2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 23, 2016

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.

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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.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Styling

The 2016 GLC-Class wears a conservative look on the outside, but with its rich interior design, it charms from the inside out.

At first look, there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s all in the family. The 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.

From across the parking lot, the GLC looks like it was 3-D-printed from almost the same design, albeit at 95 percent or so. That’s no put-down; the GLC’s design is part of a concerted move from Mercedes-Benz to harmonize its design among vehicles of the same type. 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.

Up close, the GLC’s slightly different set of proportions become more apparent, and there’s a bit more subtlety—and some voluptuous undertones in the sheet metal—that give the GLC a little more charm from the outside, either compared to the GLE, or to other models in its size class like the BMW X3 or Audi Q5.

Although not everyone’s going to be in love with the exterior, few will think that the cabin design of the GLC is anything short of stunning. It’s graceful, flowing, and flamboyant, all at once, with rounded contours, matched by a horizontal orientation overall, and punctuated by just the right amount of brightwork, matte-metallics, and those nicely detailed, functional round vents that are showing up throughout the Mercedes-Benz model lineup.

Inside, the GLC’s dash design 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.

Because your orientation is so different in the GLC, you might not even notice that the dash and interior design is essentially the same as in the C-Class sedan. Again it’s no mistake, as the GLC is closely based on the C; and we like how in keeping with this design, Mercedes left all vestiges of rugged SUV cues at the door.

There’s plenty of room for expression here, too, and the GLC isn’t bound to the sedate exterior colors and interior hues that used to keep Mercedes-Benz models looking a little stilted. With eleven exterior colors, five upholstery themes, and three different wood tones (standard Linden Wood, or optional Black Ash Open-Pore Wood or Black Walnut Wood), plus a Sport Package and a Night Package, there are a lot of different looks here.

In all, that includes five different wheel designs—including five-spoke Himalaya Grey alloys exclusive to the Sport Package two AMG Black designs exclusive to the Night Package. Otherwise the Night Package replaces some of the chrome with dark trims and complements that with 19- or 20-inch wheels.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Performance

The GLC drives less like the larger GLE (M-Class) SUV that it bears a likeness to, and far more like what it is—a tall wagon based on the C-Class.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class may flex its muscles with the stance (and some of the visual cues) of an SUV, but from behind the wheel it feels quite different, like an agile, responsive, and relatively light-driving car—albeit one with a somewhat higher driving position.

When you get down to it, that’s what the GLC is; rather than a true, focused SUV, it’s essentially a tall-wagon version of the C-Class, buffed up with unique sheet metal, upgraded components, and additional ride height. There’s nothing wrong with that approach; in fact, it gives the GLC-Class an excellent starting point and some top-notch over-the-road driving traits.

For 2016, there are essentially just two versions of the GLC-Class, performance-wise: the rear-wheel-drive GLC300, and the all-wheel-drive GLC300 4Matic. Both pack a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection inline-4 engine, making 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. In both versions it’s mated to a new 9-speed automatic.

In an early drive, we were only able to drive the European-market GLC250, which has a lower, 211-hp version of that same engine. There are no plans to offer that lower-output version, but don’t be surprised if next year or the following year there’s a V-6 back in the lineup; a diesel is confirmed for the 2017 model year, while a GLC350e plug-in hybrid is in the works for model-year 2018.

Based on our experience with that engine in other M-B products, you should expect strong performance, especially in the low and mid revs, which gives the turbo four the feel of a large V-6 in terms of actual output. Meanwhile the 9-speed automatic shifts unobtrusively, although its shift timing varies a lot between the car’s Comfort and Sport+ modes, and if you’ve been driving rapidly or forget that it’s in Sport or Sport+ mode, it can lurch at low speed.

We only drove fully loaded models that were equipped with the four-corner air suspension, which also changes its behavior depending on the Dynamic Select drive mode. If it’s anything like what’s offered in the C-Class, we might actually prefer it—or at least declare that it’s not worth the added cost. The air suspension tends to dial out body lean and roll to a degree that it’s sometimes difficult to anticipate the GLC’s cornering capabilities—which are, by the way, pretty impressive for a crossover such as this. Across these models, steering is about right for the mission—meaning that while there’s really no feedback from the road here, it tracks well on center, centers nicely out of tight corners, and always feels nicely weighted around tight corners.

