2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC 200 road test review
We were up in the mountains recently and you will read all about it next month in OVERDRIVE. But the return journey was quite taxing - a long distance that had to be finished in limited time in a car that doesn't like tarmac, big traffic jams to contend with around the Delhi protests and new procedures at the airport to follow in the wake of the ongoing pandemic - all of which wore me down by the time I landed in Mumbai. Even a walk to the terminal's café felt like a burden. The kind folks at Mercedes-Benz had agreed to send the test GLC to the airport itself, but now it had started seeming like a bad idea. I would have preferred to be driven home. But like most owners of GLC, it was the front seat that was waiting for me. Sort of a role-play, then.
With the coffee in one hand and the suitcase being dragged by the other, I walked up to the car. "The blue looks brighter," I thought to myself, as I opened the boot. It is one of the two new colours added to the GLC for 2021, alongside a silver, and I quite like it. It reminds me of a GLC Coupé that we reviewed last year.
As I stepped into the cabin I saw more Coupé resemblance - a digital instrumentation, with the Sports layout selected. The driver had probably had a fun drive getting to the airport. But Google Maps suggested otherwise, mostly showing red veins of traffic on all the routes around. Sure, the tachometer on the new digital instrumentation can be replaced with Merc's own satellite navigation readout, which does help in situations like the jammed network that I just encountered outside Delhi that morning. But otherwise, I prefer Google and the GLC's infotainment screen happily displayed those maps on the crisp and large screen.
This infotainment was updated with last year's midlife makeover of the GLC and the acclaimed MBUX operating system brought along connected tech, the 'Hey Mercedes' digital assistant and some cool functionality too like 'What Three Words,' for example. This year, it's gotten smarter. It can remotely start the car, roll down the windows, open the sunroof or sound the horns for you if you fancy that sort of functionality. If I had the car and its app beforehand, I would use it to pre-cool the cabin because the dark upholstery does get warm and retains heat.
If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home device, the Alexa or Google assistants can now use them to activate similar functions in the car or retrieve certain info like its fuel status, cabin temperature, service status or even its location. Mind you, this isn't Alexa Auto integration, so the GLC won't automatically open your Alexa enabled garage door when you arrive, or automatically activate the pet feeder when you leave the vicinity of your home so that your dog stops scratching the door behind you. But your spouse can simply ask the device to check on your whereabouts.
The GLC comes with a nifty 360-degree camera now, along with fully digital instrumentation and a smarter MBUX system
My wife was sitting right next to me on this drive though, and while we were talking, the overly alert 'Hey Mercedes' assistant woke up on her own and asked: "What can I help you with?" I simply said "I'm feeling tired" and it brought up a list of hotels around us. It would have been nicer if she offered to start the massaging function on the front seats though because now the GLC comes with them! And truth be told, I have never appreciated this function as much as I did on this drive. Sure, there are only two massage programs to choose from - Wave and Pulsating - but those little pockets of air pressing against your back after a tiring day is simply comforting. You can't alter their intensity, but the massaging function is typical Mercedes-Benz - neatly programmed to soothe and relax, and not poke the body in a bid to establish its presence. The attention assist never came up on my drive, so I'm guessing the massaging function did its job well.
If you want to belong to the smaller section of GLC owners who are driven around, nothing has changed at the rear. It is still a nice place to be in, made up of wide and nicely contoured seats that are comfortable for long distances, graced with retractable window blinds that can cut you off from the world, and equipped with a panoramic roof that can open you up to the sky.
This also happened to be the first time I drove a GLC petrol that isn't a coupe or one that makes announcements of my arrival with crackles and pops. My previous stints with this practical crossover have been diesel-powered. Thanks to better NVH insulation, the 2.0l petrol in the GLC 200 feels more refined than its counterpart in the C-Class, and though it is marginally lower on the output than the sedan, the heavier crossover accelerates almost as quickly with a 0-100kmph sprint time of 7.8s (8.1s tested) - only 0.1s slower the C 200.
The engine only gets vocal past the 5,000rpm mark and under that, the GLC almost feels like a typical, whispering luxury car. The nine-speed transmission shifts smoothly too and does an excellent job at ambling in the city or cruising on the highway. The engine isn't the most rev-happy petrol in the class but does its job rather well. You will spend most of the time in the 3-5,000rpm mark as the powertrain is tuned for a strong midrange. Cruising at 120kmph in top gear only needs about 1,800rpm.
The GLC has always had predictable braking with excellent engine braking completing it and that remains unchanged with the petrol variant too. But the petrol counterpart feels noticeably lighter on its feet and has much sharper turn-ins too. Even without the added grip of the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, it feels sure-footed around corners and if anything, it has a sportier edge over the diesel when you are in the mood.
In fact, since the GLC is driver-focussed, it shows in its dynamics too. The ride feels a bit firm at the rear, but not so much when you are at the wheel. It also makes it tauter through the twists and turns and the body control always feels fun and never unnerving. You can also alter the ride and the engine behaviour with the various modes, but the Comfort mode works best for most occasions, as that is, after all, the keyword for the GLC.
The GLC is easily one of the best offerings in the mid-size luxury crossover space. Be it the kind of commute I took home after my trip, or the fun rounds around the mountain roads that it rejuvenated me for the next morning, the GLC does it all quite nicely. It is a well-rounded package in that sense and that shows in the way it performs month on month on the sales charts. But instead of resting on its laurels, the GLC has gone ahead and made improvements to its strong value proposition. Of course, those improvements come at a premium of around Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh over last year's model, but Mercedes-Benz has still managed to keep the 2021 GLC more accessible than the competition, which means it still remains the best buy.
Photography Sumit Gaikwad
Starts Rs 57.36 Lakhs
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