The old GLK-Class was a good little luxury SUV, but it was never quite sure of itself. Its boxy design didn?t really gel with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, with the possible exception of the completely unrelated G-Wagen. It was originally marketed to Sex and the City fans but then switched targets and went after the outdoorsy types instead of Manhattanites. Its replacement, the all-new GLC-Class, suffers no such confusions.
Based on the C-Class architecture, from which it draws its new GLC moniker, the new one is confidently aimed at upper-middle-class urban and suburbanites. It?s sleek and attractive, spacious, quiet, and efficient. Sure, it could go off-road if you wanted to, but you don?t. Our AWD model is surprisingly capable, but the $2,000 option is mostly there to make folks feel better about driving in the snow.
As they?ll mostly be driving it on the daily commute, they?ll most often feel better about the fuel economy. Downsizing from a naturally aspirated V-6 to a turbocharged inline-four while simultaneously upsizing the transmission to nine gears has improved city and highway fuel economy by 2 mpg each to 21/28 city/highway. Driving it the way we do, almost entirely in Sport mode, it returned 20 mpg at the pump. (Real MPG testing was not available due to scheduling conflicts.)
The lead-footed may be disappointed (though likely not surprised) to learn the turbo-four is a bit slower. On the clock, the GLC300 needs 6.3 seconds to hit 60 mph to the GLK350?s 5.8 seconds, and it?s the same story at the drag strip: 14.4 seconds at 96.4 mph for the 302-hp GLK, 14.9 seconds at 90.7 mph for the 241-hp GLC.
It?s worth pausing a moment here to consider those numbers a little more closely. The GLC is down 61 hp from the GLK but makes an identical 273 lb-ft of torque. This in part explains why the GLC is only 0.5 second behind. It?s got the torque to get it moving, but it doesn?t have the horsepower to keep up. The GLC also gets a slight gearing advantage and a weight bonus, saving 100 pounds over its predecessor.
The actual driving experience is more nuanced still. The throttle pedal is mostly unresponsive at tip-in unless you?re in Sport mode, and there?s a small amount of turbo lag. Put the two together, and the GLC feels sluggish leaving a stop unless you really put your boot in it. Once you?re moving, though, the problem completely disappears. From a roll, acceleration is strong and immediate, but that lazy throttle tuning means you?ll need to be assertive with it to access all the power. It?s there. You just have to be willing to use it. The transmission, for its part, is buttery smooth and always in the right gear.
The brakes are far less specious, delivering both on the test track and in the real world. In a controlled environment, the GLC knocks a whopping 9 feet off the GLK?s 60-0 stopping distance, halting the vehicle in 112 feet. On the road, the pedal is responsive and linear with just enough bite for some seriously aggressive driving if you?re late for a meeting downtown.
The chassis is likewise up for a wind sprint. The body control is excellent, illustrated by surprisingly flat cornering for a tall vehicle. The shock damping is also fantastic given the weight and capability at hand, quickly dispensing with bumps without any drama. Even the big ones don?t toss your head around or jiggle your gut much. The steering doesn?t offer any road feel (no surprise), but it?s responsive and just quick enough with the right amount of weight to make a corner fun.
Objective testing backs all that subjective observation. The new GLC pulls 0.82 g average on the skidpad to the old GLK?s 0.76. It?s a blowout on the figure eight, as well, with the GLC clocking a 26.6-second lap at 0.66 average g to the GLK?s leisurely 28.5-second lap at 0.55 average g.
The GLC has other quantifiable advantages over the GLK, too. As a result of its greater dimensions, the GLC offers more legroom front and rear as well as more cargo space. Turning the spacious back seat into more cargo space is as easy as hitting a switch on the panel just inside the door next to the seat, which drops them instantly.
Up front, it?s all C-Class with the familiar waterfall center console and floating infotainment screen. COMAND is still COMAND, a pretty good user interface in an industry with some greats and more than a few terribles. Our biggest complaint up here is purely aesthetic: It?s dark in here. Our tester?s interior was practically monochromatic inside, all dark wood and darker plastics. Thankfully, you can and should option up some more interesting and colorful trim. On the plus side, everything?s made out of very nice materials and feels rich.
Regardless of where you?re sitting, you?ll appreciate just how quiet it is inside the GLC. The engine emits a mild growl at best, and you?ll have to find some pretty poor pavement to drive on to elicit noticeable noise from the tires, and even that requires freeway speeds. Similar requirements if you want to hear a whisper of wind noise.
Then there?s the matter of price. The starting price remains effectively the same as the last GLK at near-as-makes-no-difference $40,000. Adding another 50 percent to that figure, though, isn?t hard at all. Our well-equipped-but-not-loaded tester rang in at just an Andrew Jackson/Harriet Tubman under $60,000, and it didn?t have the 360-degree camera. Although that is competitive with other vehicles in the segment, it?s still a lot of money for an ostensibly small SUV.
If your budget allows for it, you?ll find the all-new GLC300 a pretty compelling offer. In general, Mercedes-Benz has given you more of what you need and less of what you don?t, and in this case, it?s a recipe for sales.
- BASE PRICE $41,875
- PRICE AS TESTED $59,980
- VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
- ENGINE 2.0L/241-hp/273-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
- TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
- CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,083 lb (53/47%)
- WHEELBASE 113.1 in
- LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 183.3 x 74.4 x 64.5 in
- 0-60 MPH 6.3 sec
- QUARTER MILE 14.9 sec @ 90.7 mph
- BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 112 ft
- LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.82 g (avg)
- MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.6 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
- EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 21/28/24 mpg
- ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 160/120 kW-hrs/100 miles
- CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.82 lb/mile