The Mercedes GLC has arrived in the UK with the class-leading BMW X3 firmly in its sights. The premium 4x4’s predecessor, the GLK, was available only in left-hand-drive form, so this is effectively an all-new model for British buyers.
Having tested the lower-powered 168bhp 220d version already, this is our first drive in the 201bhp 250d. It’s in the most expensive AMG Line trim, too, with bigger, 19-inch wheels and a sporty bodykit.
What’s the Mercedes GLC 250d like to drive?
While the SE and Sport models are equipped with adaptive dampers, AMG Line models opt for regular suspension that’s been firmed-up for better handling. The extra thumps and bumps this brings when driving over sharper ridges are especially noticeable in town, although the optional 20-inch wheels on the test car shoulder some of the blame. These intrusions aren’t especially overbearing, but are at odds with the slick-shifting nine-speed automatic gearbox and the relatively refined turbodiesel engine.
On motorway slogs, the GLC is nicely settled and provides a serene environment in which to while away the miles - aside from some road noise on rougher stretches. Ninth gear cuts the revs to just 1500rpm at 70mph, and while there’s a distant drone from the engine at a cruise, it’s not as wearing as that of the similarly powerful BMW xDrive 20d. When you need an extra dose of power, there’s scant turbo lag and thrust is delivered in a steady stream from 2000rpm upwards, the engine getting louder but no coarser.
Where the 220d wanted for power, the 250d has enough grunt to sprint impressively between corners on country roads, and the combination of tidy body control and variable four-wheel drive means you can carry good speed through the bends, even in damp conditions.
In fact, the GLC tackles rural roads with an enjoyable fluidity. It’s just a shame that the steering, while responsive enough, is too light in Comfort mode yet lacks weight variation in the heavier Sport mode. We don’t expect great steering feedback in this class, but the GLC’s is just a bit one-dimensional, and the brakes, although effective, are basically devoid of feel.
It is possible to put adaptive dampers on the AMG Line by choosing the air suspension option that impressed us during earlier drives. It’s definitely worth considering for its better blend of comfort and agility.
What’s the Mercedes GLC 250d like inside?
There’s much to recommend the GLC’s cabin. It’s based on the C-Class saloon's, which is to say it’s stylish, sensibly laid-out and, for the most part, solidly built; even obscure surfaces such as the door bins are finished in soft-touch plastic, and the switchgear feels tight. A lone quality gripe is the gloss black centre console trim, which creaks to the touch.
AMG Line specification adds special touches to the interior including brushed steel pedals, a sports steering wheel, unique dials and embroidered floor mats. A 7.0in infotainment screen is part of standard equipment on the GLC, and it’s easily operated via either the touch pad or the rotary controller. Satellite navigation isn’t included on the entry-level SE model, but is standard-fit with Sport and AMG Line trims.
In addition to a web-enabled infotainment system with an 8.4-inch screen, the test car’s Premium Plus pack features extras such as slick ambient lighting, an upgraded 13-speaker sound system and a fixed panoramic roof. All are welcome, but the lesser Premium pack offers some of the same key items for much less money.
The firm front seats give the raised viewpoint you’d expect in this class, and offer plenty of electric adjustment as standard, but push the shoulders forward a little. In the back - which might be a little gloomy without the glass roof - two seats offer good head and leg room, and apart from being narrow, the central fifth seat is fairly accommodating.
There are handy switches in the back row and at the boot opening to drop the rear seats (which also split into three), and a powered tailgate is also standard-fit. The wide-mouthed boot matches exactly the BMW X3’s for volume at 550 litres, there’s no lip and a false floor hides supplementary storage space.
Should I buy one?
The GLC is a very polished product and a strong addition to the smaller premium 4x4 class. It’s got style, practicality and usability, and with the additional power of the 250d - which comes without any sacrifice in emissions or claimed economy over the 220d - it has the performance to match its generally impressive dynamic skills.
Mid-range Sport trim misses out on some of the AMG Line’s cosmetic touches, but gets the superior adaptive suspension as standard, so makes more sense. It’s also the only model available with the optional off-road package that brings greater abilities away from the road.
There’s no manual option, unlike in the BMW X3, but the fresher, more refined and more economical GLC deserves to tempt some buyers away from BMW.
What Car? says...
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Mercedes GLC 250 d AMG Line
Engine size 2.1-litre diesel
Price from £36,105
Torque 369lb ft
0-62mph 7.6 seconds
Top speed 143mph
Fuel economy 56.5mpg