Mercedes roll out GLC: another new Crossover in their Year of the SUV
First drive: Mercedes GLC
Another week, another crossover/SUV. And this time it is another Mercedes - the new mid-size crossover GLC, based on the C-Class saloon. They've made a SUV of this size before, called the GLK, but not in right-hand drive, so this is a first for Irish buyers.
The GLC slots in between the smaller GLA and the larger GLE. And its rivals include the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX, Volvo XC60, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, etc.
Early in 2015 they said this would be the year of the SUV; they are certainly making it that. With the revised GLE and wonderful, if visually challenging, GLE Coupe already on the go, they also have an S-Class based GLS primed for later in the year.
Driving the GLC through parts of Switzerland, Germany and France was revealing. The cabin was so like the C-Class it was uncanny. The C-Class cabin is exceptional and a key reason I gave the car my second-highest vote as juror in the World Car of the Year awards.
Yet the rest of it is so unlike the C-Class it comes as a fine example of how a longer wheelbase and SUV design can transform a motor's appearance, size and space. This had great room for passengers and luggage. Along with the cabin they comprise its biggest assets.
All the models coming here for its October launch will have all-wheel-drive (4Matic), but next summer's 2-litre diesel (GLC 200d) will have 2WD and I'd expect that to be in demand.
Expect this autumn's arrivals to start from the mid-€40,000s. There will be three models: a 2.2-litre 170bhp GLC220d and 2-litre (204bhp) GLC 250d (€270 road tax each) and a 211bhp GLC 250 petrol. Later there will be a GLC 350e plug-in hybrid (211bhp, plus 116bhp electric motor - 60g/km, €170 road tax). It will be the only one with 7G transmission; all the others, including next year's 2-litre diesel, will have 9spd automatic transmissions.
It is a car of contrasts, good and bad. Striking to look at from the front, with the Merc emblem beaming from centre grille, it is plainer in profile and indistinguishable from the herd at the rear - unless you opt for the version with a garish chrome streak across the back bumper. Then everyone will know the identity of the car in front.
It was a big, comfortable drive. Comfortable being the operative word. This is not a vibrant SUV in the sense of sharp handling or dynamic prowess. The Audi Q5 does a better job, I think. But Merc drivers don't necessarily want that, so let's not presume on their tastes. I did use Sport on the drive-mode settings and that gave better response and sharpened up gear-shifts. I don't think most people will be bothered. A mid-size Merc SUV with acres of room (the rear especially so) for passengers and luggage (rear seats split 40/20/40; when folded the boot has a 1,600-litre capacity) will keep them happy.
However, it is worth pointing out that we felt the diesel in the GLC 220d was garrulous in lower revs (it smoothed out at speed); the 250d much less so, to be fair.
I also drove the plug-in hybrid - 2.6 litres/100km. I'd have to take their word. I'm afraid I opted for power and ended up with a figure of 6.4l/100km. I'm certain you'll get 75mpg+ in real-world driving if you're half careful (We did on the first loop. Then I took over).
And we were mighty impressed with the off-road performance of the petrol GLC 250. It had normal road tyres but managed serious slopes and plunging hollows (air suspension and off-road bumpers helped). It proved what AWD ability can surmount.
Elsewhere, there is a mega spread of safety and comfort 'assists' - from tiredness alerts to collision warnings. And there is a sizeable spread of options and ever-expanding connectivity.
One of the equipment lines is called Exclusive (18ins wheels, lots of chrome/ aluminium highlights); another, AMG, has 19ins alloys.
Among the so-called packages are 'Night' (dark-tinted glass, black paint finish on exterior mirrors, window frames and roof rails).
A large panoramic glass roof, running boards, LED intelligent lighting and so on are included in other options.
They're all part of the first mid-sized Mercedes crossover/SUV package to go on sale here. Which means 2016 is likely to be the year of the SUV for even more buyers.