Get all-wheel drive in the GLC (badged "4Matic"), and by default it'll send 45 percent of torque to the front, 55 percent to the rear wheels. With a multi-disc clutch system, it can smoothly and continuously vary the torque split as needed, and reroute or finesse that among wheels with the stability control system by activating individual brakes.

No versions of the GLC offer a low range or a true center differential lock. Overseas-market versions of the GLC will offer an Off-Road Package that brings the electronic equivalent of a center diff lock, plus an uprated version of the air suspension that allows a higher (8.9-inch) maximum ride height, various underbody upgrades, and an off-road-oriented bumper design that allows better approach and departure angles. In the U.S., that package won’t be offered, but there will be an Off-Road Appearance Package that includes the off-road bumper design (and its better angles).

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Comfort & Quality

The GLC is smartly designed inside, and that holds in almost every respect; it may even be more adept at people-hauling than the larger GLE.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC is nearly 5 inches longer and 2 inches wider than its predecessor, the GLK, and that dimensional gain (including a 5-inch boost in wheelbase) goes right where it’s best used: the back seat.

That makes it one of the most spacious luxury compact crossover, short of true mid-sizers like the Lexus RX and BMW X5, and Acura MDX. Next to the segment leader on the comfort-oriented side, the RX, the GLC is 9 inches shorter, but feels nearly as spacious.

In front, the driving position varies quite a bit from that of the larger GLE (M-Class), in that you’re less "on" the vehicle, perched forward, and more "in" the vehicle. That said, the instrument panel keeps the beltline ahead low, and the driver gets a great vantage point outward and ahead.

The seats are fully up to the standards of Mercedes-Benz’s other (larger and more expensive) vehicles. There isn’t a tremendous amount of side bolstering in them, but with a wide range of adjustability and extendable thigh bolsters, they’re the kind of seats that should help keep fatigue away in hours of driving.

Compared to the new C-Class sedan and its more "expressive" roofline, the GLC offers some much more practical accommodations in back. The additional vehicle height pays off; back-seat headroom in the GLC is great—even with the moonroof—and the seats are contoured in a way that should suit adults, not just kids. Doors are cut to make the most of the space, and adults can also easily get in without contorting or ducking heads.

Width is where the GLC shows its not-quite-mid-size dimensions most; you can fit three adults across in back, but they need to be light-to-medium framed and they’ll be making contact.

In back, the GLC-Class is about the ideal height for easy loading and unloading, and there’s an official 20.5 cubic feet of space behind the back seat. The hatch opens high, and there’s a small storage pocket on one side of the cargo floor. The rear seat backs are split 40/20/40, and it’s easy to flip them forward. If we had one nit to pick, it would be that the rear seat backs don’t flip forward to a perfectly flat position; with some weight on the seat, it would be close enough, however.

The GLC rides quietly and in a smooth but very precise, well-controlled way—with the asterisk here that we still haven’t driven this vehicle with its base (non-air-suspension) version. Road coarseness is well filtered-out, and you only notice the engine and its coarse note when pressing it hard. We did find some noteworthy wind noise at typical U.S. cruising speeds, with a slight crosswind, however.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Safety

Just like all other models in the current Mercedes-Benz stable, the 2016 GLC heaps on the active-safety items.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is an all-new vehicle. Yet with its underpinnings quite extensively based on the C-Class sedan, and a very impressive set of active-safety features and options, we can make some projections on this model’s safety.

The current C-Class has earned a mix of crash-test ratings, including five-star federal ratings overall, and "Good" side impact and moderate overlap front results from the IIHS; but full results haven’t yet been conducted by the IIHS. We’re anticipating that the GLC will beat both the C-Class and the larger GLE (M-Class) in sales, however, so we wouldn’t rule out a full roster of U.S. crash tests in the future.

It’s important to note, however, that you can’t simply carry over the C-Class’s safety ratings to the GLC. It’s structure is somewhat different—perhaps different in key aspects of occupant protection—and it also rides several inches higher than the sedan.

