Coming off an underwhelming performance from a Ranger Rover Evoque, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC (great little crossover?) was an absolute dream to drive.
The Benz felt more lively with better power, better handling and a better ride than the Evoque, and while still pricey, it costs $4 grand less. Granted the Evoque is better looking than the staid, yet stately, Mercedes, but do you want looks or performance? Oh, and everything worked on the Mercedes in contrast with the Rover.
First, Mercedes considers the GLC a mid-size crossover and its 113.1-inch wheelbase would bear that out, but it’s modest in overall size, so looks and drives smaller than the wheelbase might indicate.
However, that stretched wheelbase gives this a well-controlled, luxurious ride, one of the best from a crossover or sport-ute that I’ve driven in the past year. Plus it handles like a sports coupe with precise steering and light overall feel. GLC weighs less than 4,000 lbs. There’s no body lean in tight turns and if this were a vehicle with less than 6.7 inches of ground clearance you’d be tempted to run it up to Road America for a few laps!
Power is excellent, smooth and full of torque. There’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 under the hood that generates 255 horses and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. The 9-speed automatic handles it well with only a hint of turbo lag and no lag as you accelerate after coasting around a tight corner.
Likewise, there are four drive modes, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. Comfort was near perfect, but Sport and Sport+ firmed up the wheel and boosted low-end power considerably. To be honest, it has been a while since I enjoyed driving a vehicle as much as the GLC.
Naturally braking is solid and there are more safety devices than I’ll likely be able to remember here. Standard are blind-spot assist, a rearview camera, crosswind stabilization, adaptive braking, and Attention Assist to protect you against dozing.
The metallic graphite gray (nearly black) test vehicle, and yes even gray paint costs $720 extra, was loaded with optional safety equipment. In fact, the crossover that started at a reasonable $45,495, went somewhat crazy with options, 18 in total.
For safety there were two major packages, driver assist and parking assist, running $1,700 and $1,290, respectively. With driver assist you get everything from driver and steering assist, to lane change and lane keeping, plus automatic braking and cross-traffic assist and evasive steering. Yes, we’re getting closer and closer to self-driving cars. But you are still fully in charge here if you want to be. These simply help you avoid fender benders along with more serious incidents.
The parking assist package adds parking sensors, and a 360-degree camera, something that’s becoming available on more vehicles these days.
Almost forgot to mention the test crossover came with 4Matic, Mercedes all-wheel-drive system that helped in some slippery weather with wet streets coated in leaves. The GLC feels quite sure-footed. This one added 20-inch tires, up from 18 which is standard. Those were fitted to 20-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels with black accents, adding $750 to the bottom line.
Inside, I was shocked by the stylishness of the Mercedes interior, expecting the usual all black with poorly marked controls. Nope, this baby rocked with dark cranberry red and black leather seats and door inserts. Trim is all brushed aluminum and the dash features gray contrasting stitching. That fancy interior costs $1,620 extra, but really livened up the crossover from its mundane gray exterior.
Another $350 added a gray textured material to the dash, console and door sills too.
I liked the wide infotainment and navigation screen, but it looks like someone superglued an iPad to the dash. I’d like to see such screens blended into the dash design better. In any case, it worked well and was easy to adjust. The big driver display ($750) was fine too, negating the need for a head-up display.
Mercedes puts all the climate controls on toggles across the dash, under the screen, so those were easy to access. The only real control drawback was a complex system to get at other driver information like the trip computer. A touchy touchpad on the console isn’t great for use while driving, and it was so touchy that occasionally when I brushed it with my winter coat’s sleeve it turned the radio on.
Seating is excellent with well-formed fitted seats that provide good lower back and hip support. Plus Mercedes wisely puts all seat controls on the door panels so you can access it quickly and simply. These seats also had power lumbar and lower cushion extenders, the latter being especially helpful to long-legged drivers or passengers. Every passenger commented on the cool seat controls and their ease of use.
Ironically for a luxury crossover, the heated seats do not also offer a cooling function here and there was no heated steering wheel. With 18 options, you’d think one might be a heated wheel.
But there was much more to like, from a flat-bottomed steering wheel to a stellar Burmester sound system. Of course that was $850 extra. Still, it sounded great, no doubt aided by the $150 extra dual-pane noise and heat-insulating side windows.
Overhead was a dual pane sunroof whose sun screens retracted to the center of the roof simultaneously once you pressed the overhead button. The panoramic roofs add $1,500.
And finally, for just $200 there was a wireless charging station for phones. Hoping these are standard in all vehicles soon. Let’s lose all those wires.
GLC’s interior is roomy too, at least for four adults. Head and legroom are generous in the rear seat and there’s a power hatch in back too. Plop the seats down and you have 56.5 cu.ft. of space, or a bit over 19 when the seats are up.
As for the other basics, well, I got 20.9 miles per gallon in about 70% city driving, while the EPA rates this at 21 mpg city and 28 highway. The GLC prefers premium fuel.
You can check out the stat box here for all the other add-ons, which sadly took the GLC from roughly $45 grand up to serious luxury territory at $60,575. I could live without a few of the goodies, like the AMG trim line package for $1,600, but if you’re going for prestige then why the heck not. A base rear-drive GLC starts at $43,495.
GLC is a peppy, luxurious, sporty crossover that is as much fun to drive as most sport sedans. Control your option envy and go for a better color and you’ll have a sweet ride that will haul you through any Wisconsin winter, or rip away from a stoplight, if you must.
FAST STATS: 2020 Mercedes Benz GLC 300 4Matic
Hits: Excellent power, handling, ride and AWD. Fun, luxurious, sporty crossover with dual sunroofs, comfy fitted heated seats, seat adjustments on the door panels, stellar audio, wide info screen, easy radio adjustments, toggles for climate controls, D-shaped wheel, power hatch, stylish interior, and 4 drive modes.
Misses: No heated wheel, no cooled seats, touchy touchpad on console, complex driver info and trip computer access.
Made in: Bremen, Germany
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 255 hp
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 3,977 lbs.
Wheelbase: 113.1 in.
Length: 183.3 in.
Cargo: 19.4-56.5 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
Tow: 3,500 lbs.
MPG: 20.9 (tested)
Base Price: $45,495 (includes delivery)
Graphite gray metallic paint, $720
AMG cranberry red/black leather, $1,620
Textured dash, upper door sills, $350
Pass. seat memory w/thigh support, $350
Panorama sun roof, $1,500
Off-road engineering package, $300
12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, $750
20-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels w/black accents, $750
Burmester surround sound system, $850
Heat/noise insulating side window glass, $150
Wireless charging, $200
Driver assist package (active driver assist, steering assist, lane change assist, lane keeping, blind spot assist, brake assist w/cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist, emergency stop assist, speed limit assist, route-based speed adaptation), $1,700
Parking assist package (active parking assist, surround view system, hands-free access), $1,290
Exterior lighting package (LED intelligent light system, adaptive high beams), $800
Multimedia package (MB navigation, augmented video, life traffic, speed limit assist), $1,250
Night package (high-gloss black elements, including front splitter, rear diffuser, grille trim, side mirrors, window trim and roof rails), $400
AMG line (body styling, brushed aluminum sport pedals w/rubber studs, AMG floormats, perforated front disc brakes and MB calipers), $1,600
Premium package (keyless start, SiriusXM radio, 64 color ambient lighting, illuminated door sills), $500
Test vehicle: $60,575
Sources: Mercedes Benz, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage