It?s easy to get confused by Mercedes-Benz? decision to rejigger its entire SUV lineup behind the letters ?GL.? There?s the new cute GLA, the family hauler formerly known as the M-Class now called GLE, and the seven-passenger GL. And just to mix things up a little more, the one model that had already conformed to the new setup ? the compact GLK ? will now be replaced by this smoother, slightly larger heir, redubbed the 2016 Mercedes GLC-Class.
Growing from a compact to a small midsize SUV in order to make room for the GLA below it, the new GLC shares little with its squared-off predecessor. The more aerodynamic GLC will be powered by Mercedes 2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine producing 241 horsepower and 273 lb. ft. of torque, routed through a new nine-speed transmission. For Americans, the model will come initially in two versions; the GLC 300 and the GLC 300 4MATIC with permanent all-wheel drive. Mercedes may eventually grow the line with diesel or hybrid options, but for the moment no AMG edition is in the works.
The GLC has gained 4.6 inches of wheelbase and lost 176 lbs., giving it a longer profile than the short, stumpy and slightly top-heavy GLK. The weight loss is mainly a result of a new chassis that uses composite aluminum and high-strength steel as well as an entirely new aluminum chassis. In addition to these weight loss updates, the new GLC features optional Air Body Control, a new air suspension system with glass-fiber reinforced plastic springs and a new compact transfer case.
Mercedes has translated the additional wheelbase to the interior, giving rear passengers an additional 1.3 inches of foot space to make entering and exiting easier, as well as nearly 2 additional cubic feet of storage space (based on the European models) with the seats down. The rear seats have a 40/20/40 split and fold flat allowing for easier loading, and the air suspension now allows the GLC to be lowered and raised.
With optional permanent all-wheel drive in the GLC300 4Matic, torque is split 45 front and 55 rear, and Mercedes is touting the GLC?s off-road capabilities, even though executives acknowledge that customers rarely put those features to use. The new GLC has improved ground clearance an approach and departure angles of 31 and 45 degrees, more than the Range Rover Sport.
Other exterior updates include an integrated GPS and radio antennae into the mirrors and roof spoiler doing away with the fin from the GLK as well as an updated interior that features soft touch leather and open-pore wood. The GLC will come standard with Mercedes-Benz?s suite of safety features and upgraded Driver Assist package that includes the Distronic-Plus system that is also on the S, C and E-Class.
No fuel ratings are available yet but expect that the new GLC will be more fuel-efficient. Both the GLC 300 and the GLC 300 4MATIC will be available in November of this year, with prices starting just under $39,000.