Based on the C-Class sedan, the 2nd generation mid-range SUV from Mercedes-Benz, the new GLC replaces the older GLK model globally and is a big step forward for the German brand in terms of performance, driving dynamics and safety. Mercedes-Benz claims to have reduced fuel consumption by close to 20 % as compared to the GLK, while the GLC’s revamped suspension, dynamic transmission modes and 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive represent a significant improvement in ride quality, handling prowess and off-road capability. ATR recently drove the petrol-engined Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and here we take a closer look at the elements that make this vehicle really stand out from the crowd.
DESIGN & INTERIORS
The GLC 300 is, undeniably, a handsome SUV, with its traditional SUV-spec high-riding stance, short front and rear overhangs and a taut, lean profile that clearly means business. The vehicle rides on 18-inch alloys and while its curvy styling is a world apart from the butch, angular aggression of older G-Class SUVs, the GLC conveys a sense of refinement and style that few of its competitors can match.
Coming to the interiors, there’s the usual attention to detail that you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz and build quality is top-notch. The leather, wood and metal trim used inside the 5-seater cabin feels good to the touch and with fancy ambient lighting, panoramic sunroof, electrically-operated tailgate and large, centrally-mounted colour display for infotainment-related functions, the GLC’s spacious interiors are as luxurious as you’d expect a vehicle that costs Rs 55.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) to be.
In addition to looking good, the new GLC is also very aerodynamic, with a Cd value of 0.31, which compares well with the 0.34 figure for the older GLK. According to Mercedes-Benz, it was meticulous attention to small details, like the sealing of radiator and headlamp surrounds, a radiator shutter, extended roof spoiler and optimised underbody panelling, which allowed the company to achieve such a low Cd for the GLC. (Admittedly, the low Cd figure will not do much for performance or fuel economy at low speeds in the city, but should certainly help when travelling out on open expressways, at higher speeds.)
ENGINE, TRANSMISSION & AWD
While both petrol and diesel engines are available on the India-spec GLC, it was the turbocharged petrol-engined GLC 300 that we drove, and came away fairly impressed with this unit. The turbocharged, intercooled 2.0 l DOHC 16-valve inline-four, with all-aluminium construction and direct fuel-injection, produces 242 hp at 5,500 rpm and 370 Nm of torque at 1,300 rpm. Mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission, the engine feels smooth and very responsive across its rev range, while producing particularly strong mid-range power delivery that continues to build right up until the redline. Claimed performance figures for the GLC 300 are 6.5 seconds for the zero to 100 km/h sprint, and a top speed of 222 km/h, both of which we’re sure the vehicle can achieve without much effort.
While the GLC 300’s 2.0 l engine is undoubtedly a masterpiece, it certainly gets a fair bit of help from the vehicle’s 9-speed 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission, towards delivering superlative performance on the road. Featuring nine forward gears and a hydrodynamic torque converter, the GLC’s 9G-TRONIC offers swift, decisive gear changes that are barely perceptible to the driver. During hard acceleration, as the GLC’s turbocharged engine spools up to deliver its 242 hp, this close-ratio 9-speed transmission is more than capable of keeping up with the momentum and ensure seamless power delivery to all four wheels.
If a nine-speed automatic was enough already, Mercedes-Benz has also provided another trick on the GLC 300, which is its ‘DYNAMIC SELECT’ feature that allows a driver to choose between COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ driving modes, which in turn affect engine, transmission, suspension and steering characteristics. While COMFORT mode offers more relaxed suspension settings, softer power delivery and better fuel economy, SPORT mode firms up the suspension and delivers more aggressive responses from the engine and transmission. As you would expect, SPORT+ delivers even more of the same, with the engine’s power delivery and the transmission’s shift points being optimised for maximum acceleration.
Overall, the GLC 300’s 2.0 l turbo-petrol and 9-speed automatic transmission work in perfect sync with each other, offering class-leading performance in a brilliant mechanical package. However, there’s another important element in the GLC’s performance equation – its independent multi-link suspension set-up on all four wheels, along with the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive, which definitely plays a big role in defining the vehicle’s on/off-road performance. On the GLC, 4MATIC offers a basic drive torque split of 45 / 55 % between front and rear axle. Working in conjunction with the GLC’s electronic stability control and anti-slip systems, the AWD set-up provides safe, predictable handling on slippery tarmac as well as in extreme off-road driving conditions. The GLC’s off-road driving programs also help the driver get the most out of its 4MATIC, with modes especially designed for driving on slippery terrain, ice, mud, gravel etc., and up steep inclines, without missing a beat.
VEHICLE LIGHTWEIGHTING & SAFETY
According to Mercedes-Benz, the GLC boasts an 80 kg weight reduction compared to the outgoing GLK, despite the new vehicle being bigger and better equipped. The primary reason for this, according to the company, is the GLC’s all-new body, which makes extensive use of aluminium, combined with high- and ultra-high-strength steel. With the intelligent use of materials, Mercedes-Benz has been able to make the GLC’s body 50 kg lighter compared to the older model, which is a remarkable achievement. A further 12 kg weight reduction was achieved with the use of a new, compact, transfer case made of magnesium alloy for the 9G-TRONIC transmission.
Apart from vehicle lightweighting, Mercedes-Benz has also put in a huge amount of effort towards ensuring that the GLC is one of its safest SUVs ever. A high-strength passenger compartment, which is surrounded by specially designed and extensively tested controlled-deformation zones, forms the basis of occupant safety on the GLC. This is supplemented by seven airbags and 3-point safety belts with pyrotechnical and reversible belt tensioning (with belt-force limitation) for driver, front passenger and outer rear seat occupants.
Apart from the above, there’s also a host of electronic safety systems, the first of which is ATTENTION ASSIST, a drowsiness detection system that monitors the driver’s steering behaviour. If the system detects any signs of drowsiness and / or loss of attention, it provides audio-visual warnings to the driver, thereby averting possible loss of control. The GLC also features an ADAPTIVE BRAKE control system, which keeps the brake discs dry in wet conditions and automatically prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards on uphill inclines. The PRE-SAFE occupant protection system on the GLC identifies potentially dangerous situations and imminent crashes, and in the event of such a situation, automatically tightens occupants’ seat belts, closes the side windows and primes the brakes for extreme application. On the convenience front, the GLC’s PARKTRONIC system provides active parking assistance and, when activated, can automatically steer the vehicle into perpendicular and parallel parking spaces, with steering and braking being handled by the vehicle’s on-board computer and only throttle input required from the driver.
Notably, the Mercedes-Benz GLC has a 5-star Euro-NCAP safety rating, which says something about the sheer effort that the German manufacturer has put in towards the safety aspect.
With an on-road price of about Rs 60.50 lakh, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 certainly isn’t an SUV for everyone. However, for those who can afford one, it offers superlative engine performance, a high-tech 9-speed transmission that’s possibly the best in its segment, solid build quality, luxurious and well-appointed interiors and a spacious cabin that can comfortably seat five adults. In addition to its on-road performance, which is excellent, the GLC 300 also offers genuine off-road capability – its multi-link independent suspension, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and off-road driving modes work together to ensure that this SUV keeps going in the rough stuff, though you should probably remember that extreme off-road use isn’t the GLC’s primary forte. For ferrying your family around in the city however, in an SUV that’s luxurious and extremely safe, the GLC 300 might just be one of the best options available in India right now.
TEXT: Sameer Kumar