It seemed for a while there a few years back that Mercedes was lost in an undignified and unedifying scramble to fill holes in its’ product line-up, to the point where executives appeared to be like the crew aboard a sinking Chinese junk, scurrying around trying to plug the ever-increasing gaps in the vessel’s hull.
Now, however, the efforts of the three-pointed star’s employees and management to have a more coherent and structured approach to the company’s range of models, to the point where it has relevant, cost-effective and attractive models in every imaginable segment open to it, has paid off.
In fact, one can clearly see — for the first time in a while — a situation where Mercedes is about to make up massive sales ground on every one of its’ main rivals.
The new Mercedes GLC is a case in point about the headless chicken nature of previous Mercedes efforts in the medium SUV segment. The car’s predecessor was the GLK and in their wisdom, those in charge at Unterturkheim decided it would be a good move not to make the car in right-hand drive, thus cutting off potential sales in the likes of the UK, Australia, Japan, South Africa and, of course, ourselves here in Ireland. It was a stupid decision and, you would have to presume, one which will not be repeated.
Mercedes has now clearly illustrated it has learned from that tragic, mysterious, gaffe and the GLC will be made in right and left-hand-drive configurations and it will, I confidently predict, sell by the shed-load.
It is a startlingly good-looking car, great to drive and supremely comfortable. It is also decent value for money and had a genuine 4x4 capability which puts it smack into opposition with such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Audi Q5.
It comes to Ireland in just two guises, both turbodiesels — a 170 bhp 220d which we test here and a 204 bhp 250d — and it is set to shake up the market in some style, I reckon.
Built on an adapted version of the same platform which underpins the excellent C-Class in all its’ variants, the GLC could easily have been something of an afterthought but it is obvious — even just looking at it — that Mercedes has done the groundwork here in very thorough fashion.
Indeed the visual strength of the GLC, what with its’ striking grille and headlamp treatment, its’ bulging wheelarches, the slightly sloping roof and muscular rear end, is just one of many strong points about this car; the engine gearbox combination is excellent; refinement levels top drawer; and passenger comfort and interior décor of a high order.
I’m not, as regular readers will know, a huge fan of this genre, but if push were suddenly to become shove and I was forced to purchase one, then this one could most certainly be getting very close scrutiny.
That is because not only has Mercedes given us a car in a segment it previously believed right-hand-drive owners could do without, but it has made one which has been engineered to within an inch of its’ life.
And, do you know what impressed me most? It is the fact that Mercedes has not just built a car for yummy mummies and darling daddies to swan around leafy suburbs in; it has created an SUV which will actually do some of the stuff utility vehicles were originally designed to do — like taking on terrain more challenging than a cobble-lock driveway.
It has decent ground-clearance (181mm) anyway, but Mercedes also offers an off-road package which includes even greater ground clearance, underbody protection and five different driving programmes and were you to choose the ‘AMG Line’ styling package, its’ off-road capabilities are not at all diminished.
With full time 4x4 as standard - with power split 45% front and 55% rear - this thing has real potential if you feel the need to climb a mountain, or some such.
With power coming from the 2,143cc four cylinder turbodiesel, drivers who like a bit of zip in their lives will not be disappointed, as underlined by the 8.3 second 0-100 kph time and the 210 kph top speed. As far as the economics go, the GLC with this engine will return a figure of 5.5 l/100 km (50+ mpg) and emit just 129 g/km for an annual tax bill of €270 and I don’t think too many will quibble on that front.
The 170 bhp and 400 Nm of torque are delivered to the road via a nine speed gearbox and while some similar transmissions are very jumpy and leap from cog to cog with alarming regularity, this unit is very smooth and engaging and always seems to be in just the right gear when you’re asking questions of the car.
That overall feeling of smoothness and sophistication is mirrored in an interior design which gives the mechanical refinement of the chassis further credence. What you have here is an obviously well-crafted and well thought out design which blends together elements such as leather, vinyl and metallic finishes which are as nice to look at as they are to touch.
The seating position is high, which will please a lot of drivers, but no so high as to deter drivers who prefer a ‘saloon’ feel to their vehicle. What will also please is the general air of roominess which is not just the sole preserve of those in the front seats, but finds its way into the rear as well where there is ample head and leg room and also to the boot, which is more accommodating that the estate version of the C-Class.
Out on the road - any road - the best word to describe the car’s behaviour is ‘serene.’ Neither the handling nor the ride are probably class-leading, but the GLC is probably more car-like in both areas than any rivals and that, in my view, is a very good thing indeed.
I really liked this thing. I liked the look of it. I liked the feel of it. And, I liked the way it goes about its business.
COLLEY’S VERDICT: ****
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