DRIVING IMPRESSION: Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d AMG-Line 4Matic

BY CHARL BOSCH - DECEMBER 14, 2015

Being one of the few countries to drive on the left-hand side has often led to frustration amongst many South Africans, due to manufactures from mostly right-hand lane countries – United States, Europe - deciding against offering certain products in right-hand drive (RHD).

Whether as a result of costs, market suitability or indeed the actual construction of the vehicle, it would be fair to say that local buyers, like our counterparts in Australia and even the United Kingdom, have missed out getting our hands on models deemed suitable for left-hand drive (LHD) only markets.

Debuting in Europe and later North America in 2008, the Mercedes-Benz GLK became one of the three-pointed star’s best sellers as the appeal of crossover SUV’s started gaining momentum. Using on the same architecture as the C-class and offered in rear-or-all-wheel drive with the option of petrol and turbodiesel engines, the GLK raked up sales of over 500 000 units before production ended earlier this year.

Its credentials were never to be experienced in countries from the Commonwealth though as the conversion from LHD to RHD was considered too expensive, therefore rendering it a no-no for local Benz aficionados.

A reversal in decision however came in November last year with the announcement that all models from 2015 would be badged as per Mercedes’ shifting in focus to its core models; A,B,C,E and S-class. In short, the M-class would become known as the GLE, the GL would change to GLS, and the SLK makes way for the SLC.

With the reshuffle resulting in the second generation GLK taking up the name of GLC, the top brass in Stuttgart also confirmed the newcomer would finally enter the luxury crossover SUV segment in countries driving on the left.

As this was to be my first meeting with a model from the three-pointed star, I was raring to get acquainted when the keys of an Iridium Silver range topping GLC 250d landed in my hands for a day of fun.

Having travelled to East London for the test, I wasted little time in making my way to the historic Grand Prix circuit - used as a public road when no racing is on - to find out what the GLC is all about.

In line with its name, the GLC rides on the same platform as the C-class, but arguably looks more classy than the GLK thanks to its flowing lines, distinct chrome twin-bar grille, elongated bonnet and bulging front bumper.

At the rear, the GLC draws a number of cues from the GLE coupe with its curvy appearance, wraparound light clusters, dual chrome tipped exhausts and polished aluminium skidplate.

As part of the of optional AMG-Line package, our GLC’s visual appearance was further boosted by the additions of aluminium running boards, chrome front skidplate and roof rails, and five-spoke light alloy AMG wheels wrapped in 19-inch Pirelli Scorpion rubber.

While words such as “handsome” or “stylish” can best describe the GLC’s exterior appearance, very little comes to mind when you step inside.

Using the same minimalist approach as the C-class, the GLC’s cab oozes quality, class and stylishness  with lashings of chrome on the steering wheels, doors and around the air vents, a centre console beautifully finished in high gloss black trim and seats covered in a combination of Artico man-made leather and Dinamica microfibers.

Taking pride of place on top, the now familiar freestanding eight-inch COMMAND media interface system might not be of the touchscreen kind, but it nonetheless is an absolute doddle to use via the rotary Touchpad dial located behind centre the storage cubby.

Additional storage is also provided by a split opening glove compartment between the front seats, that also features dual USB ports, Micro SD slot and Aux input.

As is often the case, the GLC came loaded with a vast array of equipment with standard spec including dual-zone climate control, rain sense wipers, one-touch electric windows all around, ESP with Curve Control, Crosswind Assist, Agility Control suspension with selective damping and Collison Prevention Assist.

Optional extras were just as extensive with highlights being Blind Spot Assist, DISTRONC Plus with adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, LED Intelligent Light System with variable light function and active cornering, Active Park Assist including reverse camera as well as front and rear parking sensors, panoramic roof with automatic rollerblinds, four-way heated and cooled electric seats and trailer sway control.

Fitted as standard, the GLC also features Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system that adjusts ride settings, throttle response and gear changes from a choice of five modes; Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual.

This in mind, and given the circuit’s status as a public road, I decided to undertake a couple of admittedly not very hot laps to get an indication of the GLC’s uhm.. dynamic appeal.

Nestled underneath the bonnet, the GLC’s 2.1-litre twin turbo diesel engine burst into life with a slight clatter before settling down to a rhythmic warble. Slot the stubby column mounted gear lever into the Drive, it takes off with a lovely surge of low down torque as the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic gearbox hooks each gear with seamless perfection.

Putting the Selector in Sport changed everything. With the optional sport suspension engaged and the throttle response more immediate, the GLC literally came alive as the available 150 kW and 500 N.m of torque saw it rocketing down the straights before gripping perfectly around the tight bits.

In addition, flicking the steering wheel mounted paddles was an absolute joy with the box showing virtually no slip despite the many ratios, and holding on to each cog longer until the gear shift arrow indicated another up shift was needed.

While initially sceptical, my short rendezvous with the Mercedes GLC had been an impressive. It might be a little late to the party, but one it has taken over in an incredible way.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v twin-turbo Inline 4
DISPLACEMENT 2,143 cc
MAX POWER 150 kW @3800 rpm
MAX TORQUE 500 N.m @1600-1800 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; All-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Nine-speed automatic
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] 7.6 secs
TOP SPEED 222 km/h
FUEL CONSUMPTION 5.5 L/100 km*
EMISSIONS 143 g/km