The sedan, it seems, has declined to a state of functional extinction. By scientific definition, while such a species hasn’t completely disappeared from the face of the earth, according to National Geographic, it’s considered “no longer playing a significant role in ecosystem function” or “no longer viable”.
And when it comes to automobiles, that’s a self-perpetuating problem: The more something is perceived as undesirable, the less we are willing to risk investing in it; in response, the manufacturers scale its production ever downward.
But what if we take all the sedan’s most favourable elements, and repackage them into something that’s currently thriving in the automotive ecosystem?
Mercedes-Benz did precisely that a few years ago, overhauling their portfolio to include two parallel lineups: for every sedan there’s a corresponding crossover with matching nomenclature. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 crossover, just like the C-Class sedan, is a luxury compact that slots in between the smaller A-Class and larger E-Class. It’s also the most popular vehicle in its class, and Mercedes’ top-selling SUV.
The GLC isn’t flashy, but is nonetheless a good-looking vehicle in Mercedes’s typical understated style. Crisp lines and tastefully subdued chrome create a refined elegance. For those who crave a little more flair, the GLC is also available in a fastback “coupe” variant – but what’s gained in style is sacrificed in space.
An optional Night Package adds blacked out bumpers, grille, mirror caps, and headlight housing. Our tester was equipped with the $1,500 Sport package featuring chrome skid-plate and 19-inch alloy AMG wheels. Typical of Mercedes is a well-executed interior finished in two-tone genuine or man-made leather in a variety of colours, and augmented with aluminum, wood, or carbon-fibre trim. All instrumentation is trimmed with tasteful brushed metal. The cabin is bisected by a sloping centre console; smooth and uncluttered, it houses the touchpad Command controller and Dynamic Control switch, and is topped with 7.0-inch standard or 8.4-inch optional display.
The GLC comes standard with back-up camera, blind-spot assist, brake assist, rain-sensing wipers, and attention assist – which takes note of your driving inputs and sends a warning if they become erratic. Other standard features include: hill-start assist, acceleration skid control, stability control with crosswind assist, and brake pad wear indicator But if you want active driver aids on your GLC, you’re going to have to pony up an extra $2,700 for the Intelligent Drive Package, featuring adaptive cruise control, head-up display, active lane-keeping assist, active steering assist, rear collision detection, and active brake and cross-traffic assist.
Let’s face it – the reason most people buy crossovers is because they make life a little easier. They offer wider door openings and sit higher and are therefore easier to get into and out of, feature upright seating with great visibility, usually offer all-wheel drive; and most of all, have generous room for occupants and gear.
The GLC has standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, and plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room. Trunk space is 550 litres, expanding to 1,600 L with the rear seats down; which is considerably less than competitors Audi Q5, BMW X3, or Volvo XC60. However, the rear cargo has an opening wide enough to accommodate a set of gold clubs. Opt for the $2,700 Premium Plus package and you’ll get a foot-activated tailgate to make loading cargo easier.
User Friendliness: 7/10
If you’re not familiar with Mercedes-Benz’s column-located gear selector, it does take a bit of getting used to. The connectivity interface is rather cumbersome and dated, especially when using the navigation system. Opting for the voice command to input directions can be an exercise in frustration, so you’re better off pulling over to safely enter your destination. The temperature controls are also located within the infotainment unit, and require using the mouse-style controller to scroll through the screens.
The GLC is otherwise an intuitive and easy vehicle to drive. Like all Mercedes, its seat adjustment controls are located on the door and are simple and straightforward. There’s a modest storage space within the centre stack, another between the front seats hides a pair of cupholders, and multiple cubbies located in the doors.
Standard equipment for the GLC 300 include all-wheel drive, heated and power-adjustable bucket seats, and a power-tilt/telescope steering wheel function. Mercedes Me Connect system allows the owner to remotely connect with the car via smartphone. Other standard features include LED headlights, heated folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, power tailgate, sunroof, and 19-inch wheels.
Equipped with the $4,500 Premium Plus package, my tester had an 8.0-inch touchscreen that was on the small side for its class. Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto were included in its portfolio of connectivity apps – a rather surprising omission of a feature that’s now common on most budget compact vehicles.
Within the GLC’s elegant cabin all is quiet and serene. There’s very little outside intrusion and road and wind noise are well-mitigated. Seats are comfortable and there’s ample leg- and headroom. Selectable Drive Modes offer Eco, Comfort, and Sport settings, and even the firmest setting absorbs bumps and rough pavement quietly.
Base model GLC 300s are powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. For this vehicle, that’s power enough, and it never feels overburdened or harsh. The nine-speed G-Tronic keeps the rpms low enough quiet motoring and good fuel economy, revving higher in Sport mode for more instant responsiveness. It’s more than adequate for what is essentially a cruiser.
Enthusiasts should take a look at the GLC 43, which has a turbocharged V6 producing 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque or the mighty AMG GLC 63, which boasts a 4.0-litre V8 making 469 hp and 479 lb-ft.
Driving Feel: 8/10
As mentioned above, the GLC 300 isn’t a sporty vehicle – buyers prioritizing response and handling would be better off looking at one of the AMG variants. But it excels at what it was meant to do: providing a smooth, luxurious ride so its occupants arrive at their destinations relaxed and refreshed. The turbocharged four-cylinder, and nine-speed automatic transmission function quietly and seamlessly. The handling falls on the supple side, rather than stiff, but still exhibits very little body roll and behaves in a confidence-inspiring manner. Electrically assisted steering is a bit on the light side, but sharp and accurate.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
My week spent with the GLC returned a combined 10.6 L/100 km during mostly highway driving – and that’s premium fuel. City drivers would probably see poorer fuel economy. The official consumption ratings for the GLC 300 4Matic are 11.0 / 8.7 / 10.0 L/100 km city / highway / combined.
Energy-conscientious buyers may want a look at the GLC 300e plug-in hybrid, which produces 315 hp and 413 lb-ft and is rated at 8.6 L/100 km highway and 9.6 L/100 km in the city. Bear in mind that the generous provincial rebate, which once returned as much as $14,000 on qualifying electric vehicle purchases, has been replaced by a $5,000 federal incentive that only applies to those with a base model under $45,000. It makes it pretty hard to justify the GLC 300e’s $13,000 premium over the regular model.
Premium vehicle buyers demand a certain standard of luxury with their purchase, and those expectations climb ever higher as the segment grows increasingly competitive. The GLC’s base price of $47,300 is lower than most competitors, but it does omit some features we now take for granted even on lesser vehicles.
While the GLC’s cabin is comfortable and luxuriously crafted, it only recently made heated seats a standard feature. And if you want 14-way adjustment and memory settings, you’ll have to fork over another $2,700 for the Premium Plus package. You can only have navigation as part of the Premium Package bundle for $4,500. A heated steering wheel is another $250. As mentioned earlier, adaptive cruise control – a standard feature on a $19,000 base Toyota Corolla – is only available as part of the $2,700 Intelligent Drive system.
Looking for power? Buyers can step aboard the AMG GLC 43 with sports-tuned air suspension for $62,500, or the top-of-the-line AMG GLC 63 starting at $90,500.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic is a stylish, well-crafted premium vehicle that’s a pleasure to drive. But if its outdated infotainment system and safety features are deal-breakers, the all-new 2020 model addresses all those issues.
|Peak Horsepower||241 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||273 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.0/8.7/10.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||550 / 1,600 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC|
|Price as Tested||$59,040|