Mercedes-Benz GLC Review
"A comfortable and calming premium SUV"
Mercedes-Benz GLC review - front view, driving, blue, 2020

Mercedes-Benz GLC review: comfortable, calming, capable

  • Published 7 May 2020
  • 7 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

‘Hey Mercedes, what’s the best premium family SUV you can lease in 2020?’ The voice-activated Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) system might provide a slightly biased response to that question. It’s hardly going to say the Audi Q5 or BMW X3.

Following an update in 2019, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is better than ever. This vehicle is the taller, heavier and more practical SUV equivalent of the C-Class saloon and estate, but there are many reasons why it eclipses its platform-sharing siblings.

If nothing else, it's very... MercedesMercedes-Benz GLC review - rear view, driving, blue, 2020 Available to lease from £364 per month Lease Now

No car manufacturer builds more SUVs than Mercedes-Benz, with the GLC striking the middle ground. It sits between the smaller GLB and the plusher GLE, and comes in two versions. The standard GLC is the most sensible choice, with the GLC Coupe designed for people who want to spend more for less practicality.

On top of this there’s a GLC variant for all tastes, from the basic Sport to the bombastic AMG, plus an efficient plug-in hybrid. Read on for an unbiased opinion on whether this is the best family SUV of 2020.


Looks, tech and design

It isn’t pretty, but it’s certainly got presence. You’d struggle to spot the difference between a pre- and post-facelift GLC, but there’s a new bumper, reshaped headlights, new LED daytime running lights and a choice of four different front-end treatments. The GLC has got more grilles than your nearest Beefeater steak house.

You’ll also spot the new rear lights, a splash of additional chrome and some new alloy wheel designs. It all hangs together rather well, especially on the standard GLC, although there’s always a sense the GLC Coupe is trying to be something it isn’t. Which is to say, it isn’t really a coupe.

GLC Coupe is as elegant as cars of this type comeMercedes-Benz GLC review - Coupe rear view, 2020 Available to lease from £364 per month Lease Now

Pick the swoopier roofline and you lose 50 litres of luggage space, while gaining a higher loading lip and a raised boot floor. In fairness, Mercedes does a better job of styling sloped-roof SUVs than all its German competition; by comparison to say, the BMW X4, the GLC Coupe looks almost elegant. Almost.

Inside, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Initial impressions are great, helped in no small part by the impressive 10.25-inch touchscreen media display. The three-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel adds to the effect, while the materials used for the key touchpoints look and feel great. All models get heated seats, which is another bonus.

Unfortunately, some of the plastics feel a bit low-rent, while the high-gloss plastic finish of the Sport model is a magnet for scratches and fingerprints. You risky becoming one of those people that always has a microfibre cleaning cloth with them for previously unknown reasons.

Still, more discerning buyers opt for the AMG Line trim, which uses a more premium and less-likely-to-scratch open-pore oak finish paired with black leather upholstery. You also get a pair of AMG sports seats and a black roof liner to create a more sombre cabin.

Interior is packed with attractive techMercedes-Benz GLC review - interior, 2020 Available to lease from £364 per month Lease Now

Upgrading to the AMG Line Premium adds an impressive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 64-colour ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, a better audio system and a clever augmented reality (AR) overlay for the navigation. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although I think it’s a bit miserly to restrict this level of smartphone integration to the higher trim levels. I’d expect it to come as standard on a premium SUV costing upwards of £40,000.

Practically speaking, the GLC offers generous accommodation for four adults, although fitting the optional panoramic sunroof will restrict headroom, especially in the back. It’s also fair to say that the middle rear seat is best reserved for occasional use only.

The 550 litres of boot space is typical for a car of this size, but the cabin is loaded with useful storage areas and pockets. As mentioned earlier, the high boot lip means loading heavy items into the GLC Coupe can be a struggle.

