So that meant Mercedes-Benz was not able to play in the right-hand drive markets in this ever-growing segment with what has been their best-selling SUV to date. But that has just changed with the launch of the all new GLC, and I can tell you the vehicle they are offering is going to give the traditional premium players like BMW, with their X3, and Audi, with their Q5, something to really think about when it hits SA in October or November this year.
Although we don’t have the traditional frame of reference because we never got the previous generation car, the premium playground will no longer just be theirs, as the GLC marks a big step forward in terms of fuel efficiency, power output, safety and agility. And this is before you start adding the classleading optional extras that take the GLC to another level, especially off-road.
I will start here because I know not too many owners will go truly off-road in a GLC. But from what I’ve experienced, if you want to a GLC will go where no X3 or Q5 will go in my humble off-road opinion.
This privilege will not come as standard or for free. But if you go for the optional Air Body Control suspension offered over and above the standard Agility Control suspension with steel springs and a variable damping system, and add the Off-Road Engineering package and then Air Body Control offering five modes – Slippery, Trailer, Off-road, Incline and Rocking Assist – all available at a touch of a button.
But as said, although it can go off-road it is for on-road that most GLCs will be used. And here, once again, the GLC impresses with its level of dynamics mixed with decent real world on-road comfort, thanks to the Air Body Control suspension that offers pre-selected settings, such as Sport+, Sport, Comfort, Individual and Eco via the Dynamic Select driving dynamics programme.
With a Cd value of 0.31 and total aerodynamic drag of 0.794, the GLC sets a clear benchmark in the segment again, along with the added fact there is also a weight reduction of around 80kg’s, thanks to an intelligent mix of materials comprising aluminium and high- to ultra-high-strength steels. These aluminium components additionally reduce the weight of the chassis, which also benefits ride comfort due to the attendant reduction in unsprung masses.
“Our new GLC represents a further systematic step in the implementation of our successful SUV philosophy. It combines the ultimate in driving comfort with a sporty touch, impresses on the road and – more than ever – off it as well, and appeals to the eye with the new design and equipment line,” says Thomas Weber, member of the management board of Daimler AG and responsible for group research and Mercedes-Benz cars development.
The diesel and petrol models – we will be getting a 220 d, 250 d, 250 petrol and 300 petrol at the launch – they boast significant reductions of up to 19% in both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in comparison to the previous model, while at the same time improving performance with the same power output.
The GLC 250 d 4MATIC, for example, is said to now only consume 5.0 to 5.5 litres/100km and the fuel consumption numbers I saw on the launch drive would back this up if driven with a fair amount of restraint. And for the first time in this segment, with the GLC 350 e 4MATIC, Mercedes-Benz is offering a 235kW plug-in hybrid said to be good for only 2.6 litres/100km. I got to drive this model, which will only be available in SA in 2019, and quite honestly felt it was the pick. The instant urge provided by the electric motor that offers 34km of zero emission electric motoring was impressive.
As another first, you get a nine-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission that comes as standard for the GLC 220 d 4MATIC, GLC 250 d 4MATIC and GLC 250 4MATIC and this gearbox was silky smooth on the open road and adequate when selecting Sport+ and using the paddles located behind the steering wheel to hustle through the twisties.
I say adequate only because none of the models offered now really need lightning fast race type gear changes, as they are not exactly over the top powerful at the moment. This could prove to be an initial weakness against the 3.0 litre turbodiesel and 3.0 litre turbocharged offerings of the long established competition, but I am sure we will see the likes of a GLC 450 and of course an AMG model in time and they will benefit most from fast manual type shifting.
As with all hybrid models from Mercedes-Benz, the GLC 350 e 4MATIC is equipped with the latest version of the 7G-TRONIC PLUS, which has been specifically optimised in line with the needs of hybrid applications and also combines high driving dynamics with excellent drive comfort and superior efficiency. And as to be expected, safety is class leading and almost all driver assistance systems which are familiar from the C, E and S Class are available for the new GLC.
You get Collision Prevention Assist Plus, Crosswind Assist, Headlamp Assist and Attention Assist on board as standard. The Driving Assistance package Plus provides an even more comprehensive scope of active safety features, comprising Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop & Go Pilot, Pre-Safe Brake with pedestrian detection, Bas Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Pre-Safe Plus.
Simpler handling and a clearer view when manoeuvring in tight spaces or driving in dense city traffic is ensured by the 360 degree camera, which is able to show the vehicle and its surroundings from different perspectives, along with Active Parking Assist, which manoeuvres the vehicle fully automatically into detected parallel and end-on parking spaces. Now you also get Head-up Display (HUD). The HUD displays important information directly in the driver’s field of vision on the front windscreen, thus providing for clear legibility and less distraction from the road ahead to go with the usual plethora of airbags.
This new model also signals a marked upgrade for the interior. The new design idiom combines purity with dynamic sportiness and embodies a new interpretation of modern luxury. And as a bonus, a considerably more spacious interior awaits you and your luggage.
A key focus of the totally new interior design is the dashboard and the centre console with its flowing lines. Here a large, one-piece console panel performs a sweep below the semi-integrated media display from the centre air vents to the armrest. These clear-cut lines create a feeling of open space and establish a modern vibe and were a good place to spend a lot of time in.
And as is the case these days with all the premium manufacturers, if you have the extra cash to spend you can literally go crazy with the options available to you. So this will come as no surprise that you have an unprecedentedly and diverse range of equipment to configure your GLC just the way you want it.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC offers good looking and modern styling, impressive road manners, awesome off-road ability, all packaged into a premium package that is going to upset the competition. I must advise you that if you are in the market for a mid-size premium SUV wait for the Mercedes-Benz GLC.