THE crossover SUV market is growing more than ever. Customers’ demands for smaller, more capable active lifestyle vehicles have never been so high. Mercedes-Benz has thus answered that call for a premium, compact SUV it says is pretty capable off-road. I flew to Namibia to see if that is really the case.
Namibia - although beyond beautiful - is not a place for thefainthearted. Within one day I had experienced three different weather changes: a storm, gale force winds and heat that made me perspire in places I’ve never perspired before - but, onto the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Just to make it easy for everyone to understand, the GLC is what the name suggests it to be, anoverland C-Class. Merc’s new naming strategy has really brought clarity to its off-road models.
The all-new GLC
The GLC, to my eye, looks rather good. Mercedes-Benz says that the design philosophy behind the new GLC essentially favours sensual purity and a modern aesthetic over the classic off-road look. Thanks to this, the dynamic design does exude somewhat of an emotional appeal while also employing purist forms.
The car features a characteristic SUV front-end design with a short overhang, upright, three-dimensional radiator grille with a twin louvre and the iconic centrally positioned badge. Striking headlamps, optionally available as LED High Performance lamps of course lend the GLC a self-confident look.
Inside, the GLC is pretty much C-Class business as usual. Its interior gave me an atmosphere of quality, courtesy of high-class materials as well as meticulously finished details and an appealing overall touch and feel. Last but not least, substantially more space is available for occupants and luggage. The optional large-area panoramic glass roof further enhances the light and airy feel inside.
As for the engines and drivetrain, Mercedes-Benz will be offering the GLC with three different power plants for the South African market. Customers can expect a choice between the GLC 220d 4Matic(125kW), GLC 250d 4Matic (150kW), GLC 250 4Matic (155kW) and the headline GLC 300 4Matic(180kW). All models feature 4Matic permanent all-wheel-drive with a basic drive torque split of 45 to 55 percent between the front and rear axle. Power is sent to the wheels via an all-new 9G-Tronic gearbox.
The GLC took Namibia’s harsh terrain in its stride. The 4Matic system works in conjunction with the brand’s Dynamic Select handling control system with five driving programmes as standard. In addition to the Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual settings, which are familiar from other models, the new all-rounder can also be equipped with the off-road engineering package. This comprises five programmes, which really do make the task of driving much easier. That said though, I would recommend ticking the Air Body Control option, which now features a multi-chamber air suspension system. It adds better ground clearance and offers a softer ride.
So you want something bigger?
Well then, you’re in luck because Mercedes-Benz took the opportunity to introduce its updated GLE sports SUV. The GLE, previously known as the ML, now features an updated front-end and a revised rear-end design, bringing it more in line with current models. The GLE will benefit from the same engines as found in the GLE coupé, which was launched a few weeks ago. The one that I’m most interested in is the all-new 450 4Matic model. The GLE also carries over the off-road DNA that Mercedes-Benz has perfected over the years, while still staying true to its premium comfort attributes.
So you want something with more testosterone?
Apart from the GLC and GLE, Mercedes also let us run wild in the updated G-Class. The first G-Class was introduced into the public market during the 1970s and it has thus gone on to become an icon in the off-roading world. The G-Class was designed to do one thing and one thing only… get you there, wherever that "there" may be. The updated models feature slight changes to bumpers. Power has also increased on the AMG model, which now makes use of 420kW and over 700Nm of torque. For more sensible individuals, the G-Class will be available in G350d guise.
I am impressed with what Mercedes-Benz has on offer. I think it has adequate differentiation between its SUV models and it does have a wide range to suite every need as well - what with the GLA in the mix. Sure not everyone will be venturing out into the Namibian desert with their premium German SUV but it is nice to know that if you wanted to, you could.