When Mercedes-Benz unleashed its stunning CLS on to the automobile world in 2004, it was just reviving a trend that was in vogue as early as the Thirties. However, when its rival from Munich took the cue and adapted it to the SUV segment four years later, it created a niche that nobody had ever thought about until then.
Not only did it establish the Sports Activity Coupé segment, but it owned it for the best part of the past decade, finding BMW nearly 300,000 customers and spawning further models like the X4 in 2014 and the X2, set to be launched sometime next year. Although a little late to the party, Stuttgart started its counter-offensive in 2015 with the GLE Coupé, and early last year, the smaller X4-rivalling GLC Coupé, which we have here this week.
Most of you are now familiar with Mercedes-Benz’s revamped naming convention, and would know from the name that the GLC Class is based on the brilliant C-Class platform. At 4,727mm long, 1,593mm tall, 2,000mm wide and with a wheelbase of 2,827mm, it’s a relatively compact vehicle, but it’s longer, wider and lower than the standard GLC with which it shares its basic architecture.
But what makes the Coupé different is obviously its styling. The front fascia is dominated by the single-louvre diamond radiator grille with the tri-star in the middle, which is usually reserved for the brand’s sportier models. On either side are headlights similar in design to the ones in the C-Class, complete with the signature LED ‘brows’. These, combined with the short overhangs, and the stretched, sloping roofline, muscular shoulders, narrow tail lights that have taken cues from the S-Class and C-Class Coupés, and a prominent spoiler lip on the deck lid lend it a unique, aggressive yet elegant appearance. Styling-wise it’s a better-looking car than the X4.
For all the design changes on the exterior, everything in the cabin except the flat-bottomed steering looks pretty much the same as the standard GLC’s, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The layout’s elegant and minimalist, the materials used are of the highest quality, and the craftsmanship is flawless; the tablet-like infotainment screen that looks tacked-on is the only thing standing out as an eyesore.
The front buckets are comfortable with enough leg-, head- and shoulder room for two adults of above-average size. However, while the legroom isn’t a problem at the back, headroom for taller passengers is restricted by the sloping roof. Also, despite it being positioned as a five-seater, only two adults can realistically sit at the back.
There’s 500 litres of cargo space, but when you open the boot lid, it’s natural to feel shortchanged seeing the shallow luggage compartment. Don’t despair, the floor is removable, opening up more space underneath. The fact that the boot floor is lockable is good if you have valuables you’d like to keep out of sight. Dropping the electronically controlled 60:40 rear seats will free up even more space for those occasional Ikea trips.
It’s not just the looks that have been souped up, with Mercedes making a few changes to the suspension and steering systems as well. Although Mercedes says it has made the steering more direct than that of the standard GLC by retuning the ratio, the changes aren’t quite perceptible in regular driving conditions. That’s not to say it lacks in response or precision, as the regular GLC itself is a good car to drive, which is one of the reasons why it went on to be the Crossover of the Year in the last edition of our annual awards.
The suspension set-up is also pretty good with four modes, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, to choose from. There’s a clear difference in the car’s behaviour in each of these modes; in Sport and Sport+ the suspension is considerably stiffer and the steering heavier, while in Comfort, it offers a compliant ride, smoothing out any road imperfections it encounters.
Body roll is also kept well under check, even when you push it enthusiastically around a corner. While it’s a good crossover to drive, it pales in comparison to the BMW X4 M40i that we tested recently. But that’s an unfair comparison, and we’ll reserve our verdict until we get our hands on the new Merc-AMG GLC 43.
Our GLC 250 tester comes powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, good for 208bhp and 350Nm of torque. This peppy mill revs freely without any lag, and gives out a raspy exhaust note when pushed. Mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, if shifts smoothly and builds up pace effortlessly.
If you’re in the market for a compact, yet stylish SUV, the GLC Coupé is highly recommended. While it might not match many of its rivals for excitement behind the wheel, it definitely looks more suave and graceful than most of the crossovers in this size, including the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan and the BMW X4. And it’s well worth the price premium over the standard GLC.