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Driving

Perhaps disappointingly, air suspension is only standard on the AMG Line Premium and the full-fat AMG models – and unavailable, even as an option, on the other trim levels. When it’s fitted, it delivers the smooth and cosetting ride quality Mercedes-Benz is famous for.

It’s not that the other models are uncomfortable, but they lack the poise and precision of the air suspension, which comes into its own when dealing with potholes and cornering. Even so, you should avoid the dramatic 20- and 21-inch alloy wheels if you want to maximise comfort.

Comfort is key for standard modelsMercedes-Benz GLC review - side view, driving, blue, 2020 Available to lease from £364 per month Lease Now

All models come with Dynamic Select, which provides a choice of driving modes: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. My advice would be to stick it in Comfort and forget about it. Unless you opt for the bonkers AMG versions, this isn’t an SUV for hassling hot hatchbacks on a country lane.

Speaking of Mercedes’ performance division, the ferocious AMG GLC 63 and 63 S models are proper firecrackers. The 4.0-litre V8 in the 63 S develops 510hp to deliver a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds. The 63 delivers a ‘mere’ 476hp, while the 3.0-litre six-cylinder in the lesser GLC 43 AMG model offers 390hp.

AMG versions are ferociously fastMercedes-Benz GLC review - AMG, white, front view, driving, 2020 Available to lease from £364 per month Lease Now

What’s brilliant about any of these AMG versions is the Jekyll and Hyde nature of their driving characteristics. Take the G63 S. One minute it’s as docile as a dormouse, yet press the go-faster pedal and it’ll make lots of loud noises before the horizon starting coming towards you at an alarming rate. I’m not sure what’s in the water at the AMG factory, but it must be pretty potent.

And while all versions of the GLC are quick enough in a straight line, the AMG models have the ability to carry this pace through a corner – and out again at the other side. They are seriously impressive performance SUVs. Unsurprisingly, they don’t come cheap.

Or try: Our Jaguar F-Pace review


Cost and economy

You’re not going to lease a Mercedes-AMG GLC on a tight budget. Assuming you can afford the monthly cost, you’ll also need to factor in the fuel economy, which on paper might be over 21mpg, but in reality is likely to be significantly lower.

If economy is on your mind, may I recommend the GLC 300e plug-in hybrid? It offers an all-electric range of up to 30 miles, plus CO2 emissions of just 54g/km. The official 117.7mpg figure makes sense only if you plug-in whenever possible, however. If you can’t charge it often, you’re probably better off with a regular diesel model.

You like big boots?Mercedes-Benz GLC review - boot space, 2020 Available to lease from £364 per month Lease Now

For instance, the GLC 220d claims over 48mpg, which isn’t bad at all for a beast of this size. But it’s worth mentioning that this 2.0-litre diesel lacks the hushed refinement of the equivalent engines in the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. That said, it’s a vast improvement over the old 2.1-litre diesel Mercedes used to make us suffer with.

Should I lease a diesel or is it time to plug-in?


Verdict

The ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice recognition system is one of the best in the business. Tell it you’re cold and it’ll crank up the heating. Tell it you’re hungry and it’ll find the nearest restaurant. I suspect you can even tell it to heat your bottom, given heated seats are standard across the GLC range.

As for asking if the GLC is the best family SUV you can buy, I suspect you’ll be greeted with a pregnant pause, before receiving directions to Stranraer. Personally, I’m not sure it is the best, although Stranraer is a nice place.

The Audi Q5 is a better all-rounder, the BMW X3 is nicer to drive, the Land Rover Discovery Sport offers seating for seven, while the Skoda Kodiaq delivers better value for money. Which kind of leaves the GLC scrabbling for an endorsement.

There’s no doubt that the 2019 facelift has improved matters – and nobody does infotainment screens quite like Mercedes-Benz. And of course I understand the appeal of the three-pointed star.

Hey, the GLC isn’t the best premium family SUV you can buy. But if it’s the one you want it will do the job with style and panache, and there’s no shame in being a little indulgent after all.

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