Mercedes-Benz offers a wide range of SUVs in India. This is a commendable feat considering they are all luxury vehicles. From the entry-level GLA, to the mid-size GLE to the bonkers G63 AMG, there's a lot to choose from. The only missing branch in the Mercedes SUV family tree is the one that sits between the GLA and GLE. Basically the Stuttgart carmaker never really challenged the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. The GLE 250 does go up against them in terms of price but isn't from the same class. The GLK did in international markets, but then it never made it to India. In a way, that's a good thing. Despite being a capable vehicle, it wasn't as appealing as the rest of its SUV siblings since it was around for quite some time. However, all that is about to change as Mercedes is ready with an all-new SUV, the GLC. It's the GLK replacement internationally and seems to have what it takes to rival the Q5 and X3. We were in Coorg recently and got to drive the India spec GLC.
The C in GLC basically refers to the C-Class, since it's based on the sedan. The overall footprint is similar to the Q5 and X3, but it sits lower giving it a more station-wagon look. The face is a typical new-age Mercedes design featuring a large front grill and curvy headlamps that look a lot similar to various cars from the family. The daytime running LEDs and the dual projector units in the lamp add to the presence. Since India gets the off-road package model, the SUV sits 20mm higher than the standard GLC. The front bumper gets more protection and is designed to offer a higher angle if approach. There's quite a bit of chrome too. It still is a fairly low vehicle for an SUV, especially the height at which the headlamps sit.
Move to the side and the silhouette reminds one more of an estate than SUV, and this isn't a negative as it actually looks stylish. The raised height and the contrasting side boards give it the SUV character. Dual-tone alloys get a five-spoke treatment and are mounted to 18-inch 235-section rubber. Interestingly, our GLC was running on Hankook Verde rubber while the rest in the fleet used Pirelli Scorpion tyres. Unlike the more athletic GLA, the GLC's sides are a lot more subtle. The shoulder line isn't as prominent but that also gives it a more mature and elegant character.
The rear end is smart too and quite unique when compared to all the other SUVs in the Mercedes line-up. It's more in sync with the Mercedes coupes and C estate. The sleek taillamps feature LED lighting and look very attractive, especially when the sun goes down. Chrome detailing around the exhausts and the bumper is similar to the other Mercedes siblings.
The GLC offers an interior that looks elegant and sporty. The overall layout and styling is similar to the C-Class. This makes it one of the best-looking cabins in a Mercedes SUV. Attention to detail and quality of materials used is top-notch. The various controls are easily accessible, and the centre armrest area also gets two switches for the various off-road settings. Based on the exterior colour, the interior gets a different hue. The brown GLC, for instance, gets a dual-tone black/beige interior while the silver GLC gets an all-black cabin. One can choose between various detailing options for the centre console and door panel inserts, including matte black and faux wood.
Since the GLC will initially be sold as a CBU, there's only one variant available, the Edition 1. There are various features offered standard. Ambient lighting like in the C-Class adds to the premium feel. A panoramic sunroof is also available part of standard equipment. The 7-inch infotainment screen features various camera modes, including front and rear wide angle views and a 360 degree aerial vision. The camera views come in handy especially while parking, driving in crowded cities and off-roading.
In terms of cabin space, the GLC offers more room than the C-Class sedan. The front seats can be electrically adjusted and also offer a memory function. Rear kneeroom is on par and better than a few vehicles in its class. There are quite a few storage points too. The door pads can hold two large bottles while the rear armrest gets extension cup holders. Boot space is an impressive 550 litres and can be further extended to 1,150/1,600 litres with the rear seats split and completely folded respectively. The second row seats can be folded by simply pushing a button placed on both sides. The tailgate can be opened and closed electrically too.
There are two engine options to chose from for India. The GLC 220d features the 2,143cc, turbocharged diesel that produces 170PS from 3,000 to 4,200rpm and an impressive 400Nm of torque available between 1,400-2,800rpm. The GLC 300 meanwhile uses the 1,991cc, turbo petrol motor that puts out 245PS of max power at 5,500rpm. This makes it one of the most powerful SUVs in its class. Max torque is an equally awesome 370Nm available from an even lower 1,300rpm. On the road, the diesel is quite a refined unit but still not on par with the Audi 2.0 TDI unit in terms of NVH levels. However, power delivery is strong and there's a good amount of mid-range poke from the oil burner. The engine makes the GLC a good tourer. It's effortless and munches miles without any strain. There are various driving modes - Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and a customisable Individual mode. As our drive route was only about 150kms, we didn't get to extensively test all modes, we preferred the Comfort setting most.
The 2.1-litre unit is the same engine seen in various Mercedes models. The diesel GLC is claimed to reach 100kmph from standstill in 8.3s and max out at 210kmph. While the current state of tune feels sufficient, a more powerful state of tune like in the GLE 250 and C 250 could have been offered as an option. We, however, feel that Mercedes will offer a GLC 250 in the future.
The GLC 300 in comparison is a lot more eager lower down, thanks to a lower kerb weight and a more powerful engine. It's a quiet motor and reminds you that it's a petrol unit when it goes past 6,000rpm. There's ample power throughout the rev range and is a lot more enjoyable to drive compared to the diesel. The cabin is also a lot quieter than in the diesel variant and on par with its petrol rivals. The Sport mode goes well with the turbo-petrol's nature. The GLC 300 is claimed to hit 100kmph from standstill in just 6.5 seconds while top speed is a high 222kmph.
The off-road package adds 20mm to the overall height; however, Mercedes doesn't have ground clearance figure yet. Expect it to be similar to its German competition. Our driving route from Coorg to Mangalore featured broken roads and twisties. While one can compare the GLC's dynamics to a sedan, it is impressive for an SUV. A softer suspension set-up makes it drive well over undulations and potholes. This same suspension setting, however, makes the GLC roll more than expected, especially at higher speeds. The petrol variant is a lot better in terms of dynamics; it stays better planted. We didn't drive off-road but there are various off-road settings pre-tuned for various conditions (off-road, incline and slippery). The ABS, ESP and the all-wheel drive system is altered accordingly. There's also hill-descent control offered as standard. We hope to use these modes extensively when we road test the GLC very soon.
The GLC also offers a long list of standard safety and assistance features including parking assist, attention assist, adaptive brake lights, seven airbags and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. Other infotainment features include a 20 CD stereo, Garmin-based navigation, two USB ports and SD card inputs.
Mercedes-Benz India will roll out the GLC on June 2. We expect the SUV to be priced between Rs 48-50 lakh (ex-Mumbai). At this price, it has the potential to do well and give its rivals like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 a tough fight. This will also slot it exactly between the GLA and GLE when it comes to pricing.