For Mercedes-Benz, its GLC, essentially the vehicle that corresponds to the C-Class sedan on the SUV side of its product line, has been its most successful ever globally going by numbers. Introduced in India in 2016, it had sold over 13,000 units and went out of the company’s portfolio towards the end of last year.
Now the GLC has had a full model change, ground up, and is back in the market. The SUV is available in two variants, the GLC 300 4MATIC petrol mild hybrid and the GLC 220d 4MATIC diesel mild hybrid, that carry price tags starting at Rs 73.50lakh and
Rs 74.50lakh (both at the showroom, all India), respectively. That makes it one the pricier SUVs in its segment, but it is also the newest one. It comes loaded with tech in all its avatars and is being assembled in India from completely knocked-down (CKD) kits.
The distance from Hubballi Airport to Hampi is around 175km. Most of it is a straight drive down NH67. But things do get interesting once you get off the highway. First, the road quality worsens to non-existent in stretches and badly broken in the rest. Then, after another left turn, it becomes a divine stretch with smooth twisty tarmac that goes through a forest to the Unesco heritage site of Hampi with its multitude of ruins, mainly from its heyday as the capital of the Vijayanagar kingdom.
Keep driving and you cross the River Tungabhadra and reach Sanapur Lake. Most of this area is hilly and rocky and characterised by monolithic rocks and huge boulders that seem to be balanced comfortably on top of each other and have possibly been that way forever. It is around these parts that we drove the new GLC 300 4MATIC at the invitation of Mercedes-Benz India.
Now while the 2023 model is all new, it is immediately recognisable as a GLC as it retains a lot of the visual cues from the older one. However, the grille is new. The two-bar design has been changed to a single-bar one with the three-pointed star in the middle as before.
There are prominent chrome underguards for the front and rear bumpers. The headlamp and tail lamp clusters are new, the rear ones being simpler and sleeker. The overall look is now smooth and fairly understated if one leaves out the grille and the new five-spoke 19-inch alloys the SUV rides on.
An interesting change has happened to the chrome window surround in that it kicks up a shade towards the rear rather than slope down as before, making the vehicle look higher in profile. There aren’t a lot of cuts and creases to break the surfaces and the ones that are there are subtle. That allows surfaces to merge quite pleasingly into each other.
It is a quieter look, but the SUV’s purposefulness remains with big wheels, gently flared fenders and broad stance. The new GLC is a little (60mm) longer than the previous model and has a 15mm longer wheelbase and a boot that’s 70 litres more commodious.
If we could find similarities between the previous GLC and this one on the outside, inside it is a very different story. This is a vast change from that of the outgoing model but visually similar to what is there in the current C-Class. The focal point of the show is the central 11.9-inch touchscreen that controls a humongous array of things starting from vehicle settings to audio to aircon, to individual tyre temperature and pressure and what have you. It would be wise to play around with these while the car is static because it can get fiddly to use them in a moving car.
Plus, it is also where the images are projected while parking, reversing, in the transparent bonnet function (more on that later), and so on. There is also a smaller digital instrument cluster screen that shows the usual things like vehicle speed, engine speed, driving mode, gear engaged, offroading data, maps and directions.... Basically, being screens, they can be configured by the driver to show what he wants to see at that point within the given set of functions.
What Mercedes-Benz has been sensible about though is that they have left hard buttons for the functions one typically needs to access while driving, like audio volume control and drive mode selector. Plus there are buttons on the steering wheel for others like cruise control, paired phones, etc., the usual array.
The seats are nice and supportive both front and rear. And while the latter seem a tad low initially, they are comfortable enough alright and I actually dozed off sitting in the rear on the drive back from Hampi to Hubballi. The boot space is a generous 620litre with all seats up and can be further increased by folding down the second-row seats fully or partially.
The passenger compartment also has a lot of cubby holes for putting things like mobile phones, chargers and other small things and water bottles. There are quite a few USB C ports front and back. So, electronic devices can be kept charged. Then there is the panoramic sunroof that Indian buyers so love. Incidentally, the control for this is a touchpad and not button controlled. But it works fine.
ON THE ROAD
The first thing that strikes when driving the GLC is that it is a good size both for driving on Indian roads as well as travelling in. It’s not too big on the outside while being big enough on the inside. One does need to be a little careful while driving it on hilly roads though because there’s often not a great deal of room, barely enough for two cars to pass. In fact, on one stretch we did get a little tense as we drove over a bad stretch behind what seemed like a dam wall and had bikers coming from the opposite direction.
That stretch also gave the suspension system a workout and for something in its segment, it did a pretty good job handling the terrain in terms of articulation and body motion. Ride and handling on normal roads, whether we are talking highway or twisty hilly stretches, is poised. The 19-inch wheels probably have something to do with that. In fact, it is quite enjoyable to use the paddle shifters and keep the revs up on winding roads. There is enough grip and one can do a pretty fast clip.
One can also select between Comfort, Eco, Sport and Individual (one needs to configure this one) driving modes. Sport sharpens up the responses to driver inputs while Comfort is more relaxed and Eco even more so.
Also, the Integrated Starter Generator puts a shoulder to the wheel, so to speak, when needed with an extra 23hp and 200Nm. This keeps the whole driving experience very linear and there is never any shortage of power or flatspotting, no matter what the speed. The GLC 300 petrol that we drove (the diesel wasn’t available on this drive) is refined and little engine noise gets into the cabin. On bad stretches, some bumps and thuds filter through though.
(below) The controls of the GLC are oriented towards the driver
While we are not sure that the additional power that come in is that big a deal, the extra torque seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered for our Indian driving conditions. Response to kickdown is quick and the acceleration is strong. The ISG is available in both petrol and diesel versions.
Certified fuel efficiency is 14.72kmpl for petrol and 19.47kmpl for diesel.
BELLS AND WHISTLES
The GLC comes with a long list of features starting from active and passive safety, to connectivity, to vehicle configuration, to entertainment. It will take up a whole book to talk about all of them (and it does, that owner’s manual is pretty hefty) so we will just touch on what we thought were the more notable ones.
The first is the transparent bonnet. With this feature, if the vehicle is in an offroad situation and travelling at under 8kmph, one can see exactly where the wheels are on the road and what is going under the front wheels in real time. The front camera stitches the pictures of what it sees and calculating the speed of the vehicle projects a picture of the road and wheels onto the centre screen. It’s almost like having a spotter out there.
There is also an offroad mode display on the instrument cluster, which shows the angle of vehicle tilt, both longitudinal and lateral, as well as a compass.
The GLC is also the first model from Mercedes-Benz in India to have MBUX NTG7 telematics, essentially the latest generation that is being offered by the company. It will get over the air updates as well. There’s also the Mercedes Me app that allows users to stay connected to their vehicles through their phones and track what’s happening to it and get reminders of services, etc.
On the safety front, active features include lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, brake assist, parking with 360-degree camera as well as park assist. Plus there is a full complement of airbags and the usual stability control, ABS and the like.
The GLC is one of the pricier candidates in its segment at the moment but also the one with the latest features. It is new from the ground up and has been designed to be different vehicles for different people, depending on what configuration options are chosen.
The ride is pretty cosseting and the drive simultaneously poised and enjoyable even if one is doing some spirited driving. There’s not much there to fault the GLC, except that some SUV buyers could find it somewhat understated. Other than that, at least the petrol GLC 300 looks like a ‘GO’.