Mercedes-Benz GLC arriving late but loud to the premium SUV party

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Despite arriving very late to the medium-size premium SUV party, Mercedes-Benz will make one hell of an entrance with its C-Class-based 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV. And the four-pot turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel AWD variants available from launch will be just the beginning.

Built in Mercedes-Benz’s massively expanded factory in Bremen, Germany, but also destined for production in China (for domestic consumption only), the GLC line-up will eventually include a GLC63 AMG variant boasting the C63’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing up to 375kW.

The Mercedes-AMG GLC63 will be the most powerful car in its class, and thanks to its 4matic all-wheel drive system should be capable of obliterating the 0-100km/h sprint in around four seconds.

The only other sporting variant in the GLC’s class is Audi’s 230kW/650Nm twin-turbo-diesel SQ5, while BMW’s X3 has no hope of challenging the GLC63 – due to launch in 2017 – or even the lesser-powered GLC450 AMG destined to arrive in Australia (with its C450 AMG relative) mid-next year.

Unlike Audi’s diesel-engined performance SUVs, Mercedes-Benz will stick to petrol power. The GLC450 AMG will feature a twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol V6 producing around 270kW and 500Nm. Given a likely kerb weight of less than 1850kg – 70kg lighter than the SQ5 – the GLC450 should be capable of 0-100km/h in the high fours.

At the other end of the spectrum, the GLC line-up will eventually be fleshed out with entry-level rear-drive versions, including a GLC200 with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four, though as pointed out by the head of Mercedes-Benz’s R&D department, Dr Thomas Weber, “the volume is small”.

Also joining the right-hand-drive GLC line-up at mid-cycle update time (around 2018) will be the GLC350e, a plug-in hybrid sharing the same petrol/electric drivetrain as the C350e sedan.

At launch, the GLC350e will be left-hand-drive only – an unusual decision given the steep learning curve handed to Mercedes-Benz after building the GLC’s predecessor, the 2008-2015 GLK, solely in left-hook during a global boom in SUV demand. Thomas Weber wearily admitted the defeat, saying “with the success of the SUVs, it was a mistake”.

Thanks to sharp pricing, surprisingly comprehensive spec, and arguably the most handsome shape in the Mercedes-Benz passenger-car line-up, the GLC has the right ingredients to succeed in Australia when it goes on sale here December 1.

The base GLC 220d 4matic, with a 125kW/400Nm 2.1-litre turbo-diesel four and nine-speed automatic transmission, aims for the jugular with a $64,500 sticker and a wealth of standard equipment. Cue 19-inch wheels, keyless start, an electric tailgate, LED intelligent lighting system (with variable light distribution, active light function, country and motorway modes, cornering lights, extended fog light function, dynamic headlamp range control and blue welcome light), electric front seats and a 360-degree parking camera, not to mention the same standard-setting dashboard and in-cabin luxury as a W205 C-Class.

All GLCs will also feature ‘Agility Control’ suspension with adjustable damping as standard but, unique to its class ‘Airmatic’ suspension with adaptive air springs will be optional.

The GLC 220d’s chief competition includes the Audi Q5 2.0TDI quattro ($62,600), BMW X3 20d xDrive ($64,700), Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 SE ($59,000), Lexus NX 300h Luxury AWD ($59,500) and the front-drive-only Volvo XC60 D4 Luxury ($64,890).

Step up to the 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol GLC 250 4matic and the price jumps to $67,900, and brings 20-inch wheels, keyless entry, leather trim, privacy glass and Driver Assistance Package Plus (adaptive cruise control with steering assist and ‘stop & go’ pilot, pre-safe braking with pedestrian protection, brake-assist plus, cross-traffic assist, active blind-spot assist, lane-keeping assist and pre-safe plus).

The GLC 250d 4matic, with an uprated 150kW/500Nm 2.1-litre turbo-diesel four, shares the same equipment as the GLC 250 petrol, but asks two grand more at $69,900. A little tardier to 100km/h than its petrol namesake (7.6sec v 7.3), the 250d’s ace is its combined fuel-economy number of 5.0L/100km, identical to the 220d’s but 1.5L/100km thriftier than the GLC 250 petrol’s.

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