What Car? says...
If you’re wondering where the Mercedes GLC sits in the brand’s model hierarchy, the clue is in the last letter. The GLC is the large SUV equivalent of the C-Class saloon, and it's bigger than two other Mercedes SUVs, the GLA and GLB.
This latest version is slightly larger than the first-generation GLC, with modified underpinnings that give the driver and up to four passengers more interior space (it's not available as a seven-seater as some big 4x4s are). The model shares its dashboard with the current Mercedes C-Class so you get that car's tech and style too.
All versions have four-wheel drive, and you can have a petrol or diesel engine with mild-hybrid (MHEV) or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology. The PHEVs will be a good option for company car drivers because the battery’s official all-electric range of around 80 miles commands one of the lowest benefit-in-kind tax rates in the class.
We're covering the standard Mercedes GLC in this review, but there's also a GLC Coupé – which is due to be updated in Summer 2023 to be in line with this SUV – and a hot AMG version offering a lot more pace that’s also due to be updated next year.
That all sounds mighty promising, but don't forget that the title of best premium large SUV is very hotly contested, so the GLC has its work cut out if it wants a shot.
For a start, it has to contend with seven-seaters including versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Mercedes GLB. Among five-seaters, there are the exceedingly accomplished Audi Q5 and BMW X3 plus PHEV rivals, such as our current favourite the Lexus NX 450h, and the Volvo XC60 Recharge PHEV.
So should you buy the latest Mercedes GLC? Well, we’ve driven it and over the next few pages of this review we'll tell you everything you need to know before you do – including what engines and trim levels are available, how practical it is and what the performance and running costs are like.
If you do decide to take the plunge, remember that we can help you find the lowest price on most makes and models if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals service. It has lots of the best new large SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Consisting of a mild-hybrid (MHEV) diesel and petrol engine, as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) petrol and diesel, there’s something for everyone in the Mercedes GLC’s range of engines.
The entry-level 194bhp 220d diesel provides plenty of power low in the rev range, so you don’t have to work it very hard at all to make brisk progress. Flat-out acceleration is hardly exciting, but there’s enough performance for most buyers. Indeed, it should have the legs on the Land Rover Discovery Sport D200.
The GLC 300 petrol develops 254bhp and, on paper, is the quickest to accelerate from 0-62mph. It doesn’t feel like it in practice, though, and needs to be worked harder when you want a sudden turn of pace.
The 300e petrol PHEV, on the other hand, has instantly available power from its electric motor, making it better to drive than the 300. Likewise, the 300de diesel PHEV is a considerable step up from the entry-level 220d, and has the best performance in the range.
We’ve yet to try the standard car without air suspension (which isn’t available in the UK) but we have tried the PHEV, which gets self-levelling rear air suspension to deal with the extra weight of the battery.
While the GLC soaks up smaller potholes in town without much fuss, you’ll find that larger potholes unsettle the car and cause a slight thud through the interior. On 20in wheels, there’s a gentle amount of fidgeting at low speeds before settling down on the motorway. It’s not enough to make the GLC uncomfortable (the Lexus NX suffers from a similar effect), but the Audi Q5 is still the most comfortable rival and is far better at isolating occupants from imperfections.
When it comes to handling, the PHEV models won’t be as agile as the lighter MHEV options but they still give you plenty of grip and composure, with the rear air suspension somewhat negating the negative effects of the hefty battery. Non-PHEV versions get AMG-tuned coil spring suspension, which should be more capable on twisty roads. There’s no escaping that the GLC feels much heavier than the smaller and more nimble NX, though.
The steering response isn’t the sharpest and the NX has a more natural build up in weight, but it’s accurate enough to help you position the GLC on the road with ease. The Sport mode gives you weightier steering, but the BMW X3 and the Porsche Macan are more agile and entertaining.
In terms of refinement, the diesel 220d is smooth when accelerating and virtually inaudible at a motorway cruise. The petrol 300 is even quieter at low speeds, but becomes quite vocal when worked hard, with a constant whistling from the turbocharger that could prove annoying after a while. That would be appropriate in a performance car, but less so in a sensible large SUV.
