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- More spacious cabin
- Beautiful interior treatments
- Improved (gasoline) fuel economy
- Awesome safety-feature set
- Chiseled look is gone
- Does it look too much like the larger GLE?
As a tangential—and far more sophisticated—replacement for the GLK, the savvy 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC is a far better match for American wants and needs.
Mercedes-Benz has totally revitalized its product lineup over the past several years, first by bolstering it at the roots, with swoopy new compact CLA-Class sedans, and then GLA-Class crossovers to match. That’s left room up the model line for the once-modest C-Class to become a far more sophisticated (even sexy) sedan. And now, within the bounds of the crossover utility form, Mercedes-Benz is applying some of that same mojo to its new, not-quite-midsize GLC-Class models.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is the completely redesigned replacement for the Mercedes-Benz GLK that was, up until recently, the smallest, most affordable Mercedes crossover.
At first look, there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s all in the family. The current GLK has followed a form that’s considerably boxier than the larger M-Class (now called the GLE); but with the new 2016 GLC, Mercedes-Benz moves to a somewhat more rounded profile and softer details—yet a front-end design that’s far more striking. While we have to admit we’re going to miss the GLK’s earnest, chiseled lines, the GLC takes a step upmarket, and it now closely resembles the GLE-Class—to the degree that if you don’t see it next to one, you might be left wondering which one you’re seeing.
It’s true there’s a smaller gap; there’s now only about 6 inches’ difference in length between the two. Just like the C-Class and its redesign for 2015, the 2016 GLC gets a significant bump in overall length (4.6 inches) and wheelbase (4.7 inches)—plus a couple of inches more height—that should result in a significantly roomier interior. It results in 2.2 inches more rear leg room, plus a space that’s easier to get into and out of, overall. Cargo space increases as part of the GLC’s “growth strategy,” as the automaker puts it, with the cargo floor both longer and wider than before. Hands-free (activated by an underneath foot swipe) tailgate operation is available, and the air suspension’s lowest mode also allows easier loading.
While the GLC might be seen as an understudy of the GLE (the ML, to refresh), it’s no poseur; the design inside is also very different and a major upgrade from the GLK’s simpler look. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class goes with a design that’s clearly influenced by that of the current C-Class—especially in the dash, where it follows a rather horizontal look that’s bisected by a wide center console and center stack and a cluster of round vents, with a standalone infotainment screen standing atop it. The inlaid metallic bezels and soft-touch materials add up to a bejeweled look that used to be reserved for M-B’s most expensive models.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC arrives for its first model year only in rear-wheel-drive GLC300 and all-wheel-drive GLC300 4Matic models, both powered by a frisky 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 making 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque (at a very accessible, diesel-like 1,300 rpm). It’s paired up with a 9-speed automatic transmission, and we found the powertrain combination in an early drive to be responsive and very smooth in all but some low-speed driving. The powertrain also has Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual modes, each with control over the drive system, steering, and suspension (if equipped). The Eco mode maximizes long-distance coasting by freeing the wheels; a smoother body with a long list of aero measures also help boost fuel economy significantly over the outgoing gasoline models. Diesel models are initially missing from the lineup but expected to join later in 2016, as 2017 models.
It rides on a four-link front suspension with upper wishbones, and a five-link rear axle. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system in the GLC sends torque to the front and rear wheels in a 45/55-split, via a planetary differential—with the stability-control system helping it get traction to the wheels that need it.
A steel-spring suspension with variable damping is standard, while Air Body Control with Dynamic Select settings help allow better comfort as well as stiff body control in quick maneuvers. The automaker says that spring and damping forces can adapt within 60 milliseconds. Additionally, a Sport+ setting allows the chassis to be lowered by nearly an inch. Mercedes-Benz has put tremendous work into cabin noise, examining the GLC’s “psycho-acoustic properties” to help lower various noise components and enable easier conversation. While that seems to have worked wonders with road noise and general din in the cabin, we still noticed a fair amount of wind noise in an early drive.
The GLC is built on a new body that’s related to the C-Class sedan and pairs high-strength steels with aluminum and plastics, to save about 110 pounds versus the previous GLK. Total vehicle weight has dropped by 176 pounds versus a comparable GLK, Mercedes says, which should put entry curb weights at a bit below the 4,000-pound mark.
Safety should be fully up to the high bar set by all the other latest Mercedes-Benz products. Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist (drowsy-driving alert) system is standard on the GLC, as is the Collision Prevention Assist Plus frontal warning system. With a Driving Assistance Package, the GLC adds adaptive cruise control with steering assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors with rear traffic alerts, lane-keep assist and Pre-Safe Plus. There are new windowbags for the outer seating positions, plus thorax/pelvis bags for those in front, and a knee bag for the driver. The automaker also says that a stiffer passenger compartment is at the core of the new body construction—so while we can’t attest to its safety yet, we can say that this, the outgoing GLK’s great IIHS ratings, and Mercedes-Benz’s reputation for safety all point to the GLC also being a very good pick for the safety-minded.
A 7.0-inch infotainment screen is standard on the GLC, and it includes Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and an optimized sound system dubbed FrontBass. Navigation can be added, as well as a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, concert-hall Burmester sound, and even the fragrance system that debuted on the S-Class. With its move upmarket, the GLC gets a wide range of appearance options, with wheels ranging up to 20 inches, an AMG Line model, "designo" boutique-look packages, and a Night Package that brings down the chrome factor with plenty of gloss black. A head-up display is newly available in the GLC, and helps as a companion to some of the active-safety gear, and Active Parking Assist will be available on the GLC, helping to steer the vehicle into and out of parallel and perpendicular spots.
The base GLC300 manages 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined, according to the EPA. With all-wheel drive those ratings drop to 21/28/24 mpg.