Our prediction is that the Mercedes Benz GLC 300d will do quite well in South Africa, not just because of the niche segment in which it plays (and we know this segment does well) but also because it’s played the safe game in terms of design and overall appeal. That is, besides those other members of the family with ‘AMG’ next to their name. The GLC is understatedly handsome, curbside appeal on point especially in this AMG Line trim that we tested. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel is a gem of an engine when you’re keen on pushing the time / distance between pumps but is that enough? Handsome and efficient should just about cut it.
The GLC takes on the likes of BMW’s X4 and in due time, maybe Audi will have some sort of Sportback Coupé sniffing around too. So for now it’s really in a class of two with 2 diesel-favoured engines and one petrol offering. The star of this review is the senior diesel-engined offering with 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque. What does that feel like?
It is as modern Benz as it could be apart from the climate control switches which are slightly older. This is an updated product after all, but Merc has showered the cabin with most of the new bits. Yes the 10.25” infotainment screen is there and can be optioned with all the toppings of functionality. From the passenger’s side of the cabin, manual operation of the functions is done from the touchpad, gone is the rotary controller of old. It’s a good touchpad, a little sensitive while cruising but it works well and if that’s a little cumbersome, you do have the touch option on the large screen itself. The driver can use her/his own touch pads on the steering wheel, something we found to be fine when you have the ‘touch’ but less fine when for whatever reason, you have some sort of residue on your fingers, be it dirt from the beach or maybe some left over paint from the photoshoot props you just built. True story.
That said, you still have the touch option as well as the now familiar ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control. We do find that it is indeed one of the more intuitive voice-activated features and we do warn you, the processing speed is incredibly quick. We happened to be chatting about something Mercedes related and it felt as if the car reacted to the word before it had finished being uttered. These systems still have some way to go, but this is certainly one of the better ones around.
Boot space remains compromised compared toits more generous GLC SUV sibling. It’s not ridiculous though. 500-litres of loading space is nothing to scoff at. The load space is shallow particularly with the cover in use but we did find quite a bit of spare space under the floor boards in therear that be used for a number of small items even with the spare tire or tire repair kit within. Expect at least another 10-litres under there.
We tested the GLC300d on a near 2 000km road trip from the grey and fog-sewn skyline of Johannesburg to the empty beaches of Dokodweni in the KZN province. The trip back involved a detour into the twisty yet crisp hills of the Drakensberg and then back to Jozi. The road conditions themselves were everything you could think up – boring, average speed camera patrolled freeways; stop-go traffic thanks to near endless roadworks in some areas; jittery and well-worn gravel roads and even some sharp and beautiful asphalt ribbons in the mountain passes near the scenic Burg.
With the AMG-Line package, the GLC300d is shod with 20-inch 285/40s on the rear and 255/55s at the front. You’d think the ride would be shoddy and all the more unbearable but except for when we crossed some really corrugated gravel sections, the ride was not as horrid as we thought it may be. It is hard at times but definitely less so than a 20-inch curb hopper should be. Despite its fairly assisted feel from the steering wheel, the car showed good competence negotiating the bends and inspired confidence on the brakes and across the rutted less than perfect tarmac.
When the tarmac was good, the GLC300d settled well into its stride, that 9G-Tronic transmission excellent at low rev cruising and immensely welcome fuel efficiency. Our round trip managed a 5,8l/100km economy figure and simply because it was the last fuel stop in our planned leg of the journey we brimmed the second tank of fuel after 981km.
The GLC300d isn’t as happy in sport mode, despite the sporty demeanour that the AMG-Line package may portray. 0 – 100km/h is said to be dealt with in 6,2-seconds and that’s pretty quick for the 2.0-litre turbodiesel but the engine gearbox combo isn’t as comfortable with the immediate need for power. It takes a little while to work it all out, the result of which we’d almost describe as turbo lag but it’s a combination of that and what seems to be a transmission lag as it decides the best cogs for that time.
You’re considering a GLC300d because you like the look of the Coupé-SUV right? This isn’t about practicality here but the GLC makes a strong case of this segment. It’s packaging is good enough for adult occupancy in the rear, perhaps not as great for the really tall but it is possible to comfortably load people in the back with surprising ease and comfort. The boot is better than many a good sized sedan so whilst its smaller than a GLE Coupé, it’s entirely worthy of passing the family test. It will also hold its value better than most of its competitors, local data company True Price giving it high scores in this regard according to their data.
But there are other options of course, some of which may be more appealing (or offensive) in styling and some that are either more efficient (this is not bad though) or more exciting if you’re into that. The BMW X4 range is different to this – they don’t quite have something to compete too closely as far as drivetrain is concerned – there’s either a much less powerful option or a much more powerful thanks to an M40d. If it is performance you’re after, the GLC’s AMG-siblings are also options.
The GLC performs as any Merc of its size should. In 300d guise it’s powerful and torquey enough not to trouble you and with a standard 4MATIC suspension, you’ll go many places without losing much sweat.
Despite that, it’s a car that is always going to win on its styling first and foremost because the truth is, it doesn’t do anything else in a way that is unique. There are equally competent others out there and of course, some that are more practical, more powerful more this and more that. If you’re sold on the shape, then the Merc is probably the better looking one. You’ll have less arguments over it we guarantee you.