comfort and Sport modes as-needed.

2018 Mercedes Benz Glc350e 4Matic Side Profile 01© Provided by MotorTrend 2018 Mercedes Benz Glc350e 4Matic Side Profile 01 I also had the opportunity to briefly sample the GLC 350e on a short 15-minute loop that meandered through a German town. While I’d like more time in the plug-in GLC, my short tryst left me impressed. The GLC 350e is designed to be not only efficient but also sporty. It’s capable of driving around 20 miles on battery power alone, can be charged from empty to full on a Level 2 charger in about two hours, and can still hustle from 0-62 mph in a Mercedes-estimated 5.9 seconds. In our hands, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it turn a 5.5-second 0-60 mph time.

As you’d expect, the plug-in GLC offers up a variety of extra driving modes, including an electric mode, a hybrid mode, and a charge mode that uses the engine to charge the battery while driving. The GLC 350e drives just as well as the gas and diesel versions, motoring along without drama on electricity, and seamlessly switching on the engine when needed. About the only appreciable difference between the plug-in and the other versions I drove is in brake feel. As we found in the C-Class plug-in hybrid, the GLC 350e’s transition from regenerative to mechanical braking is sloppy and non-linear.

2016 Mercedes Benz GLC Class 4Matic© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC Class 4Matic 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Cabin© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Cabin Although “99.99-percent” (according a Mercedes engineer) of GLC buyers will never venture off the pavement, off-road prowess was nonetheless something Mercedes took seriously with the GLC. It might not make any sense to Americans, but according to the engineers I spoke with, there’s an untapped market of hunters and outdoorsmen that live at the foot of the Alps who currently want to replace their Suzuki Jimnys and other small, non-luxury SUVs with another equally capable, but more much luxurious SUV. Weird, right? The GLC’s off-road capabilities exist for the same reason the King Ranch Ford F-150 exists.

As such, the GLC is completely over-engineered, especially in regards to off-road performance. Although lacking the mechanical locking diffs that models like the G-Class have, or the two-speed transfer case of the GLE, the GLC makes up for it with smart electronic tuning, an available air suspension, and a Europe-only (for now) off-road package. The off-road pack essentially adds U.S.-spec bumpers (which boast improved approach and departure angles) and another five dedicated off-road modes to the GLC’s computer systems. I had a chance to take a GLC 250d on a (Mercedes-designed) off-road course and came away pretty impressed. The GLC might look like it has no business being off-road, but it conquered everything from a 36-degree rocky climb, to sandy pits that’d pick a wheel off the ground, with little difficulty. A Jeep Cherokee or Renegade Trailhawk likely would have done the same trail without breaking a sweat, but I doubt any of the GLC’s competitors, save for the Evoque and maybe the Macan, would have been able to complete that off-road course as easily as the GLC did.

2016 Mercedes Benz GLC Class 4Matic© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC Class 4Matic As for the rest of the GLC, it’s a pretty compelling package. The interiors on our loaded test models were dead quiet and featured gorgeous wood or aluminum trim, supple leather, and comfortable seats. Passengers both front and back will enjoy the extra leg and shoulder room and trunk space compared with the GLK. Mercedes’ latest suite of safety technology, including everything from 360-degree cameras, radar cruise control, and a head-up display that is capable of reading road signs to you, is available on the GLC.

2016 Mercedes Benz GLC Class 4Matic© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC Class 4Matic With the GLA now covering the entry-lux crossover market for Mercedes-Benz, prices will creep upwards from the GLK. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 will start at $39,875 when it hits U.S. dealers this winter, and the all-wheel-drive version will cost $41,875. Neither pricing nor a timetable has officially been set for the GLC 300d 4Matic or GLC 350e 4Matic, but it’s a safe bet that the diesel will hit our shores in the winter of 2016 as a 2017 model with a starting price around $45,000. The GLC 350e is likely another year beyond that, coming here in 2017 as a 2018 model. Pricing for the plug-in hybrid will likely start around $50,000.

Although overengineering might not pay off for every vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is all the better for it. Capable of everything from cruising on electrons on the autobahn to venturing off-road, the GLC-Class will likely find favor with many buyers around the world. And with more versions slated to join the family, including a fastback-styled “coupe” and an AMG version, it’s easy to picture the extra engineering effort paying off.


2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
BASE PRICE$39,875-$50,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINES 2.0L/241-hp/273-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.1L/201-hp/369-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus electric motor; 315 hp/413 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSIONS 9-speed automatic; 7-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT3,850-4,450 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE113.1 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT183.3 x 74.4 x 64.5-66.3 in
0-62 MPH5.9-7.6 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECONNot yet rated
ON SALE IN U.S.Winter, 2015

2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Front Three Quarter In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Mercedes Benz GLC250 4Matic Front Three Quarter In Motion
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