August 30, 2016 @ 11:23 AM

Road Trip: The Mercedes-Benz GLC is a C-Class on stilts

All you want in your C-Class but in a taller, bigger and more spacious cup

You sit tall in the spacious cabin of Mercedes-Benz’s latest and smallest SUV in its lineup — the GLC — looking out of large portals that afford clearer views to the horizon… and the long traffic that’s ahead. You don’t mind because you’re seated inside a very nicely designed interior that is intimately familiar, especially when you’ve just come in from the C-Class; the sedan is the foundation that the GLC is built upon.

The interior whispers of all the modern, top-shelf appointments that easily pull off the ambience of modern luxury that newer Mercedes-Benz seem to radiate. Apart from the touchpad that seemingly hovers on top of the COMAND Controller, the Burmester and the different trim and colour, everything else remains the same.

The upholstery wrapped in animal-friendly leather, grain from the wood trim that you can actually feel, chromed metallic bits that is cool to the touch, knurled knobs and rocker switches, spring-loaded doors of compartments that open slowly when the tactile buttons are pressed… it all feels special.

Familiar? Yes, it is the C-Class repeated and it is a good thing. Yet, this premium mid-sized SUV offers its own distinctive character that is hard for me to put my finger on for the simple fact that it is intangible — spaciousness.

Before we continue, comparisons with the C-Class must end and re-aligned with the GLC’s rightful predecessor — the GLK. The SUV never arrived here or any country that drives on the right for that matter. Production of a right-hand drive version was never considered, which may lead to some to believing the inaccurate notion of the GLC being Mercedes-Benz’s first mid-sized SUV.

The GLK is said to be a cramped, tiny and boxy thing on wheels but not so with the GLC, which offers quite a substantial about of interior space — there are numbers to back this up. But you don’t need the GLK as proof of the expansive interior, in this case, the eyes do the convincing the moment you open those solid doors. 

The GLC’s wheelbase stretches the tape to 2873mm, which is further than the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, the GLC’s natural rivals. Or to put it bluntly, everyone will have extra room to wiggle toes, flap elbows and bob heads. And there’s still more space at the back. 
By default, the GLC’s cargo bay has a capacity of 550-litres that will grow up to 1600-litres with clever rear seat manipulations. To put it in understandable-measurements, the GLC’s boot can hold things that are up to 930mm long and 1389mm wide. 

Oddly enough, when you shut the lid, the GLC doesn’t seem as if it could have that kind of carrying capacity; people and things. And certainly, not the kind of brawny-rugged look that inspires one to hit the off-road trails for mud-slinging action. Having said that, the GLC is drawn with the lines that either slightly drops or gently rise to give the body definition. 

The rear-tapering roofline and broad haunches do add some visual width to the GLC. Still, the design incorporates the required elements such as high ground clearance, short front overhang, and an underguard to give the GLC some credentials should it need to get off the road. 

Here’s the unsuspecting, eye-brow raising bit: the bulbous-looking, seemingly-ungainly shape actually lets the GLC ease through the atmosphere rather than crash-and-smash against it. The drag coefficient figures are alarmingly low for an SUV; the GLC’s is calculated to 0.31 and a total aerodynamic drag of 0.794. 

It isn’t just the shape that lends to the low figures. Tighter sealing of the radiator and headlamp surrounds, a radiator shutter, extended roof spoiler and optimized underbody paneling contributes to the low Cd value. And all is done in the name of Lord Efficiency.

To be completely honest, I can’t tell if it is working or not. Once more, it is one of the intangibles that make the GLC special. A lighter foot may have banked in more fuel but a typical test driving style almost means increased visits to the pump. Counting the number of days that I had the GLC for and the high kilometers covered – the trip meter read 966.3 by the end of the test – I’d say that filling ‘er up just once can be considered good fuel consumption.

The diesel engine would likely yield better vehicle operating range but all we’re getting, for the near future, at least, is the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Paired with a nine-speed automatic, expertly conducting power to all four wheels. Coming from the 250 level of the shelf, the power mill is tuned to the music of 211bhp and 350Nm of torque. 

The initial acceleration doesn’t quite impress, the first two gears are used up too quickly and the climb from three to four can feel a second too long. Once over the hump, the power comes in and is enough to dispatch this 1735kg construction of aluminium and very strong steel from naught to 100kph in 7.3 seconds; achieving a top speed of 233kph isn’t an issue. 

There’s no question that the GLC 250 wafts at speed and the task of turning the wheel are surprisingly fun even when in Comfort mode. Dial in the sportier setting via Dynamic Select and the computer speeds up the turn-ins, sharpens the angle and throws some weight at the wheel, and makes the transmission more attentive. 

It does not, however, alter the toughness of the suspension. So the body has some tendency to roll with the corners — with good restraint — during enthusiastic drives on one of the many snaking roads of rural Malaysia. Don’t let that knock down the GLC’s ride comfort. The spring and dampers soak up plenty and keep the SUV on a firm footing at all times.

Up until now, Mercedes-Benz has never really gained a strong footing when it comes to SUV sales in this part of the world. The ML-Class, which is now the GLE, didn’t really convince people to part their money for one. And their absence in the mid-range segment has driven potential customers into the arms of their rivals. 

With the new GLC 250, Mercedes-Benz is attempting to reach out to lost buyers and get them in from the cold. Considering the price tag of just RM328,888 for an imported SUV, and now RM325,888 for the Semi Knock Down version, they might just convince more than just a few.

Chris Ng

Visit our photo gallery for more images of the Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 250

1991cc, in-line 4, high-pressure direct injection, turbocharged, 211bhp @ 5500rpm, 350Nm @ 1200-4000rpm
9-speed 9G-TRONIC, 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive
7.3s 0-100kph, 223kph max speed, 6.5-7.1l-100km
On sale

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