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Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d: A compact SUV

07.06.2016

Just about my least favourite thing in the world is a compact SUV; exactly what this is from Mercedes. The GLC is the baby of the Mercedes SUV range, matching up against things like the BMW X3, Audi Q3, Land Rover Discovery Sport and probably the Lexus NX (just so I don't offend the Japanese crowd). It's all new in terms of platform, sitting on the same underpinnings as the C Class - which I rather like - so let's see if this SUV wins me over.

On the outside

It follows Merc's new curvy design language so comes out quite a looker. In fact from most angles there's a very clear parallel with its C Class estate cousin, only the A pillar takes a sharper angle off the bonnet which leads to a higher roof line. This makes the side profile look a bit odd. Also there's some 'sump-guard-looking' trinket attached to the bottom of the front bumper just to let you know it's an SUV, which by the way is part of an "off-road exterior package" which just makes your car look like it can go off-road. The actual package that makes your car capable off-road is completely separate.

On the inside

If you've seen the inside of a C Class then you can skip to the next section. If not, it's worth going to look at. There's nice bits of brushed aluminium, some super-trendy piano black trim and premium feeling switchgear. Downsides, as I've said before about Merc's, is the infotainment screen which looks like an afterthought tacked to the dashboard.

On the space side of things, there's a fair whack of it. The wheelbase is longer than the C Class, so passenger accommodation is plentiful and the boot can take the kitchen sink. So third row of seats though.

Behind the wheel

Because the GLC is based on the C Class underpinnings it feels decent from the driver's seat. Refined, solid but not sporty or engaging obviously. The 2.1 litre diesel lump in the GLC 250d produces 150kW and 500Nm, which gets it along the road at a fair lick, 7.6 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint.

The briskness is largely thanks to a commendably light kerb weight and decent aerodynamics, unusual for an SUV. Accordingly the fuel consumption stats are also impressive with Merc claiming 5.0 l/100km on the combined cycle; it's nearer 8 in the real world but that's still very good.

The GLC250d I drove had the optional air suspension package (R15,000 on the options list). The ride is supple and quiet but the body stays well damped. Ride height is also adjustable and there are some modes for rugged terrain. They work well enough to satisfy most needs, but don't try tackle Africa. Then one can also spec a myriad of safety-related driver aids that will basically end up driving the car for you. Lot's of them are great additions, like the blind spot indicators. Parktronic is something just to brag about, though.

Pricing

The GLC250d hits the price sheets at R663 000 and goes wherever the options list takes you. It's a bit more than the BMW or Audi but is better spec'd so it's hard to compare directly. The Land Rover is the only one with 7 seats, so that's a no brainer if you need the people carrying ability, but its interior is shockingly poor by comparison to the Merc.

Verdict

I'm still not sold on the SUV idea; but at least Mercedes has gone to the effort of making the GLC a good blend of saloon-light and, with the air suspension, off-road-ready. Those things start to justify the compromises you have to deal with when owning a larger bodied vehicle. Of the lot I'd unquestionably have the Mercedes.

Article written by Miles Downard
07.06.2016
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