The petrol engine in the 300e PHEV is rather grumbly when it fires up, but thankfully, it doesn’t make itself heard very often. The electric motor does most of the work around town with less whine than the NX. The GLC is ever so slightly quieter on the motorway too.
Wind noise is minimal, with a little flutter to the front windscreen pillars. Road noise is also kept to a low level, but there's quite a thump from dealing with sharper bumps and expansion joints.
The standard nine-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly most of the time, but can be hesitant to shift down when you want a burst of acceleration or when setting off from a standstill. The PHEVs help solve that issue by using their electric power to assist almost instantaneously as you press the pedal.
We have a separate review of the quickest version of the GLC, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 Coupé.
The interior layout, fit and finish
You sit suitably high up in the Mercedes GLC, and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a comfortable driving position. As standard, every GLC gets comfortable front seats with four-way electrically adjustable lumbar support and a good range of steering wheel movement. All trims except entry-level AMG Line come with electrically adjustable front seats and a memory function.
From the driving seat, you’re treated to a commanding view of the road ahead, but the way the windscreen pillars are more steeply angled than in many large SUVs restricts visibility at junctions. It’s easier to see out of the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Lexus NX and the Porsche Macan though, because the GLC's taller dashboard cocoons you more. It's quite deep, though, which brings the controls slightly closer to you, making them easy to reach.
Over-the-shoulder vision is perfectly adequate by the standards of the class, and all versions come with LED headlights, a rear-view camera, and front and rear parking sensors. Trims above the entry-level one get a 360-degree camera that provides a virtual bird’s eye view to help you manoeuvre in tight spaces. It uses the cameras to create a ‘transparent bonnet’ view for off-roading, allowing you to keep an eye on the road immediately ahead of you.
The GLC’s interior is dominated by two large digital displays. Along with the crisp 12.3in driver’s display, there’s a large portrait-oriented 11.9in central infotainment screen that can be operated by touch, voice or using rather fiddly touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel. A head-up display is standard on top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus which also offers a range of layouts.
The central touchscreen is mounted high up on the dashboard and is within close reach, responding quickly to inputs and displaying super-sharp graphics. It has voice control, which is surprisingly good at recognising your requests and can be used for many functions, from changing the interior temperature to programming a location into the nav and even telling jokes. The shortcut keys and rotary controller of BMW’s iDrive system is less distracting to use overall, though.
For sheer visual wow factor, the GLC’s interior beats all the rivals. The top of the dash and doors on AMG Line models are covered in soft-touch material, and the large panels of gloss black and matt wood trim finishers contrast well with the silver highlights dotted around the cabin. There’s plenty of ambient lighting to bathe in at night time, too.
You’d have to look lower down on the dashboard to find hard scratchy plastics, and some of the buttons don’t feel as robust or as well-damped as those you’d find in some rivals. The Q5 and X3 are better for quality rather than style.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Thanks to front seats that slide back a very long way, even seriously tall drivers won’t climb into the Mercedes GLC and complain about the amount of leg room on offer. There’s plenty of front head room to accommodate anyone long in the body, too, even when a panoramic glass sunroof is fitted.
Storage space is suitably generous, with wide door pockets that are easily big enough to swallow a large bottle of water. There’s also a covered storage area in the centre front armrest, two cupholders and a tray tucked away with wireless phone-charging.
Despite its sporty styling (although not as sporty as on the Mercedes GLC Coupé version), the GLC has enough space in the back to accommodate a couple of six footers relatively comfortably. There’s lots of leg room for a passenger sitting behind a six-foot adult, with more on offer than inside the Lexus NX. There’s plenty of space for feet beneath the front seats to let you stretch out that bit further, while rear head room is impressive.
As in many rivals, middle-seat passengers will have to straddle a chunky transmission tunnel on the floor, so the GLC isn’t the best choice if you regularly carry three adults in the back. If you need to carry more people, look at the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Mercedes GLB (they're both seven-seaters).
Rear storage is good, with door cubbies big enough for a couple of small bottles of water, map pockets on the backs of the front seats and a narrow pop-out tray for pens or to slot a phone in.
Folding down the GLC’s rear seats is really easy: you flick a switch in the boot (or another in the rear passenger compartment) and the seatbacks drop down automatically. The rear seatbacks split 40/20/40, rather than the usual 60/40 arrangement, which means two rear passengers can enjoy full-size seats while you carry long, narrow cargo between them (a pair of skis, for example).
