For an SUV that commands well over half a crore, this midsize Mercedes SUV has sold by the thousands. So when the time came to refresh the GLC, the designers opted for sharper eyes, cleaner back and a cabin that listens and responds. Sometimes, at least!
It’s easy to see why a brand wouldn’t want to upset a winning formula. Based on a good-looking sedan, the GLC combined the best bits of the C-Class with a hint of butchness and the intent to be more adventurous. It worked. And how! The facelift comes sooner than expected but it makes an already well-proportioned SUV even sharper and in line with MB’s 2020 design elements. New DRL signature, grille design, bumpers with more chrome for a stronger feel while at the rear and redesigned tail-lights to bring it up to speed with other modern Mercs. Step inside the posh cabin and the changes are harder to spot, but not if you know where to look.
The ageing and rudimentary 7in COMAND screen and the mouse-like dial/clickpad have been replaced by a sharp looking 10.25in touchscreen and an all-new touchpad on the centre console with precisely judged haptic feedback as an alternate form of input. In international markets, even the instrument cluster is an all-digital screen, but for India, we still get two analog dials with an info-screen wedged in between. It doesn’t look shabby at all, but you do feel a bit short-changed as a keen buyer if you’re keeping tabs on European versions of the same car.
Some of the biggest changes come under the hood and inside the cabin. The two variants strutting their stuff in a showroom near you are the GLC 200 petrol and a GLC 220d diesel options. Both engines meet the stringent BS6 fuel emission norms and are some of the most advanced powertrains out there. However, only the GLC 220d tested here gets the 4Matic all-wheel drive; the GLC 200 pertrol retains the RWD layout of the C-Class sedans. Unless you’re planning on raiding the lost ark, the GLC200 will be all the car you’ll ever need to make the daily office run and might actually be a fun chucker in RWD-only form.
The feeling’s intact
Put your foot on the throttle and the diesel-powered GLC220d gets off the mark in a hushed manner, disguising its build up of speed via the excellent 9-speed auto. It isn’t meant for spirited driving but for relaxed mile-munching in comfort and quietness. Very Merc like. Downshift’s a tad hesitant, but for highway or city driving in comfort mode, this is one of the most refined drivetrains out there. The gearshifts are imperceptible and the system knows exactly which gear to stay in. There is manual override via the steering-mounted paddle shifts, but you’ll rarely ever use them. The steering is direct and quick, without much feedback, but that isn’t a negative – just an observation. Driving position is very car-like so it’s easy to get behind the wheel and feel confident immediately. For everyday city driving, this car is as good as it gets for its front seat comfort, appointments, ambience and, well, the satisfaction of being in something that won’t crumble in the next pothole.
Mercedes has done well to minimise the thuds filtering into the cabin from bad roads. It rides well on good tarmac but suffers from excessive lateral body movement when the going gets tough due to its underlying firmness. This is also felt in the C-Class but the GLC, even on 19in wheels, keeps this under check most of the time. Go over sharper bumps and expansion joints and you do wish that you’d slowed down for them, though, robbing it of the glide-like quality of a Land Rover Discovery or even a Ford Endeavour or Toyota Fortuner. The GLC is, after all, a soft-roader and won’t encourage you to go wading through water or climb a 30-degree incline as such, but if you’re caught between a lot of urban runabouts with generous amount of intercity travel, this is as much luxury as you realistically need.
Taking the spare wheel out of the boot and mounting it under the floor has liberated more space to fit in your life – or style, if you’re a fashion forward individual. Rear-seat legroom is still tight and meant only for two, making this a five-seater only for short stints.
Where the GLC feels like a class above is in its quality. Every surface is soft to the touch or expensive-looking open pore wood. It features 64 colours of ambient lighting and a new steering wheel that looks just like the one on the S-Class. But the party piece here is the new MBUX on the 10.25in touchscreen, which adds an ultra-modern look to the cabin.
Developed in a large part at the MBRDI in Bengaluru, the MBUX system is designed to be controlled using the touchscreen, the haptic touchpad in the centre console, thumb pads on the steering and by voice using ‘Hey Mercedes’ as the wake word. It’s a hit or miss like most voice assistants. With two mics placed strategically on the driver and passenger side, it is super prompt in springing to life, but post the welcome “what can I do for you”, her responses are stunted either by poor network or lack of enough intelligence. There’s a built-in e-SIM working on a Vodafone connection, but live searches are available only for navigation and works well when you ask for the nearest Chinese restaurant. The system is designed to respond via pre-fed answers, so a lot of random chatter you engage in will result in either the system getting confused or a disputation.
Mercedes insiders claim that since this is the first-gen of MBUX, its machine learning will take a few days of use to fully get up to speed and become truly useful. When it does, it should know that if you start the car at a certain time of the day, everyday, you’re travelling to work and bring up appropriate information, climate settings and so on. But we didn’t have the car for that long a time, so I guess we’ll just have to conclude that MBUX is a work-in-progress as of now. But 10.25in is a generous size for a screen and the touch response is fantastic, as is the response time, thanks to an NVIDIA SoC that does the heavy lifting. The dials for the instrument remain analog though, which is a shame at this price. Navigating to an unknown site can be as easy as just asking, “Hey Mercedes, take me to what 3 words most-abused-assistant” – and it will get you within 3m of that coded location! It worked well in our tests to and from the airport.
A partnering app called MercedesMe allows you to monitor the car’s primary systems like tyre pressure, window status, fuel and oil, etc. while also letting you control comfort features. There’s also the emergency SOS and concierge service.
If you want style, tech and badge value, the GLC has it all in spades. The new MBUX system really is the most advanced and user friendly of the German lot now, and that’s saying a lot considering BMW and Audi have been better at infotainment than Mercs for years! I do miss the wireless CarPlay offered in BMWs, but that’s a minor miss compared to the lack of Burmester audio option at this price point. But hop into the driver’s seat and it’s a smooth, refined drive that will munch miles faster than an 8-year-old munching through a pack of Lays. But the ride could be better and the engines more exciting.