2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC: Nothing Like The GLK

Strong points
  • More fuel efficient
  • High quality fit and trim
  • Attention to detail
  • Carefully crafted interior
Weak points
  • More run-of-the-mill appearance
  • Just one drivetrain this year
  • Complicated infotainment system
  • Less headroom in back
Full report

As of 2016, there will be no point in looking for the Mercedes-Benz GLK in showrooms. It’ll be gone for good. Not only has the vehicle been fully revamped, but it’s been renamed the GLC in a move to restore logic to the brand’s model nomenclature. Going forward, all SUVs will start with “GL,” followed by a letter that indicates the class it was derived from. Thus, the GLC is clearly built on the C-Class platform and shares many of its parts with this car.

And so we bid farewell to the GLK, which will be remembered for challenging other luxury compact SUVs since its introduction in late 2008. We’ll miss its classic and angular lines, as Mercedes-Benz has decided to align the second generation with the design of its other models. 

Too similar to the rest?

These days, models are not only expected to have a family resemblance, but we’re also starting to suspect that auto designers get together and discuss trends over Friday night cocktails. The GLC is not at all like its predecessor and a lot more like the masses. Now featuring rounded corners, it would be easy to mistake the GLC with the other vehicles in its category, were it not for the silver star in the middle of its chrome grille. 

The 2016 GLC is slightly larger than the previous gen, gaining 120 mm in length and 50 mm in width—and it seems even bigger. The effect is accentuated by the fact that the cabin has been set back and the long hood plunges at a steep angle. With a beltline that’s raised and wider than the roof, it looks stocky, compounded by the 19-inch (or optional 20-inch) wheels. 

More power and a hybrid coming in two years 

For 2016, we’re only getting the base trim, which is the GLC 300 4Matic. It borrows its mechanical components from the C-Class, meaning the GLK’s naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 has been ditched. The GLC hasn’t escaped the downward trend and is equipped with a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder that delivers 241 horsepower and 273 lbs.-ft. of torque. It’s mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission (yes, nine!). While this drivetrain offers 61 fewer ponies that the previous one, it’s more fuel efficient. 

Since the diesel GLK proved successful, the GLC will be available with the same type of system as of next year. By 2018, there will also be a plug-in hybrid whose all-electric range is expected to be about 34 kilometres. And while there was never an AMG version of the GLK, we’re willing to bet that a GLC AMG is in the works. 

The best is on the inside 

While the GLC’s exterior may be nothing to write home about, the interior is definitely more remarkable. It makes you feel like you’re aboard a much swankier model, thanks in particular to the wide selection of high-quality materials. The door inserts, dashboard accents, metal screens over the speakers and backlighting add an overall sense of prestige. Thanks to the vehicle’s bigger size, there’s more space inside, particularly for the rear passengers. The cargo hold is also roomier, but the vehicle’s round edges and plunging roofline make the opening a little smaller. 

I liked the super-comfortable seats, which should be great for long road trips. Since they can be adjusted in various directions and the steering column is telescopic, finding the right driving position is a cinch. 

The vehicle comes with Mercedes’ Audio 20 infotainment system, which includes a seven-inch screen that’s perched on top of the dash and takes up a lot of space. Some people like it, others don’t. My main qualm is that it’s not a touchscreen. Instead, you’ve got to use a dial, touchpad and buttons to activate the various controls. It requires a lot of your attention and is not as intuitive as it should be. 

A comfortable ride above all else 

When you take this SUV for a spin, you quickly discover that it balances sporty handling and comfort. Its silhouette suggests a more dynamic ride, but the GLC simply doesn’t draw its DNA from an Audi Q5 or a Porsche Macan. It’s true to Mercedes-Benz’s philosophy that comfort trumps all! And in this regard, the GLC delivers. It can suck back the kilometres without torturing its occupants and, most importantly, it treats passengers to an astoundingly quiet ambience. 

If you’re curious about its power, the 0-100 km/h dash takes 6.5 seconds, which isn’t bad considering the engine’s limited displacement. The model’s light weight accounts for some of it, as does the engine's significant torque. 

The dusty trail, not the track 

The current trend is to concede horses in the name of fuel economy. The shift hasn’t been overly dramatic for the GLC, but it is nonetheless far from being a vehicle built for the track. The good news is that all GLCs come with the 4Matic appellation, which indicates that all-wheel drive is included factory-standard. And unlike the 4Matic system on the GLA, the GLC’s is permanent. In normal conditions, it sends 55% of torque to the rear wheels and—you guessed it—45% to the front wheels. 

The GLA is based on a front-wheel drive architecture and the GLC is rear-wheel drive, which explains the difference in their systems. The nine-speed transmission is very efficient and, despite the numerous gears, it never seems lost.  

You can customize the GLC’s handling using the Dynamic Select system, which features three modes to adjust the accelerator response time, steering and firmness of the air suspension. Even with the more dynamic Sport+ mode engaged, our model didn’t deliver the punch it promised. Was there a problem with our test model? The engineers are looking into it. 

The GLC is part of a very important segment for Mercedes-Benz. The GLK had a great track record, leaving some pretty big shoes for the GLC to fill. Our first drive didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t leave us fully satisfied either. Maybe the best is yet to come. 

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