First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Is a Wagon With a Little More

Mercedes GLC News

Staff Member

This is the car that killed the wagon.

"Whoa!" you say. "Bullshit!" Oh no, friends. No bullshit at all.

I love wagons. I've lusted for them, enjoyed them, planned horrendously impractical builds for them. I still do.

But this high-riding concoction called the Mercedes GLC punches all the right buttons, pulls all the right levers, and completely kills any reason to whine about the lack of a wagon in [INSERT SEGMENT / BRAND / POLITICAL AFFILIATION HERE]. It should serve as a model to the builders of all so-called "crossovers."

Nothing this crossover does is really "car-like"?a tired trope, anyway. No, it's wagon-like in damn near every way, except the ways in which it's more awesome than a wagon.

You may be wondering what the hell, exactly, the GLC is. Most simply, it's the replacement to the GLK. More completely, it's a crossover with a C-Class-architecture front-end, an E-Class-architecture mid-section, and a completely new rear end ? all re-jiggered to work in a taller, more capable form factor. There's up to 56.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity, with 19.4 of those cubes behind the second row (that's 2.1 cubic feet more than the not-for-the-U.S. C-Class Estate behind the seats, and 3.2 more cubic feet overall). Accordingly, it's more inline with the size segment indicated by its trailing consonant ("C") as part of Mercedes' new naming scheme for its SUVs. The SUV/crossover range now runs, from small to large: GLA, GLC, GLE, and soon, GLS. Each aligns, roughly, with the A-Class, C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class passenger cars.

In that space, you might (again) wonder, "Why not the C-Class wagon, then, heretic?" Well asked, predictably combative heckler. The answer is that it's basically a C-Class wagon, anyway, except that it has the rear seat of the E-Class, and surprising off-road goodness, much of which is available even without the $750 electronics-based off-road package we can't get (more on that in just a bit).

After all, the interior is much the same as you'll find the C-Class, from the large round vents to the iPad-plastered-on-the-dash COMAND display to the surprisingly fine and well-fit controls and up-scale materials, like satin-finished open-pore wood. As much as I love Mercedes' latest generation of interior design and materials (and I do), the GLC's implementation is, if anything, a touch cartoonish. But aside from some of the broader gestures on the dash, it's a remarkably classy cabin, as good as or better than anything in the class. It's also very easy to see out of, even easier to park, and surprisingly nimble even in cramped medieval Alsatian villages.

Under the hood, you'll find one of two engines in the U.S.: a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, which is the launch engine for the U.S. this November, or a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel, available in the fourth quarter of 2016 as a 2017 model. A third option, the plug-in hybrid, will also be offered, likely in late 2017 as a 2018 model. The GLC 350e will pair a turbocharged four-cylinder (instead of a V6) to the same plug-in hybrid system found in the S-Class, GLE-Class, and other Mercedes products. All GLCs will share the same 9G-Tronic nine-speed paddle-shifted automatic transmission.

The gasoline model, badged GLC 300, will make 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque; ratings for the U.S. versions of the diesel and plug-in hybrid GLC aren't yet finalized, but expect the GLC 300d to come in around 204 hp and 370 lb-ft, while the GLC 350e should offer about 320 combined horsepower, 413 lb-ft, and up to 21 miles of all-electric driving range.

So, back to that wagon-killing claim of possibly legendary stupidity I made earlier: these things drive fantastically. No, you're not going to feel like AJ Foyt out for a weekend jaunt between Indy 500 and Le Mans wins. But you will enjoy the drive, whether it's two lanes of crazed mountain-pass blacktop or the evening commute. The GLC's handling is understated, comfortable, but still engaging and balanced. There's body roll, but not too much, and there's even a fair amount of steering feel. Use the "Individual" setting on the driving dynamics adjuster to pick a sporty powertrain setting, leave the suspension in comfort, and enjoy one of the best all-around street-vehicle setups I've driven in years.

And that's before you get to the fact that you can equip your GLC with the semi-autonomous technology collection known as Distronic Plus. The system can steer, brake, maintain following distance, and even handle stop-and-go traffic for you?all you need to do is maintain a modicum of attention. Perfect for enjoying the time, rather than sending your already hypertensive system into full-blown apoplexy every night.

Sadly, one of the awesomest of the ways the GLC does in the wagon's verboten mystique won't be coming to the U.S.: the Offroad Package. Mountain, meet goat.

When equipped with the Offroad Package, the GLC does things no reasonable wagon can. With 80-percent slope climbing ability, a surprising amount of wheel articulation and ground clearance, impressive approach, departure, and break-over angles, and an unruffled approach to loose, rocky, or other challenging terrain with the simple press of a mode selector?all via brake control of the open differentials?the experience is more typical of a Range Rover, not a mid-range luxury crossover. But again, sadly, most of that won't be available in the U.S.

Instead, we'll get the off-road-look package (with improved 28-degree approach angle bumper) with optional 4Matic all-wheel drive, or standard rear-drive when the GLC hits the U.S. this November. Neither is anything to whine about, so I won't.

Sum it all up, and longroof or no, this $40,000-ish crossover is the complete package?the on-road, off-road, self-driving, luxurious, people-hauling, cargo-carrying, do-it-all wagon-killing machine you never believed possible until now.

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