The set of safety features in the C-Class run far and wide, to provide good occupant protection as well as keep the driver (and passengers) out of trouble if attention should wane or give an added margin to the drive in accident avoidance.

The 2016 GLC300 models will come standard Attention Assist, which helps identify drowsy driving and gives the driver a warning; it also includes the new Collision Prevention Assist Plus (CPA+) system, one that may come in very handy at moments of inattention. When the speed differential of a vehicle ahead (or object) is less than about 30 mph, the system can automatically brake—first with about 60 percent effort, then fully at later stages—to reach a full stop and avert a collision; and for speed differentials more than that, the system can help reduce the severity of a collision. There’s also blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic assists, and a system called Pre-Safe Plus with rear-end collision prevention, which does exactly what it sounds like—identifying impending rear-end collisions, flashing warning lights, and priming other protective systems.

When optioned with the Distronic Plus active cruise-control system, the GLC provides steering assist to help keep you in your lane of travel. Its intervention is more subtle than other such systems, and we found that we were able to steer smoothly into the shoulder of the road; yet when we took our hands off the wheel, it applied the correct steering inputs, before eventually scolding us to keep both hands on the wheel.

Standard airbag systems in the GLC-Class include combined thorax/pelvis side bags for the driver and front passenger, as well as a windowbag covering both seat rows. Separate rear side bags are a special-order option.

Outward visibility is actually quite good in the GLC; and while rearward visibility when parking or backing up is the only exception, the camera system is very helpful and combines views into one seamless visualization around to both sides.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Features

The Mercedes-Benz GLC gets no short shrift here to Mercedes’ larger models, in terms of options—but we think it’s quite the bargain if you go easy on them.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC, like many of the German automaker’s more recent products, makes a lot more sense from a value standpoint if you can resist many of the packages, a la carte options, and appearance upgrades that beckon. 

Standard equipment has been increased versus the GLK and now includes a touchpad for improved functionality of the COMAND infotainment system, as well as keyless ignition, a power driver’s seat with memory settings, a rearview camera system, a power tailgate, and power folding mirrors.

Yet few will leave it at that. If you’ve considered any other Mercedes-Benz product in recent years—or any Germany luxury model, for that matter—you’ll be familiar with the idea that you can potentially add $15,000 or more in options.

Further to the point, some of those sought-after items are included as part of somewhat pricey option packages. For instance, an Interior Package adds leather upholstery, ventilated seats, ambient lighting, a storage package, and MB-Tex (soft-touch synthetic) dash and upper-door trim, while a Premium Package brings satellite radio, proximity key, heated front seats, blind-spot monitors, and an AC power outlet. And there’s even an Advanced Parking Assistance Package that includes parking assist with an excellent surround-view camera system.

A la carte, you can add a power passenger seat with memory, a head-up display, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, automatic highbeams, and illuminated door sills. Heated front seats are also optional—perhaps the one odd item that should be standard.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 is on par with key rivals, if not better than them; but the real efficiency moves aren’t due until later.

Fuel economy ratings for the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC are largely better than the GLK it replaced, and much better than the V-6-powered GLK350 that was retired.

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.

There won’t be any diesel or plug-in hybrid versions of the GLC-Class offered in its first model year; but both are on the way—for the 2017 and 2018 model years, respectively.

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February 8, 2017
For 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

Dont Buy if your in a RHD market

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If you live in the UK- Ireland or Austrilia please don't buy one of these cars not with anyone's money. I do really fell sorry for the dealer service people as they are stuck between the customer and MB. The... + More »
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May 1, 2016
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class 4MATIC 4-Door GLC 300

Good value for the money.

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It is reasonably priced for a Mecedes, I think the price reflects on Mercedes wanting to compete with Audi, BMW, and Lexas. This matches up to any of these. I am very happy with this car.
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April 28, 2016
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class RWD 4-Door GLC 300

Great car to drive and comfortable on the road.

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Car has great performance, gets relative good mpg, comfortable on long trips and handles like a sports car.
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Styling 9
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 9
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