Yes they may have sold 1.5 million of them. But the left-hand-drive-only GLK was still never enough for the management at Mercedes-Benz to call it a true hit. And that is the background with which I had approached the launch of the new GLC in June this year. Now I have driven the GLC 300 4 Matic in the United States.
And I can tell you this straight off the car has been designed very intelligently to meet not just the requirements of the segment, but also cleverly impress the buyer and take on the popular competition. Yes the next generation Audi Q5 that arrives in 2016 will need to do a lot to stay ahead.
The thing I like most about the GLC is that it is not huge. There is always a worry that any new generation or new rival will be bigger than the last car. True the GLC is bigger than the GLK, but isn't trying to beat out the Discovery Sport let's say on size The car looks elegant and pretty, which is not surprising since this is essentially a C-Class in high heels. Okay so that may sound like I am trying to be nasty, but I am not! If anything the raised height gives you more the sense that the C-Class stepped out of dancing shoes and put on a pair of hiking boots!
The GLC is well proportioned, and unlike the C-Class its design does not drop off at the rear. It maintains a great SUV stance and is very smart to look at from any angle, The little bulge in the rear tailgate below the lights is very distinct and gives the car a different identity from the smaller GLA and larger GLE.
Also Read: Mercedes-Benz GLE Review
Yes the good news is that unlike Audi's SUVs, the Mercedes-Benz range is not looking like a small-medium-large affair. The car has the C-Class's face, and I know it is to better house the radar/sensor/camera equipment but the lack of a chromed 3-D star logo up front kind of kills the appeal for me. But otherwise I have to say this is a good looking car.
The interior is typical Mercedes-Benz, with good quality of materials and a layout more like the new GLE's than the C-Class'. The GLC 300 I drove in the US had seat controls on the door panel (like all Mercedes-Benz cars) but I had driven a GLC in Portugal a few weeks ago, which had seat controls on the side of the seat bottom (like pretty much all other cars!). At the time I thought Mercedes-Benz is also moving to the industry norm, but looks like there are both options!
The car I had was loaded with all the creature comforts you can think of, like the panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth Burmester surround audio with satellite radio and navigation, etc. Plus it also had the driver assistance features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, and a self-parking option. None of the equipment for the Indian spec model has been confirmed as yet though.
I drove the car from New York City, across the mighty George Washington bridge and into the countryside of New Jersey so admittedly not the most exotic surroundings. But the good thing about my drive was the variety of road surfaces I got to go over (some very bad and broken), and the GLC kept its poise. The suspension is the winner in the pack for me.
The car rides more comfortably than the C-Class, has a good confident feel, and I didn't once feel the need for the optional air suspension which I don't expect will make it to the Indian version anyway. There is a hit of body roll on higher-speed cornering, which reminds you that this is the C-Class on stilts!
The car now sports the 9G-Tronic gearbox, which was recently introduced on the GLE too. The entire line-up at Mercedes-Benz will gradually move to the 9-speed instead of the current 7G-Tronic, and the new GLC benefits from the change due to the timing of its debut. The gearbox is smooth, but tends to lurch a bit when you accelerate in otherwise slow-speed traffic. But the paddle shift makes things more fun. The engine is responsive and has great power delivery. It truly feels like the 241 horses it promises but that is mostly true when the car is in Sport mode.
The Dynamic Select system is standard on the GLC 300, and it allows you to switch from Eco to Comfort to Sport and Sport+. Honestly Sport+ was not really the way to go for me, given the kind of suburban traffic I encountered every now and then. In Comfort and Eco the car does the job, but it only impressed me in Sport! The car promises a fair amount of off-roading too, but I don't think Mercedes-Benz India will bring us the 4Matic. Truly staying off-road would also mean the greater need for the adaptive air suspension too and neither option will help pricing in India!
The car with me had the Night Package, which meant wheels with black and chrome accents, black gloss AMG body accents, and the Sport Brake package. It is the right car for the kind of setting I was in. Its compact size, and reasonably roomy cabin (plus a decent boot) will impress Indian buyers too. Now the question you're asking what about the diesel? Well of course the 220d or the 250d will likely form the main model line for India. I did drive the 220d in Europe and the car offers decent power, but very good torque. I expect the 300 might still be offered though as a launch model that is imported with all the bells and whistles before the GLC moves to being assembled at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Chakan.
Expect the GLC to be shown at the 2016 Delhi Auto Expo in February, with a market debut around July. Prices will likely hover between ₹ 36 and 45 lakh though ideally Mercedes-Benz should go aggressive with the car as it has here in the US. But I usually don't get my way on things like that, so expect it to be a premium offering anyway. I do hope Mercedes-Benz India brings us the Cardinal Red paint option that I drove. The colour truly brings the car to life and complements the AMG trim option very well.