On a fishing trip to Wales, Charles Rangeley-Wilson is so impressed with the German marque’s automatic diesel GLC estate car that he can’t find any fault with it.
This review could be five words long—‘I really liked this car’. You could go on that and buy one and you’d almost certainly really like this car, too. People would ask you ‘How’s that new car of yours?’ and you’d say ‘Yeah. I really like it.’ They’d look for more and shrug expectantly. Embarrassed, you might add ‘it’s great’. There’s a level of competence that stifles comment and the Mercedes GLC is at it.
I think back to the car I took on a long trip to Wales, the 550-litre (120-gallon) boot crammed with fishing rods, and try to recall some profound commentary on the steering (fine), or the brakes (excellent) and I struggle. It was all so very good. I really liked it, in fact.
Which only makes me wonder why Mercedes took so long to build it. Early this year, I was on a motor- way somewhere and this car I’d never seen before came bowling past: now that’s a foxy SUV, I thought. Mercedes has been turning out some eye-catching machines lately. There’s something about the family look: the raised radiator grille, the air-hungry front end, the liposuctioned flanks and gym-bunny wheel arches that really works in a slightly edgy, gangsta kind of way. And all of this had translated brilliantly to whatever had just overtaken me. A sort of X3-, Q5-sized Mercedes that I had never seen before because Mercedes had never built it before.
This giant segment of the market for a mid-sized 4×4 had been completely unaddressed in the UK. Over in Europe, they’d had the GLK, but something about its transmission system could not easily translate into placing the steering wheel on the correct side of the car and so the K was never available here. Which was just as well really, because the GLK was a much less happy styling exercise. Like a bread van onto which a child had stuck cereal packets, it was boxy more than foxy.
As it is, Mercedes has pretty much nailed it from the kick-off with the GLC. If the exterior is a happy exercise in pimping the best styling cues from the rest of the range, the interior is an effortless airlift straight from the C-class—which is no bad thing. It’s all very sleek and black with curvy edges and there’s a pleasing, almost retro edge to the modernity: the air vents, for example, have something of the Flash Gordon about them. Not so retro, the multimedia touchscreen is of iPad dimensions and, tested with no reference to the instructions, it proved to be iPad intuitive, too.
Overall, you have a cosseted and effortless piloting experience. Passengers will also like it. There’s easy seating for two tall adults in the back. The seats pop flat with the flick of a button and split 40, 20, 40, which is both unusual and useful, especially for fishermen.
There’s plenty of smooth oomph from a grunty but non-intrusive four-pot diesel—I much prefer six-cylinder diesels, but this one had me wavering. When pushed, it was sportily loud, but never raucous or strained. The nine-speed auto box no doubt helped in that regard, but the marriage is a happy one. It zips through the ratios and was always in the correct one and 70mph on the motorway is a barely-above-idle 1,500rpm. Which may explain the wallet- friendly drink habit of 55mpg.
I even liked the ride and I wasn’t expecting to, given I was testing the more bling AMG version with lower-profile tyres and coil springs. This car cornered flat without ever being bone-jarring or jumpy. If I was buying one, I would choose the less costly Sport trim and upgrade with the Off-Road package (£495) for higher sidewalls, better ground clearance and the Air Body Control (£1,495) for a more comfortable, adaptive ride.
Had I the £40,500 necessary and were I to do that, I would say, without any shadow of a doubt, that I really liked this car.
On the road: Mercedes GLC 250 d 4Matic AMG Line
Priced: from £39,595
Annual Road Fund Licence: £110
Combined fuel consumption: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 143mph