REVIEW | The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d is a SUV in a tuxedo and hiking boots

28 November 2019 - 07:56 By Denis Droppa
Sloping roof gives sporting presence but hinders rearward vision. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Sloping roof gives sporting presence but hinders rearward vision. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Four years into its lifespan, the Mercedes-Benz GLC compact SUV has been given a refresher, comprising some styling, technology and engine tweaks. The updates also apply to its curvier cousin, the GLC Coupé, which is part of the extended C-Class family.

Motor companies are rather fast and loose with the “coupé” term these days, applying it to swoopy-shaped cars however many doors they have — it used to denote specifically two-door cars.

That said, the GLC Coupé is suitably swoopy-roofed despite having four passenger portals, giving it a distinctly more hunkered-down sporting presence than the average SUV.

When the BMW X6 first ushered in the concept of an SUV-coupé a few years ago it looked awkward, but the zeitgeist has taken hold and such vehicles now look a lot more normal.

The Mercerdes GLC Coupé looks elegant and rugged — a burly adventurer wearing a tuxedo and hiking boots, if you will.

The range-wide facelift includes redesigned headlamps and radiator grille, and what Mercedes describes as a distinctive off-road look accentuated by muscular surface contours.

Both models now get LED headlamps and redesigned LED tail lights as standard, with multibeam LED headlamps available as options.

A high-tech dash with touchscreen and voice control that actually works. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
A high-tech dash with touchscreen and voice control that actually works. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The car’s roomy, comfortably taking four adults inside its cabin, and the swoopy roof doesn’t affect headroom too much. More of an issue is the limited view out of the rear windscreen, caused by the roof sloping down so dramatically.

This causes a limitation on boot height too, but there’s a decent amount of floor space for cargo. With the rear seats folded the car was able to comfortably accommodate a fully assembled bicycle.

A cabin update sees the introduction of high-grade materials including optional open-pored wood, while all GLCs come standard with the latest generation MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system which can be operated with touch, gesture or voice control.

The voice control is activated by saying “Hey Mercedes” and it’s one of the better speech-recognition systems I’ve experienced. Rather than being a gimmick, I used it often to change radio stations and climate control settings.

THERE ARE ECONOMY, SPORTS AND SPORTS PLUS MODES, WHICH AFFECT THROTTLE AND STEERING RESPONSE

The digital, spaceship-like dashboard is a big part of this car’s appeal. The cabin is embellished with suede and leather seats, and the open-pore wood and metallic accents create a classy feel overall.

As part of the latest upgrade, the semi-autonomous driving safety systems have been extended with distance-assist and steer-assist, and by automatic braking if the driver fails to see oncoming traffic. Also new is Trailer Manoeuvring Assist, which helps out when reversing.

The GLC 300d on test here isn’t overembellished with features for the close to R1m price, and you have to pay extra for features like navigation, electrically powered front seats, the running boards, and that attractive open-pore wood trim.

The GLC and GLC Coupé are powered by a new generation of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, all variants laying down the power down through a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive.

On test here is the more powerful of the duo of 2.0l diesel versions, and Merc’s engine gurus have squeezed impressive outputs from it. With 180kW and 500Nm the car outpowers its rivals in this corner of the SUV segment, though it outprices them too.

It’s a punchy vehicle. There’s some minor hesitation initially as the turbo wakes up, but then it pulls like a steam train, leaving you in little doubt that it would reach its claimed 231km/h top speed on an autobahn.

The 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds will put some sports hatches to the test too, but the best part is the budget-friendly fuel consumption, which averaged 7.9l /100km.

There are economy, sports and sports plus modes that affect throttle and steering response to suit the situation and driver’s mood. All-round refinement is impressive and it’s a velvety-voiced diesel engine that eschews any agricultural character.

On its standard suspension the ride is on the firm side and partly to blame were the optionally fitted 20-inch low-profile tyres (18-inchers come standard), while the suspension also tended to uncomfortably thump over speed humps. On bumpy tar and gravel it didn’t have the relaxed, bump-soaking ride I experienced in an Audi Q3 or BMW X4.

For this reason it’s worth considering ordering the GLC with optional Dynamic Body Control that has adjustable damping that adapts to the driving situation and changing road surfaces. It’s also available with air suspension which makes it possible to raise or lower the vehicle by 15mm.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Four-cylinder diesel turbo

Capacity: 1,950cc

Power: 180kW

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission

Type: Nine-speed automatic

Drivetrain

Type: 4Matic all-wheel drive

Performance (claimed)

Top speed: 231km/h

0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 5.9l/100km (claimed); 7.9l / 100km (as tested)

Emissions: 159g/km

Standard features

ABS brakes, stability control, seven airbags, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring, MBUX multimedia system, voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, cruise control, sports suspension, Keyless Go starting function, Artico man-made leather upholstery, climate control, rain sensor, leather multifunction steering wheel, LED headlamps, digital instrument cluster

Warranty: Two years/unlimited kilometres

Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km

Price: R968,881

Lease*: R20.680 a month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Competition

BMW X4 xDrive 20d M Sport, 140kW/400Nm — R891,442

BMW X4 M40d, 240kW/680Nm — R1,140,264

Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro S Line Sport, 140kW/400Nm — R787,139

Volvo XC60 D5 AWD R Design, 173kW/480Nm — R811,400

Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d coupe 4Matic

WE LIKE: Styling, performance, fuel consumption

WE DISLIKE: A lot of the best features are expensive options

VERDICT: Adventure vehicle in a tuxedo

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