Mercedes GLC review : Small premium SUV with strong diesel engines

  • Smart looks
  • Spacious interior
  • Off-road ability
  • Expensive options
  • Limited engine choice
  • Not much else

The Mercedes GLC is a family SUV that’s comfortable and fun to drive. The Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque are its closest rivals in terms of price and equipment.

The beautifully designed interior along with the easy-to-use layout and superb quality is taken straight from the C-Class – this means the GLC has arguably the poshest feeling cabin in its class. Interior space is generous and the boot is bigger than its rivals, although the hybrid version makes do with smaller capacity because the batteries are under the boot floor.

Several different driving modes can transform how the GLC drives with a push of a button – it can be a comfortable motorway cruiser, a fairly capable off roader or a car that can drive relatively fast along B-roads with minimal body roll. On the road, testers compare it to the quiet and composed C-Class and off the road the GLC has a range of electronic modes to help it overcome muddy fields and steep hills.

Engine wise, there is only one diesel available in two power levels. Both versions are frugal and powerful, but the lower powered version is so similar in terms of running costs and performance that most buyers will find it hard to justify the extra cost of the higher-powered option. 

As with any Mercedes there is a huge list of optional extras that add luxury and more features, but can also make the small SUV quite an expensive car. Nevertheless, the entry-level SE model’s standard equipment is plentiful with leather seats, a reversing camera, electrically opening boot and automatic climate control.

Interior – Stylish and well-made

The GLC is closely related to the C-Class, hence the ‘C’ in the name, so the interior is similar – dashboard, steering wheel, controls and materials used are identical to those in the saloon. And that’s a good thing, because the C-Class has one of the best interiors in its class and makes the GLC’s interior a better place to spend time than the dated Audi Q5 or the BMW X3.

Mercedes GLC passenger space

The GLC replaces the GLK (which wasn’t sold in the UK) and it’s a slightly bigger car. It has plenty of space for passengers with good amounts of shoulder room, and four adults can travel in comfort. Seats are described by reviewers as supportive and the raised position gives great visibility, but the middle rear seat is too narrow for an adult and the leg room is limited by a transmission tunnel running along the floor where the middle passenger’s feet would go.

Mercedes GLC boot space and storage

The GLC is a very capable family car – with 550 litres of boot space (60 more than in the C-Class Estate) and 40/20/40 splitting rear seats it is not only more practical than a C-Class, but it has the same amount of luggage space as the X3 and a little more than the Q5. The storage compartments in the doors are a good size and there is also a bin and drink holders between the front seats.

Driving – Comfortable and able to corner quickly

Testers are impressed by the way the GLC drives and particularly how capable and competent it feels. There is always traction thanks to the four-wheel-drive system and the electric power steering is perfectly weighted and precise.

The driver can choose from four modes that dramatically change many of the GLC’s characteristics, including suspension, throttle response and speed of gear changes. Put it in sport mode and the GLC is almost as good to drive as an X3 and in comfort mode it is as relaxed as a Mercedes can be.

The optional ‘off-road engineering’ package adds another five driving modes – slippery, trailer, off-road, incline and rocking assist. Even though most owners will rarely go driving along muddy tracks, it’s reassuring to know that the SUV is more capable off-road than its rivals and is possibly on par with the Land Rover Discovery.

Engine – Diesel automatic only

For the UK market, the GLC comes with only one diesel engine in two power levels that can only be paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Petrols are not planned to make an appearance, but a hybrid is expected to go on sale in 2016. The auto gearbox is smooth and always chooses the right gear, but it is criticised for being a tad slow to change down a gear in Sport mode.

Mercedes GLC diesel engines

The only available engine for the GLC is not a bad one –  it’s a 2.1-litre diesel and can be ordered in two levels of power: 170hp and 204hp. The more powerful version has all of its pulling power available from just 1,500rpm, making towing or overtaking easy and stress-free.

The lower-powered 220d version is so similar to the 204hp one in terms of driving and performance, that it’s hard to recommend spending £1,550/$2,325 on the 250d. The 0-62mph times are very similar (8.3 and 7.6 seconds respectively) and most drivers wouldn’t feel a difference between the two engines in everyday driving. The 220d is just as fuel efficient as the 250d – it can return 56.5mpg and emits 129g/kg of CO2, resulting in a £110/$165 annual road tax bill.

Mercedes GLC Hybrid

For the lowest running costs, especially if you live in the city, the 350e hybrid is the best best. Set to go on sale in the UK in 2016, the petrol-electric GLC will get 109mpg and emit 60g/km of CO2 making it free to tax and exempt from London Congestion Charge. The low running costs aren’t the only good thing about the 350e – with a 5.9 second 0-62mph time it will be the fastest GLC until theAMG version comes out.

Mercedes GLC Fuel Cell

Rumoured for an early 2018 release the hydrogen-powered GLCpromises to use the latest fuel cell technology and according to Mercedes will have a range of around 300 miles. The benefit of fuel cell compared to hybrid technology is that refueling a hydrogen-powered vehicle only takes a few minutes whereas with hybrids it can take up to 12 hours.

Safety – A five-star car

The Mercedes GLC was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2015 and scored the full five stars..

All models come with lots of safety kit including multiple airbags, attention assist (which warns the driver to take a break when their becoming drowsy) and an active bonnet that flips up in an impact to protect pedestrians from the car’s hard internals.

All models also come with autonomous braking, which can lessen (or prevent altogether) an impact by applying the brakes automatically at speeds of up to 65mph.

Value for money – Better value than rivals

The Mercedes GLC turns out to be good value for money when compared like-for-like with the X3 and the Q5. The GLC is more economical, has better standard kit and is more practical. With the more powerful diesel emitting just 129g/km of CO2, you’ll only have a £110/$165 annual road tax bill – that’s not a lot for a 200hp, 1,800kg family SUV.

Mercedes GLC equipment

The GLC is available in the usual Mercedes trim levels: SE, Sport and AMG Line. The SE trim is well-equipped with little need for any optional extras and the AMG Line adds a hint of performance to the otherwise relaxed and comfortable GLC with its lower, firmer sports suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels and racier exterior styling.


On paper the Mercedes GLC has the competition beat – it is more practical, more economical, has a high quality interior and impressive off-road ability.

It’s a car with very few criticisms from reviewers and many recommend it over the rivals. A family crossover was missing from the Mercedes line-up, but the GLC has all the credentials to become the benchmark in the class.


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