Mercedes-Benz has been on a very strong product offensive in the Indian market and their portfolio consists of a wide array of cars from different segments. Their line-up was lacking a mid-size SUV which would compete with the likes of the BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and Audi Q5. Now the Stuttgart-based automaker is bringing down the GLC to India to fill that void. We drive this SUV in South India and here’s how it fares.
STYLE AND DESIGN ;
The new GLC is a C-Class equivalent in the SUVs. On the outside, the front has a strong presence as it resembles the GLS-Class to a good extent. The radiator has two louvres with the three point star, Avant-garde style. There are large air intakes on the front bumper with under ride guard in silver chrome. Headlamps come with Intelligent Light System and of course these are LEDs. The silhouette has a five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels. Then the aluminium look running boards with rubber studs. The tail lamps to my surprise were sleek and the rear was curve than boxy, which is the thing with the GLE and the GLS. This the Edition 1, so it gets exterior chrome package with roof rails, belittling trim strips and even window weather strip that comes in polished aluminium. The GLC has more crossover look than SUV. Look closely and you will see the design characteristics of the GLA and the GLE from different angles.
CABIN AND COMFORT ;
Once you get seated in the GLC, you can relate to its similarity with the cabin of the C-Class. You get the same dashboard, door pads, buttons, steering and a tablet style floating screen among others. Everything inside the cabin is built with quality materials and emanates a sense of sophistication this segment has come to offer. Visibility from the driver’s seat is fairly good and the seats have lots of contours especially on the backrest. They offer intimate support along with electrically adjustable thigh support, but could have had better lateral support for those spirited twisted road encounters. Long drives on these seats should be dismissed without a complaint. There’s plenty of storage space for your knick-knacks and belongings in the centre console and in the door pads too.
At the rear of the GLC’s cabin, there’s enough space and legroom for three occupants. However, the tall protruding transmission tunnel does tend to fiddle with the middle passenger’s legs. Also, occupants seated in the rear portion will enjoy the supportive seats that offer a nice rake angle for the backrest. That said, the seat base could have been designed with a little extra thigh support that helps on longer journeys. There’s no doubt that passengers in the GLC will feel roomy and it also has more to do with the spare headroom that has been liberated through the interior cabin design.That said, don’t expect much boot space as the spare wheel sits right in the middle at the regular luggage height. This means that the only way one can pack the boot to the gills is to make use of the 60:40:60 folding rear seats in one of the available configurations. However, that’s only if you don’t have enough occupants on that trip. What makes things slightly easier though is the reasonably flat loading space once the seats flip over.
Standard on the ‘Edition One’ version of the GLC will be features like panoramic sunroof, parking assist with reversing camera, powered tail gate, 4MATIC (permanent four-wheel-drive), an instrument cluster with a 5.5-inch multi-function display. Also available is three-zone climate control, electric front seats, LED intelligent light system with cornering lights, ambient lighting, adaptive brake lights and seven airbags. You also get an audio player with a high-res seven-inch multimedia colour display, a touchpad with an integrated media interface. There’s also a Bluetooth interface which includes hands-free telephony and audio streaming
ENGINE AND GEARBOX ;
In the not-too-distant past, a ‘300’ badge would have suggested a 3.0-litre engine, but this motor is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol unit pushing out a V6-like 245hp and 370Nm of torque, which seems more than adequate for a 1,871kg car, especially since it’s mated to Mercedes’ latest gearbox. In place of the old 7G-Tronic is a nine-speed torque-converter automatic with the extra ratios here for better overall performance and economy.
The gearbox does its job beautifully. In ‘Comfort’ mode, it behaves like the quintessential Mercedes unit. It is smooth and jerk-free and the fact that it has nine speeds means there are smaller gaps between ratios and this helps make the transition between gears fairly seamless. That’s not the case when you toggle the Drive selector into the most aggressive Sport+ mode where there’s a distinct thud between shifts when you accelerate hard. The GLC 300 comes with five different driving modes – Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual – which alter the steering, throttle and transmission parameters. The suspension, however, which sits on steel springs, cannot be altered.
The GLC’s petrol motor has a pretty wide powerband and delivers its grunt quite progressively. There isn’t much turbo lag, but from low revs, there’s not much oomph either and instead, just a nice, gradual build-up of power with the engine really getting into its stride after 3,500rpm. Keep the pedal pinned and you can feel the GLC accelerate hard in a linear and progressive way, with no let up till the 6,500rpm redline. In fact, the action is concentrated between 4,000 and 6,500rpm which tempts us to constantly use Sport and Sport+ which gamely hang onto each gear until the redline. Downshifting from high revs via the paddles provides a great degree of control and on a twisty road, you really feel like you’re driving a manual.
The GLC 300 despatches 100kph in a brisk 7.5 seconds, which makes it faster than its four-cylinder diesel rivals. However, in the real world, especially when you want to make a quick and easy overtaking manoeuvre, you miss the kick of a strong turbo-diesel, which the GLC, with a relatively weak mid-range, certainly lacks. Part-throttle response is pretty good, though, which makes the GLC 300 easy to drive and live with
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
Thanks to the fluid action of the quick steering, the GLC glides through the bends and apart from body roll in tighter corners it displays safe and predictable manners. It feels best when you encounter fast sweeping turns, where the accurate steering and exceptional grip from the 235 section Pirelli rubber gives you loads of confidence. Sure it’s not as fun as the BMW X3 but on its own the GLC is not too bad. The GLC also comes with three rough road modes (Slippery, Incline and Off-Road). Although these modes make it more capable, the GLC is still best suited for the occasional mild off-roading considering its clearance and road oriented design and tyres.
The GLC is suspended by an independent multi-link suspension all-round and it sits on steel springs. Mercedes has tuned the suspension on the softer side so low speed ride is really good with the GLC being absorbent over biggest of potholes. The odd sharp-edged bump does catch it out though as the suspension runs out of travel. At higher speeds there is a fair bit of up and down motion especially at the rear but it never gets to point of being unbearable.
SAFETY AND BRAKING ;
The Mercedes-Benz GLC braking system has adaptive brake control system that keeps the brake discs dry in wet conditions of driving. If the driver takes away foot from the accelerator pedal abruptly, the brake pads are activated automatically. The safety features include a PRE-SAFE occupant protection system that can analyze critical driving situations and initiate precautionary measures for protecting the occupants. A total of seven airbags are provided for complete protection of the occupants in the event of collision.
The GLC is available in one fully loaded variant and gets a long list of standard safety and assistance features. These include parking assist, attention assist, adaptive brake lights, seven airbags and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. Other infotainment features include a 20-CD stereo, Garmin-based navigation, two USB ports and SD card inputs.To make things better, the GLC is priced at Rs 50.7-50.9 lakh, ex-Pune. It’s definitely well priced. In fact, the price is similar to its entry-variant German rivals. At this price, it has the potential to do well and give the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 a tough fight.