2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class: First Drive

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class;

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 is a compact SUV that could be seen merely as a replacement for the previous GLK-Class, but that wouldn't be doing the new model justice. The 2016 GLC-Class is a marked improvement that impresses with its dynamics, but especially with its interior and cargo upgrades.

Related: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC: First Look

I tested the 2016 GLC across a mix of highway and mountain roads in north Georgia over two days, driving both all-wheel and rear-wheel-drive GLC300s.

How It Drives

The GLC300 is powered by a 241-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's matched to a nine-speed automatic. Mercedes-Benz said it tuned the turbocharger so that it provides more power at the low end for an engine with more "grunt," and that the new engine should not make people miss the GLK-Class' V-6 engine. But I'm not prepared to say that I don't miss the V-6, because with the added weight of all-wheel drive the performance didn't blow me away.

Specifically, the engine is underwhelming off the line from a dead stop, but once moving there is good response. With rear-wheel drive, the performance is better, but I wonder how many SUV buyers are going to want to live without all-wheel drive.

Standard in the GLC is what Mercedes calls the Dynamic Select system that lets you switch from Comfort to Eco to Sport and aggressive Sport+ modes. This alters both the steering feel and the transmission response, but no mode fully overcomes the initial lag from a standstill that you feel.


2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class;


However, I liked the Dynamic Select system because there are clear differences between the modes. In Sport, and especially Sport+, you really notice the transmission holding onto lower gears longer and the engine winding itself out, and the steering offers more feedback. If it's not spectacular, it was at least satisfying to drive it this way, especially on twisty, hilly roads.

The real stars of the GLC's driving experience are its overall dynamics  and ride quality. The GLC was able to absorb bumps in the road and yet also not demonstrate any body roll. The GLC just felt like it was gripping the roads, especially in the all-wheel-drive version. That kind of security was welcome in the really twisty parts of the route.

What's impressive is that Mercedes-Benz will offer an optional air suspension, but due to production issues we were testing models equipped only with the traditional steel springs. In the past I've been wowed by Mercedes' air suspensions' abilities, but this car has me questioning whether I'd really want to spend the extra money for the optional air suspension, so good was the conventional setup.

Finally, the GLC has not been tested by the EPA so no fuel economy figures are available.

Interior and Cargo

The GLC is 4.6 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the GLK it replaces, and you really notice the change in the front seat. (The GLK always felt slightly narrow to me, and I felt like I was sitting snugly with my passengers.)


2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class;


The front doors are sculpted out in such a way that your outside arm isn't pinned in by the door, and there's still plenty of room for your inboard elbow. My driving partner and I were both larger guys, and we never bumped elbows once in two days of driving.

It's the same story in back: The seating area is large, and I wasn't hurting for head or shoulder room. My legs also had good room and my knees weren't raised too high in the air, and that's appreciated, especially when you're 6-foot 2-inches tall like I am.


2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class;


Also, the cabin quality is very good for the compact luxury SUV class. It adopts the styling of the Mercedes-Benz' C-Class sedan, and that's a good thing. In addition, a more upscale designo treatment is available, as well as various trim options. Overall it's well-executed both in how things look and how they feel to the touch. It does, however, carry over the "floating tablet" center screen that some find objectionable, but that is becoming more commonplace across both the Mercedes lineup and the market.

The cargo area is also bigger and better-shaped than the previous model, and it has a few new tweaks that really come in handy. Specifically, instead of the normal cargo floor that can just be lifted up to expose more cargo area, Mercedes made the cargo floor panel lockable, making the under-floor storage that much more secure.


2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class;


Finally, for those of us who like to haul long things and have to fold seats, the rear seats fold down by switches you tug in the cargo area. That's growing more common these days, but Mercedes-Benz takes it step further: If the front seats are set so far back so that they would prevent the rear seats from folding forward, the Mercedes-Benz system will move the front seats forward to allow the rear seats to fold. No more do you have to run to the front of the vehicle to move the front seats.

Final Thoughts

The GLC300 is more comfortable and more practical than the GLK, owing to its larger size as well as the cargo amenities and the interior quality.

The performance with all-wheel drive, though, is a bit underwhelming from the "push you in the seats and rocket forward" department, but it wouldn't be fair to call it "bad."

The GLC is expected to hit dealerships in December. I'll go more into pricing, options and safety in my expert review, but the initial impression of the GLC is that this new model will have people forgetting its predecessor in short order.

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