The GLC brings a bit of Mercedes polish to the premium part of the upper mid-sized SUV segment and this second generation model is a significant step forward from the original. The whole of the mainstream engine range has been electrified and infotainment media connectivity has taken an equally large step forward. Plus efficiency, refinement and build quality represent other strongpoints. It's a very complete package.
The GLC has been quite a success story for Mercedes. This model line didn't even exist until 2015. Since then, more than 2.6 million of them have been sold and in 2021, the 'X253'-series MK1 version's last full year on sale, over 270,000 GLCs found new owners globally; enough to surpass the C-Class and make this model the brand's overall best seller. So you can understand the high expectations in Stuttgart for the successor 'X254'-series design, which like its predecessor shares an awful lot with its C-Class showroom stablemate. This time, the GLC is bigger, all the engines are electrified and, like the 'C', there's a completely redesigned cabin that sets fresh segment standards. There's the same MRA steel and aluminium platform as the C-Class. This GLC is built in the brand's flagship Sindelfingen factory and is described by the company 'as the most important car in our line-up'. Time to brief you on it.
What are your expectations in terms of driving a premium upper-sized mid-level luxury SUV? A reasonably commandingly and luxurious seating position? Plenty of pulling power? Impressive refinement? As before, the GLC delivers all of these things. We're a little disappointed that it remains somewhat disengaging to drive, plus ride quality is on the firm side and can't be embellished with the AIRMATIC air suspension system that Mercedes offers in other markets. On the plus side though, lie exceptional refinement and un-bettered autonomous drive tech, if that's what you're into. There's even an 'Off Road' drive mode for rougher tracks, though we doubt many owners will ever use it. Most significant is the news that this MK2 model gets a completely revitalised range of engines, which in the mainstream part of the range now have 48V 'EQ Boost' mild hybrid tech in their diesel forms as well as their petrol ones. With every single variant in this second generation line-up, you'll find a 2.0-litre four cylinder powerplant beneath the bonnet mated to a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic gearbox and 4MATIC 4WD. Despite prevailing market trends, for the time being at least, most GLCs will continue to sold in diesel form - probably in base 194hp 220 d guise or possibly in uprated 266hp 300 d form. The single conventional GLC 300 petrol derivative has 254hp and if that's not fast enough, then you'll want to know that the same 48V 2.0-litre mild hybrid petrol engine makes a further appearance tuned up to 402hp in the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC+ model. The other versions in the range are all Plug-in Hybrids. The two mainstream PHEV variants take the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines we've just referenced and mate them to a 134hp electric motor, creating what look on paper to be quite prodigious levels of combined output - 308hp for the '300 e' petrol model we tried and 335hp for its unique-in-class '300 de' diesel stablemate. In each case, the electric motor is now powered by a much bigger 31.2kWh battery, which officially means you get up to 80 miles of driving range from an 11kW AC two and a half hour charge. The top Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S variant is also a PHEV, but a very different kind of one, tuned more for performance than efficiency but with a 2.0-litre petrol powertrain developing 671hp.
You'd certainly recognise this as a GLC if you happen to be familiar with this model line. Looking at this MK2 version though, is a bit like encountering a friend who's been at a health farm for a couple of months and has emerged leaner and fitter. Rounded edges and clean surfacing bring some of the look of the C-Class to this Crossover, which as before is sold in SUV and Coupe forms. Either way, it's sleeker than before, the drag coefficient improved by two tenths to 0.29Cd. And it's 60mm longer, measuring in at 4,718mm. It's inside where existing GLC drivers will notice the biggest changes though. The dash adopts a large central portrait screen slightly canted towards the driver. The digital instrument display is borrowed from the C-Class too, but the GLC gets its own uniquely styled vents. And the seats are hugely improved, with more supportive cushioning materials. An augmented reality head-up display can be added as well. Out back, this MK2 model's 15mm wheelbase increase has been put to good use in the slightly more spacious rear section of the cabin - mainly to improve legroom, not one of the previous model's strong points. The bench slides back and forth too, which aids cargo flexibility. Ah yes, boot space. That's up by 50-litres to a class leading 600-litres for the base petrol and diesel SUV models (50-litres more than a conventional BMW X3) and for some reason you get a little more (620-litres) if you opt for the faster of the two conventional diesels, the GLC 300 d. There's a 55-litre reduction in those figures if you opt for the alternative GLC Coupe body shape. With either body style, if your preference is for a Plug-in Hybrid drivetrain, then predictably you'll have to lower your storage expectations by quite a lot - think just 400-litres with the PHEV SUV; it's 390-litres for a GLC Coupe in PHEV form.
