2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic review

Merc’s long-awaited rival to the BMW X3 is classy and practical, but pricey and only average to drive...

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Matt Saunders
16 Jul 2015 12:2 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 0:3

The Mercedes-Benz GLC corrects a costly misjudgement on behalf of its maker.

Seven years ago, when Mercedes designed, developed and eventually launched the car’s predecessor, the GLK, the UK market for smaller premium-brand 4x4s was quite small. A quirk of the GLK’s seven-speed automatic gearbox would have made it costly to re-engineer the car into right-hand drive form – and so Mercedes didn’t bother. Which is why, until now, the firm has offered no rival for the now-popular BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque to us Brits.

With the addition of the GLC, finally the £35k German SUV set feels complete. The car will arrive in UK showrooms this autumn with a choice of 168bhp or 201bhp 2.1-litre diesel engines, both getting Merc’s new nine-speed auto ‘box and full-time four-wheel drive as standard. 

Almost exactly the same length as an X3 with exactly the same sized boot, it’s a strict five-seater, and like most of Mercedes’ larger models it offers the option of height-adjustable air suspension, which can come in handy for towing and more serious offroading.

What’s the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic like inside?

The GLC shares many of its cabin fittings with the current C-class. The dashboard materials look expensive and attractive, particularly the thin metallic accents around the centre console. In a few places, those fittings don’t feel quite as good as they look, and the glossier finishes are a bit prone to dirty smudges and finger marks – but there’s no arguing that cabin quality is a big selling point.

Practicality should be likewise. The front seats of our mid-spec test car were comfy and adjustable, with good under-thigh support for longer-legged drivers. Headroom and legroom are generous in both rows, even with an optional double-pane sunroof fitted. There are only two ISOFIX child seat anchorages for the back seats, and no option to slide the seats about to make extra space in the boot. But the backrests can be folded easily via electric release catches at the hatchback opening, and the boot itself is square, wide and long, with plenty of separate under-floor storage.

The car comes with enlarged curtain airbags covering the second-row seats as standard, but dedicated side airbags for the outer seats are an option.

What’s the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic like to drive?

Mercedes’ 220 diesel doesn’t give the GLC much power compared to its key rivals, and the car feels slow on the road when overtaking and accelerating hard. Pulling power is more competitive, though, and the car is far from sluggish overall. There’s an ample amount of performance for most situations, decent responsiveness, and plenty of low-down muscle for towing and hard climbing.

Mercedes’ new nine-speed automatic gearbox is slick and unimposing, shifting away smoothly enough that you hardly notice it – and picking the right ratios to keep the engine from straining. Like most of Merc’s four-pot diesels, the engine’s a bit noisy at high revs, but it’s better at cruising speeds. The cabin’s also well insulated against wind noise.

The GLC comes on steel coil suspension with adaptive damping as standard, with height-adjustable air suspension capable of granting as much as 227mm of ground clearance. AMG Line trim cars come with a separate sports suspension coil-sprung set up.

The verdict on the steel-sprung cars will have to wait since Mercedes offered neither for us to test. The air suspension has a broadly comfortable wafting gait in ‘Comfort’ mode, but the ride’s a bit hollow feeling; it doesn’t filter out road roar as well as it might and occasionally allows the suspension to fidget and thump. The car’s steering is reasonably fluent and precise, but grip levels are only moderate. Body roll can become just pronounced enough when cornering hard to begin levering you from your seat.

Should I buy one?

The GLC plays the mature, becalming sophisticate quite well. It’s nice enough to look at, albeit a much more conservative and derivative design than its predecessor, and should play well against its SUV rivals.

However, given its price, it ought to be better under the bonnet and better to drive. A like for like BMW X3 is more than £1000 cheaper at list price and an Audi Q5 likewise, and limited right-hand-drive supply is likely to make the difference wider still once dealer incentives come into play. For that money, the GLC’s unexceptional performance and imperfect ride and handling may be a bit hard to stomach.

What Car? says...

The rivals

BMW X3

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic Sport

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel

Price from £37,445

Power 168bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 8.3 seconds

Top speed 130mph

Fuel economy 56.5mpg

CO2 129g/km