If there was ever a car designed specifically to print money, it’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC. They are the Toyota RAV4s of luxury, and they are everywhere. But that’s not the only result of people mindlessly buying a Benz just because (OK, some do). The GLC is legitimately good, and comes in a variety of trims to make everyone happy. Especially the AMG 63 S. That one made me very happy.
(Full Disclosure: Mercedes shuttled me to the Hudson Valley, where it had the whole 2020 GLC family waiting for me to drive. It paid for all my food, alcohol and one night at a nice hotel. What follows is me trying to cram three cars I drove into one review.)
About 20 years ago, the streets of suburban America ran amok with Lexus RX300s in various shades of white, black, blue, red and champagne. They were the luxury crossover, with heightened ground clearance, a good trunk and enough badge snobbery to keep you looking good at the PTA meetings.
The GLC appears to have replaced the RX300 in this capacity. It’s wildly popular and aimed directly at the masses. So obviously, we needed to see what all the fuss is about by driving all the models in this family.
And specifically, we wanted to see what happened when you gave it 503 horsepower, like in AMG GLC 63 S guise. Wouldn’t you?
What Is It?
The GLC replaced the GLK in the olden times of 2015. And now that I’m thinking about the GLK, it’s aged pretty well. Boxy cars typically do. Will the GLC age just as gracefully? Only time will tell.
Within Mercedes-Benz’s extremely saturated lineup, the GLC is the smallish crossover that’s a step up from the compact GLA. For the 2020 model year, it received a facelift and Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system.
The GLC is the most popular car Mercedes makes, full stop. Last year, Mercedes sold 355,413 cars, vans and Smarts. By far, the GLC was the best seller. Mercedes sold 69,727 GLCs in 2018, which rounds out to nearly 20 per cent of all sales.
And it’s not really hard to see why. From a purely utilitarian and looks perspective, the GLC basically nails the smallish crossover philosophy. Its design cues are stylish but also not too polarising that people won’t buy it.
I am, of course, talking about the SUV version, not the “coupe” version here. The coupe is extremely polarising, as the comments on this blog will inevitably demonstrate.
Specs That Matter
At the time of this writing, there are three engine trims you can get with your GLC. The GLC 300, either with rear-wheel drive or 4MATIC all-wheel drive, offers a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, inline-four engine. Mercedes says it’s good for 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
Long gone are the days where you’d only have one AMG model per Class; now there are at least two. The “regular” AMG 63 version, with the 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8, puts out 469 HP and 479 lb-ft of torque. The top-of-the-line AMG 63 S version claims 503 HP and 516 lb-ft of torque. (The 63 S version only comes on the coupe version of the GLC, though all the AMGs have permanent all-wheel drive.)
The GLC 43, the “AMG Lite” option, which had to be brought into existence for people who want to be kind of fast but not too fast, will be revised for this new body style soon as well. The outgoing version made a claimed 362 HP from a boosted 3.0-litre V6. All versions of the GLC also use Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission.
If you’re going to see a car everywhere, as I already do with the GLCs, it might as well be handsome. Which the GLC is.
The SUV version is proportioned to be modern and sporty, with big wheels and narrow windows. Personally, I think we could go smaller on wheels and bigger on windows overall, but this is the style of today.
A short stint behind the wheel of the base model GLC 300, which comes with RWD, was surprisingly pleasant. Without the extra weight from an AWD system in its nose, the car is nimble and decently agile. Downshifting to accelerate takes a few clicks from the nine-speed auto, but once you’re there and the four-cylinder roars, it’s not slow.
The 63 S version we took out the next day was shocking in how much it felt like a real sports car. Tight and tidy in the corners, it was fast and powerful, despite a higher centre of gravity. It was powerful and fast, and did I mention it was fast and powerful?
Flooring it in Sport Plus mode was like turning up the thrusters and then slamming forwards toward the horizon. It is not an unmanageable amount of power, these 503 horses, but it will definitely get you in trouble if you’re not careful. The crossover guise won’t do a thing to disguise you.
From the rear, you’re accosted by the guttural snaps and snarls of an AMG-tuned V8. I did not know how much of that was getting piped straight into the cabin, nor did I really give a shit. It sounded cool and that’s all I cared about.
True, the steering was on the lighter side and it wasn’t the most communicative, but it was direct. I didn’t always feel confident in knowing where the front was pointed, but I always knew that small steering inputs from me would result in some kind of front-axle movement.
It’s madness and also completely unnecessary that you can have something this powerful and still bring the in-laws out to Sunday brunch with. Just get a second fast car! But I suppose some people want a one-size-fits-all solution. This is it.
The most frustrating thing about the coupe is that it is a coupe. Yes, I know it’s not an actual “coupe” and we’ve berated Mercedes for it before. But I find the shape wholly distasteful and impractical, and I cannot figure out why we couldn’t just leave the SUV alone.
You get the SUV for its improved cargo space and headroom. The coupe takes both of those advantages and lights them on fire. The GLC SUV has 19.4 cubic feet of trunk space; the GLC Coupe has 17.7 cubic feet of trunk space. Yes, the SUV’s trunk easily fit two carry-on suitcases and two backpacks, but the slanting profile of the coupe definitely made the cargo space more claustrophobic.
Plus, the rear headroom was also sacrificed for that coupe-y profile. When my driving partner, who is about six feet tall, tried out the back seat, his head came very close to scraping the ceiling.
I’m of the opinion that crossovers should largely ride more comfortably than their sedan counterparts because they can afford more suspension travel. This was not the case with the GLC. In the base model, the suspension was still rather stiff despite being in comfort mode, and the stiffest setting on the AMG 63 S was jarring. I tried it out for about 15 minutes and then turned it off. Who was I pretending to be?
The 2020 GLC models also include Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system, which includes voice controls. The car’s wake-up phrase is “Hey Mercedes.” Once you get its attention, you can ask it to change the cabin temperature, open the sunroof and even give you weather updates. Maybe for someone who loves voice commands, this is great. But it caused more problems than it solved when I was testing it out.
Not only did the system fail to understand that we wanted it to navigate us somewhere, it also kept grabbing onto pieces of our conversation and interrupting. I know we were discussing Mercedes for much of the drive, but it was extremely intrusive.
Finally, the car has no USB ports! I spent about 10 minutes trying to find one, but all I found were USB-C ports. When I asked a Mercedes spokesperson about it, they confirmed the car’s lack of USB ports and replied with something along the lines of: “We’re embracing the future.”
I don’t own one UBC-C compatible device. I felt very excluded. Mercedes kindly offered me an adaptor; though if there were just old-fashioned USB ports, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all.
As Mercedes’ best-selling model, this is an important car for the automaker to get right. It needs to have mass appeal, and it certainly does. It’s easy to drive, easy to park, has plenty of interior room and looks nice. The interior materials are friendly and quality to the touch. And there’s a hot AMG S version for the fast folks, too.
During a technical presentation, Mercedes confirmed that a hybrid version of the GLC is coming, as well as an AMG 43 model. You can expect both of them soon.
The base model GLC 300 is perfect for commutes or running errands. You’ll get in and drive it and it’ll do just that until it won’t anymore. And the 63 S version is there for speeding and rattling the teeth out of your passengers. Both are great at what they do.
I still think the coupe is silly, but if that’s really your thing, then let your freak flag fly.