What is it?
Mercedes-Benz customers in the UK haven’t been able to choose a direct rival for the BMW X3 or Audi Q5 up to now, because the company’s mid-sized SUV, the GLK, was never available in right-hand drive.
That’s finally set to change with the car’s replacement, the GLC, which will turn up in showrooms this autumn. The GLC is based on the same chassis parts as the latest C-Class compact executive, although it gets a longer wheelbase in a bid to increase the amount of legroom for rear passengers.
Mercedes is clearly targeting the X3 very closely, because many of the dimensions of the two cars are almost identical; the GLC is just a single millimetre shorter than its BMW rival, and just 9mm wider.
It’s noticeably lower, though – by almost 40mm, in fact. The new model is designed to sit halfway between the baby GLA and the plusher GLE (the new name for the M-Class), but it feels much closer to its larger brother in concept.
The new car’s wheelbase is more than 60mm longer than the X3’s, and it feels it once you climb aboard; there’s plenty of space for four six-feet tall adults to travel in comfort, with excellent head room and leg room in the rear.
The boot capacity is 550 litres with the rear seats in place and 1600 litres with the standard 40/20/40 split folded down.
Those figures are identical to the X3’s, although the GLC can also extend its seats-up capacity a little (to 580 litres) by making the rear seat backs more upright.
The load space itself is usefully square and there’s no awkward lip to load heavy items over; you can also lower the rear seats completely by flicking switches on either side of the boot.
What engines can I choose from?
The GLC will be offered with a choice of two diesel engines to start off with, badged 220d and 250d. The two models share the same engine – a 2.1-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo unit – but with two different power outputs: 168bhp and 201bhp.
As they are both based on the same engine, they also claim the same economy and emissions rating. They both produce 129g/km of CO2 and claim an average of 56.5mpg.
Before the end of this year, Mercedes will introduce a GLC plug-in hybrid, badged 350e. It will mix the 208bhp petrol engine and an electric motor producing 114bhp. It should be able to drive on electric power alone for about 20 miles and will have CO2 emissions of "less than 60g/km", according to Mercedes sources.
The 350e hybrid will be the only GLC to get a seven-speed automatic gearbox; the rest of the line-up will feature a nine-speed auto as standard, along with four-wheel drive.
The GLC will also get a performance edition from Mercedes’ tuning arm, AMG, although initially at least it won’t be a full-house V8. Instead, the GLC 450 AMG Sport will have a twin-turbocharged V6 petrol with around 360bhp.
How much equipment does it come with?
Up front, the dashboard is based heavily on the C-Class’s, with the same large single-piece centre console and high-quality plastics in all the right places. You also get the same choice of screens: a standard affair with a Garmin-based sat-nav, or a wider display that includes Merc’s own Comand system.
Two standard suspension set-ups will be offered: ‘Comfort’ and a stiffer ‘Sport’, although many customers will choose the more expensive air suspension option.
There will also be styling packs that add chrome or gloss black trim, and different designs of front and rear bumpers. They’ll have better approach and departure angles for off-roading or will be styled purely for on-road use.
Mercedes knows that most SUV customers hardly ever drive on grass, let alone proper tracks, but it is offering an ‘off-road pack’ as an option for those that do.
On cars with the regular suspension this raises the ride height by 20mm, but if you add it to a GLC with air suspension you get a host of additional features.
It introduces three selectable ride heights beyond normal – raised by 30mm and 50mm, and lowered by 15mm – and adds a data screen to the infotainment system that can show everything from the angle the car is leaning to the amount of throttle and brake pedal you’re using.
How much will it cost?
Prices for the GLC start at £34,950 for the 220d 4Matic model, and rise to £36,105 for the 250d4Matic.
How good are its rivals?
The Audi Q5 currently holds a four-star rating on What Car, and although it's not cheap to buy or run, it does offer a great blend of space and quality.
The BMW X3 holds a full five-star rating, and comes with a plush-feeling cabin and low running costs.