The load bay is uniform in shape and folding the rear seats down leaves a virtually flat extended load area with no annoying steps or ridges.
All versions come with an electric tailgate, a luggage retaining net on one side to contain smaller items and a small compartment under the floor to store the tonneau cover. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models' rear air suspension allows you to lower the back of the car to help with loading bulky items into the boot.
In terms of capacity, the GLC’s 620-litre boot is bigger than the ones in the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. We’ve yet to find out whether it will actually swallow more carry-on suitcases than those rivals, but it should be an improvement on the seven we squeezed into the previous model (that’s one fewer than the X3 can take and two less than the Q5).
The boot in the PHEV GLC is a little smaller, with a slightly raised floor to make room for the battery underneath. As a result we managed to fit six suitcases up to the parcel shelf, which is one less than the Q5 50 TFSIe, the X3 xDrive30e, the NX and the Volvo XC60 T6 Recharge.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The entry-level Mercedes GLC AMG Line will cost you more to buy outright than almost all its rivals in entry-level form, including the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Lexus NX. At least the GLC is predicted to hold its value better than the Q5 and X3, meaning that you should get more of your investment back should you decide to sell in three years. The Porsche Macan costs more to buy, but should hold its value vastly better than almost anything in the class. The plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) costs significantly more to buy than the cheapest NX 450h+.
For company car drivers, the GLC’s lower tax rate makes it cheaper to run per month and is well worth a look. With an official electric-only range of around 80 miles, the PHEVs sit in a lower tax band than the X3 xDrive 30e, the NX 450h+ and the Q5 TFSIe. The GLC 220d diesel’s CO2 emissions are par for the course among rivals and it will attract hefty monthly tax rates, as will the 300 petrol.
The official fuel economy figure of the 220d is on a par with the X3 xDrive 20d and slightly better than the equivalent Q5. If you’re tempted by the 300 petrol, just bear in mind that it’s significantly thirstier than the diesels.
Regardless of which GLC trim level you go for, you’ll find plenty of standard equipment on the spec list. Indeed, even the entry-level AMG Line comes with 19in alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, heated sports front seats, automatic two-zone climate control, LED headlights and infotainment equipment. It’s our favourite version and probably all you’ll ever need.
AMG Line Premium sits next in the range and adds larger 20in alloy wheels, heat and noise insulating glass, keyless entry and start, blind-spot assist, a dashcam, traffic-sign assist, upgraded memory seats and parking aids. Top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus adds a panoramic roof, four-zone climate control, a head-up display and an upgraded stereo system.
The GLC scored five stars out of five for safety when it was tested by Euro NCAP. The Q5 and the Volvo XC60 also achieved five stars but it's not possible to compare their individual category ratings as the GLC was tested under a more stringent regime.
When it comes to reliability, Mercedes as a brand finished a disappointing joint 23rd (with Vauxhall) out of 32 car makers featured in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – below BMW and Audi, but above Jaguar and Land Rover. The GLC itself finished closer to the bottom in the large SUV class.
For some peace of mind, the GLC comes with a three years/unlimited mileage warranty, which is similar to most rivals. The PHEVs come with a six years/62,000 miles warranty for the battery.
An alarm is standard on all versions with the ability to detect the vehicle being towed away and alert you through the Me phone app.
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Every version of the GLC comes with plenty of standard equipment, so we think you’re best sticking with the entry-level AMG Line model. Likewise, we recommend the entry-level 220d diesel engine because it has plenty of power and helps to keep the cost down. That said, if you’re a company car driver, you’ll want a plug-in hybrid (PHEV).
Yes. Even with the 220d diesel engine, the GLC remains quiet and shields you from engine, wind and road noise very well. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions are the quietest, as they can officially run in electric-only mode for up to 80 miles.
The GLC plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models are the most efficient versions. You can have a PHEV with either a petrol or diesel engine.
|RRP price range||£52,880 - £130,820|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||7|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel/plugin elec hybrid, hybrid, diesel, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||28 - 706.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£469 / £5,924|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£938 / £11,848|