Merc’s third-gen, mini-me GLE brings tech treats and hybrid power to its most popular seller, though not without a fair degree of sticker shock: is R1,2-million for a C-Class on stilts worth it? Braam Peens sampled the model in the Mother City to find out…
Even though a recently-released study has revealed South Africa’s literacy rate for Grade 4 learners to have fallen back to 2011 levels, one needn’t be a genius to appreciate the ruinous effect of our ever-weakening exchange rate on the price of new vehicles.
Why is the Mercedes-Benz GLC significant?
Take the new Mercedes-Benz GLC as an example. By the end of January, the now-previous-gen GLC 220d 4MATIC retailed for around R993 000. Its successor, codenamed X254 – now weighs in at over R1,2-million.
If by now you’ve given up and are reaching for that BMW X3 brochure instead, it’s worth knowing the GLC’s inter-generational and extraordinarily upwardly mobile price only tells half the story. While it’s safe to say that styling-wise, Mercedes hasn’t really broken new ground in transitioning across generations, at 4 716 mm the third-gen GLC is 60 mm longer to enable more interior space and a claimed 70-litre increase in loading capacity.
And, say its makers, they’ve added R200 000 worth of extras not previously fitted.
What is new on the Mercedes-Benz GLC?
There are no six-cylinder or plug-in hybrid options on offer; although a full EV and an AMG version are set to follow later. Which means four’s the only ticket in town, as a shared two-litre turbodiesel in different states of tune ranging serves in the 220d (145 kW/440 N.m; R1 211 220) as well as the 300d (198 kW/550 N.m; R1 410 194). The range-topping, petrol-powered 300 produces 190 kW/400 N.m and costs R1 328 500.
All models now benefit from a 48V mild-hybrid system with an integrated starter-generator for a truly seamless stop/start and e-coasting experience that provides an additional 17 kW/200 N.m of electric boost.
So what else is new? Standard on all models is the Avantgarde package that adds chrome trim to several of the GLC’s exterior key points, as well as ambient leather and man-made leather inside. (The AMG Line exterior adds 19-inch 5-spoke alloys and sports suspension but costs an additional R82 000.) Inside, there’s high-resolution digital instrumentation; which is complemented by the party piece – a 30 cm-tall high-resolution touchscreen infotainment display integrated into the upwardly curving centre console. The former is powered by Mercedes’ latest MBUX interface, additionally offering smartphone integration and wireless charging. Adaptive LED beams and an electrically operated tailgate are also standard.
For upgrades beyond that, prospective buyers will have to steel themselves for a deep-dive into Mercedes’ alphabet soup of intricately bundled and pricey equipment packages. Paint, trim, upholstery and wheel options ranging from 18 to 20 inches can however be specified individually.
Mirroring that of the new C-Class, the GLC interior feels genuinely premium. Despite Mercedes’ praises of the GLC’s off-road ability supported by the presence of an off-road setting with hill ascent control (no lockable differentials, though), it remains after all a luxury car first, then a people-mover second – and only finally, if improbably – an off-roader.
The new four-link front- and five-link rear suspension has blessed the Mercedes with a cosseting ride expected in this price category. An acoustic membrane in the windscreen; as well as a reduction in drag coefficient of its tortoise-shell shape 0,02 to 0,29 – adds to its quietude. This itself is enhanced as the e-motor almost imperceptibly cuts in and out in the background to either boost acceleration or efficiency, depending on which is demanded.
The GLC is no less graceful to pilot than the larger GLE. It’s best to leave the slick-shifting 9-speed twin-clutcher to its own devices, even if the two-litre turbodiesel does crow a bit when being hurried to hurl the GLC’s two-tonne heft along. Yet given the R200k price difference, for most applications it’s adequately punchy enough to render the requirement for the 300d a debatable one.
On the other hand, 198 kW/550 N.m developed from a two-litre turbodiesel engine is deeply impressive, considering that not too long ago – such figures were the exclusive domain of oil burners sporting an additional litre of swept capacity.
As a mini-me GLE, the GLC sensation is sedate if not sporting, perhaps intentionally leaving a gap for the red-blooded AMG version. Air suspension and rear-wheel steering can be had for another R58 000, but these are optioned in the interest of luxury over alacrity. Larger front brakes are another R5400 extra and can be ordered as a standalone.
Massaged if not quite entirely made over, the GLC has taken a step forward through minor styling coupled with major tech upgrades. Its pièce de résistance is the addition of its 48V hybrid system – for more driving enjoyment and economy; as well as the 300d engine’s generous power output.
It’s no longer an inexpensive multi-purpose family hauler, but as Mercedes’ top seller, having shifted 2,6-million units sold worldwide since launching in 2016, means they are doing something right. A BMW X3 drives more sportily, a Volvo XC60 has a more zen interior, but the GLC straddles the line between both. For R1,2-million you shouldn’t have to compromise, and in the new GLC you don’t.
What are the Mercedes-Benz GLC’s rivals?
The German constituent of premium compact SUVs also includes the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Porsche Macan. Lest we forget, the segment is also comprised of the equally impressive Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Jaguar E-Pace, Lexus NX, Maserati Grecale and Volvo XC60.
Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC Fast Facts
Price: R1 211 220
Engine: front-mounted, turbodiesel, 1 991cc, inline-four
Transmission: 9-speed dual-clutch
Power: 145 kW @ 3 600 r/min
Torque: 440 N.m @ 1 800 – 2 800 r/min
Driven wheels: All
0-100 km/h: 8,0 sec
Top speed: 219 km/h
Fuel consumption: 5,6 L/100km (combined)
CO2 emissions: 146 g/km
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