Mercedes still on the money with SUV make over
Peter Atkinson |
Mercedes has hit a real sweet spot in recent years with its SUV designs and the mid-sized GLC is one of the best.
With its beautiful proportions and athletic road presence, the compact German luxury machine has been an unqualified sales success, including in Australia, for most of its eight years.
Now, it faces the challenge of retaining market share with an impressive second-generation version.
And when the world’s most famous brands releases a new SUV it’s a big deal. Especially when that new model is its most popular vehicle.
The three-point star brigade have poured plenty of technology, luxury and convenience into this upgraded and redesigned machine – a tactic that’s bound to get plenty of customers into the showroom, but doing so at a considerable price.
There’s no question SUVs are handy, practical things.
Yes, they can be had in all manner of luxurious guises these days.
And yes, they do provide nervous drivers with a nice, elevated driving (or sitting) position when plugging through city traffic, or thundering along cheek-by-jowl with an oversized semi-trailer that appears to be constantly drifting in your lane.
SUVs tick all of those boxes.
But not many soft-roaders are downright beautiful to look at – and for that matter not particularly riveting to drive. The GLC comes close.
Benz has focused on two big features for this all-new, second-generation GLC. The first is, in its words, a “radically simplified” dash and centre stack where buttons and knobs have been almost eliminated.
Instead, the centre touch-screen (mounted in upright portrait style that tilts slightly towards the driver) brings easy access to almost every shred of information, adjustments and infotainment.
The GLC’s equipment upgrade means the new model gets many features previously only available as extras.
To justify the hefty $104,900 new price (plus on roads) it has dug deep into the goodie box to snag items such as panoramic sunroof, heat-up display, electric front seat adjustment with memory settings and heating.
Tested were the GLC and its twin-beneath-the-skin C300 sedan – and the voting didn’t all go the way of the expanded wagon.
A direct comparison proved that while SUVs hold sway, there are way too many people overlooking the virtues of the mid-sized models gracing premium showrooms these days.
But just in case, the GLC is not taking its foot off the gas.
Of course, Benz buyers love something new and tricky to tease their neighbours with and they might just do the trick with its so-called “transparent bonnet”.
It’s actually an extension of the 360-degree parking system – creating a view of any bumps or pot-holes that might intrude in the blind spot directly in front of the vehicle.
The Transparent Bonnet identifies any of these obstructions and is “helpful in finding a safe path through challenging terrain”, as Mercedes says. As if any of these soft roaders are likely to get any further off-road than the school rowing regatta.
The other big change isn’t on the bonnet but beneath it, where a new mild hybrid system, using a 48-volt electrical charge system to integrate with the internal combustion engine, adds takeoff power while reducing fuel consumption.
That’s a neat double act – beefing up the C-Class drivetrain to produce 190kw and 400Nm of torque, noticeably sharper than the previous model.
That also makes this model significantly less thirsty (7.7L/100km or half a litre less than the predecessor). It’s quicker, reaching the speed limit in a vigorous 6.2 seconds.
And to be quite honest that’s as much performance as this car is ever likely to require.
The new GLC has grown a bit in its dimensions. It’s 60mm longer (adding 50 litres to cargo space) yet 4mm lower. Track is wider, wheelbase too – and front and rear overhangs are up by a combined 48mm.
That redesign makes the GLC look just a touch more imposing in its road presence and happily it has maintained the nimble, beautifully balanced vehicle it replaces.
An interesting aside about this never-ending growth of SUVs. They weigh more than standard cars – about 100kg more. As a result they emit more carbon than standard cars.
In Australia, medium-size SUVs emit 14 per cent more carbon per kilometre travelled than medium-size cars. Large SUVs emit 30 per cent more than large cars.
Yet we’re buying them at a rate that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. SUVs outsell passenger cars three to one.
That’s despite the fact that they’re not as reassuring to drive, save allowing drivers and passengers to sit up higher than conventional models.
That was never more evident than in the back-to-back tests of the GLC and its sedan partner, the eminently more beautiful and engaging C300
Yes, this cultured little German soft-roader is for good reason a favourite among ladies who lunch and empty-couples who enjoy its mild road manners, posh interior and relatively modest cost – at least when lined up against other members of the Benz SUV family.
But that value equation has been whacked around a bit in this all-new, second-generation GLC, which must make at least a few buyers consider that they could save about $10,000 by preferring the sedan equivalent.
Or, in the case of the less powerful C200 sedan, it’s $15,000 less expensive than the GLC300 tested.
The GLC is good. Very good. As long as you’ve got the cash
MERCEDES-BENZ GLC300 SUV
It’s grown a bit between generations, adding leg room and cargo space
It’s not built for speed but is still an engaging little machine to drive and will reach the speed limit in a zippy 6.2 seconds.
Its mild hybrid system has helped deliver a fuel saving of half a litre per 100km.
Benz has taken a punt on pricing for this car, at just over $100,000. By contrast, the equivalent sedan model, the C300, is about $10,000 cheaper.AAP