Prices start from around £53,000 for the base GLC 220 d AMG Line, rising to just over £73,000 for the top mainstream variant, the plug-in hybrid GLC 300 e Premium Plus. There's an alternative GLC Coupe body style available too - at a premium of around £6,500. With both body shapes, expect the same 'AMG Line', 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus' trim levels. The top Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S E Performance 4MATIC+ variant costs from £109,000. At least the standard equipment is generous, with things like smartphone integration, wireless charging and heated front seats standard across the range. Avoid base trim and your GLC will come with the brand's clever 'DIGITAL LIGHT' headlamps. These project in front of the car onto the road surface when driving at night, with things like guidance lines, symbols and animation, plus the system's intelligent technology highlights pedestrians that you might come across with a spotlight function. Better-specified versions also come with the brand's 'Parking Package' with its 360-degree camera. If your GLC has that, the cabin screen offers a 'transparent bonnet' view when you're driving off road, which shows a virtual view under the front of the vehicle, including the front wheels and the steering position. This allows the driver to recognise obstacles like sharp stones were deep potholes at an early stage. Quite a few owners will want to add on a tow bar - and will like the new 'Towing Route Planner' that's been added into the navigation system. Using this, routes can be planned in the central display that are suitable for driving with a trailer, taking into account things like passage width and passage heights. And there's an enhanced 'Trailer Manoeuvring Assistant' system that makes manoeuvring with a trailer easier, more comfortable and safer.
Given the huge proportion of business sales accounted for by the GLC, Mercedes couldn't afford to return anything but a stellar set of efficiency figures with this MK2 model - and that's what we've got from the fully electrified engine range. Most customers will be choosing either the mild hybrid diesel GLC 220 d, which returns up to 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 141g/km of CO2: it'd 51.4mpg and 152g/km in GLC 300 d form. The mild hybrid petrol GLC 300 returns up to 37.7mpg on the combined cycle and up to 171g/km. It's 2.0-litre mild hybrid petrol engine is shared by the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC model, the stats for which aren't too much different. If you want to do better, you'll need one of the Plug-in Hybrids. The petrol PHEV variant, the GLC 300 e, is rated at up to 565.0mpg on the combined cycle and 12g/km of CO2. The diesel Plug-in variant, the GLC 300 de, is rated at up to 706.3mpg on the combined cycle and 10g/km; yes, really. Both these mainstream PHEV variant's are BiK tax-rated at just 5%. In reality with a GLC PHEV, you can expect the kind of regular consumption figures you'd get from a decent diesel. The PHEVs have a bigger 31.2kWh battery this time round, which gives the petrol versions an EV driving range of between 74 and 81 miles; the diesel PHEV version has an even longer 81 mile range. There will also be a four-cylinder PHEV powertrain for the GLC 63 high performance AMG model - but with only a tiny sub-10 mile EV range. That top Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S E Performance 4MATIC+ variant manages 37.5mpg and 170g/km. What else? Well across the range you get a comprehensive three year warranty that has no mileage restriction (rival BMW and Audi warranties restrict you to 60,000 miles). And this package is built upon by Mercedes' Mobilo scheme which delivers breakdown cover for up to thirty years, as long as you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer. And it's worth knowing that your maintenance outlay can be kept a little in check by going for the optional Service Care package that takes care of routine maintenance, spreading the cost of regular servicing.
Image is everything when it comes to premium mid-sized SUVs and on that basis, this second generation GLC is a very desirable package. In terms of styling, technology and efficiency, it borrows hugely from its C-Class cousin - to very good effect. Plus options like air suspension offer the kind of luxury that used to be limited to much larger luxury SUVs, enabling this car to cross ravines one minute and carve through a set of bends at speed the next. There's a combination here of performance, space and comfort that rivals will find very hard to beat and the now all-electrified engine range adds frugality to that list of attributes. Yes, some potential customers may feel that there are more dynamic choices they could make in this segment, but these people won't be able to leave a Mercedes showroom before being directed towards the sleeker Coupe version of this car - which could very well make them think again. Most though, will value the all-round practicality of the standard SUV model. Of course, this car's two closest arch-rivals, the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, both have strong followings. And beyond those cars, there are trendier-looking options - a Jaguar F-PACE, a Volvo XC60 or an Alfa Romeo Stelvio for instance. Others may want the seven-seat capacity of a comparable Land Rover Discovery Sport. As an all-rounder though, combining many of the qualities you'll find in all of those cars, the GLC remains a tempting package. A segment benchmark? You'd have to say so.