Tuesday 22 October 2019

First Drive in Frankfurt: Merecedes GLC - 'New' diesel, 2WD, hydrogen fuel cell and 'hot' AMG

Mercedes GLC SUV
Mercedes GLC SUV
Mercedes GLC interior
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

A LOT happened in one day at the recent launch of the revised Mercedes GLC mid-size SUV.

Not only did I get to drive the car with its new 2-litre diesel engine, I also got to try out the GLC F-Cell (hydrogen fuel-cell) hybrid. And I drove the outrageously fast GLC AMG 63 V8 4-litre (0-100kmh/3.8secs, 510bhp, 700Nm) powerhouse.

I also took the car, in Coupé guise, over a challenging off-road track. Not bad, eh?

The GLC, rival for the likes of the Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and BMW X3, benefits from nip, tuck and tidy styling enhancements, as well as the inclusion of the MBUX infotainment system.

More important still is the arrival of their own new 4cyl, 2-litre diesel and petrol powerplants. They are part of a €3bn engine development plan which defies the claim that diesel is dead. Important too is the arrival of a two-wheel-drive version.

With lower emissions due to the engine and 2WD, the price comes down and now starts from €48,040 (Coupé from €51,540).

This 2-litre is a major improvement on the old 2.1-litre that noisily pushed so many GLC stablemates down the years. This quickly settled into quiet mode and had loads of pulling power.

The "new" GLC (standard, Coupé) gets to Ireland for the 192-plate next month.

On sale from launch (all with 4cyl engines) will be a 200 4Matic, 300 4Matic, 200d 4matic, 220d 4matic and a 300d 4matic.

The most popular will be the GLC 200d and GLC 220d (standard, Coupe) with 2WD on both.

Expect a petrol hybrid later and a diesel plug-in this time next year.

While the 200d and 220d are the core cars (I drove the 300d 4matic), other variants were at opposite ends of the spectrum: the AMG 63 and Hydrogen F-Cell hybrid.

The latter is a fascinating prospect. The battery pack is under the boot, while accommodating the hydrogen tank necessitated raising the rear seats by 3mm. But you'd hardly notice, as there is such an amount of headroom due to the tall roofline. The rest of the car is untouched. Talk about a good fit - even the engine bay layout and size is unchanged.

It's straightforward to fill up and/or charge. On the road it was electric-car quiet, really quick off the mark and mid-speed responsive. Heavily insulated, we didn't notice road/tyre noise.

We drove it against the backdrop of news that a coordinated Irish attempt to promote and develop hydrogen as a power source had begun. Ireland hasn't taken hydrogen seriously - yet.

Then we took the GLC AMG63 for a 100km-plus drive near Frankfurt. This is simply the fastest mid-size SUV in the world, they say. On the basis of intermittent bursts of speed and acceleration, I believe them. Ditto for their top speed claim of 280km/hour. There was one unlimited stretch of autobahn where... well, maybe it's best not to go into too much detail.

This let us briefly sample what genuine power can do to a car and its driver.

Anyway, those updated "GLC family" models come hot on the heels of five new arrivals from Mercedes this year. Seven more are due: a new V-Class, GLS, EQC, GLA Shooting Brake and GLB 7-seater (October).

By the way, the MBUX multimedia system and its 'Hey Mercedes' signature expand with each model phase. Driver assistance systems include distance, brake and steer assist with automatic speed monitoring.

There is a 9spd 9G-Tronic automatic transmission and a long menu of on/off-road drive modes, dynamic body control suspension and drive settings, etc.

The car is going to be driven on the tarmac but for the 1pc who'll take it off-road, I think you'll find it impressive. It, and its technology, coped well with serious climbs, plunging descents, three-wheel passages and heavy slants.

But let's finish on a high (performance and price). The "hot" AMG 63 4Matic will cost north of €123,000 for the 8cyl 476hp version, with the S variant (510hp) yours for around €136,000.

All in a day's driving.

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