Exclusive: 2020 Mercedes GLC road test review
A recent study we did on the ownership costs in the midsize luxury crossover space revealed that the Mercedes-Benz GLC offers the most value for the asking price. The consumers in this space seem to agree with our verdict, as the GLC is the outright bestseller in the segment and the blue-eyed-boy for Merc's crossover line.
Speaking of eyes, the GLC's familiar headlamps have now changed significantly for 2020 - amongst a host of other things. It is a midlife makeover for the crossover and though it has arrived early in its life, the update comes close on the heels of the facelift given to the C-Class sedan that it is technically based on. The headlights on the GLC 220d seen here have a horizontal array of LED lamps that replace the projector beam units. It looks quite sophisticated, but I would opt for the optional multi-beam headlamps for added safety.
Mercedes-Benz had established a simple classification for the LED signatures of its cars - a single-line daytime-running light for the C-Class, two for the E and three for the S. The upcoming GLE and the GLS mimicked this arrangement too, but for some reason the GLC has decided to break away from it. Instead, it wears LED daytime running lights that outline almost the entire headlight assembly, in a manner similar to the new kid on the block - the GLB. The headlights also broaden towards their outer edges now, contrasting the previous design which had the headlights expanding into the grille. The result is that the face now looks broader and the nose looks sharper. In the bargain, the GLC has lost a bit of the visual aggression, but the new understated elegance is in line with the new familial design that Mercedes-Benz has adopted for its crossovers and SUVs.
The tail lights follow the familial design theme too. The outer shape remains the same, but the complex GLS-inspired detailing makes them appear sleeker. Though there are no changes to the surfacing of the car, these subtle changes to the lighting elements make the updated GLC appear leaner than its outgoing counterpart. What adds a squeeze of sportiness to the design, is the presence of faux diffuser fangs at the front and rear. Mercedes-Benz has chosen to go with a new 15-spoke dual-tone design for the 19-inch rims, which compliments the sportier appeal of 2020 GLC. I like the maroon colour you see here, but in my opinion, the Mojave Silver derived from the C 300d AMG Line would look even better.
The bigger changes to the GLC are inside the cabin. While the flowing centre console design still remains unchanged, it looks stunning as ever and boasts of a new infotainment system that sits atop the dashboard. For the first time in a Mercedes-Benz, it is a touchscreen system and finally makes operating stuff like Apple CarPlay and sat-nav easier and a more familiar affair. The 10.25-inch screen is big and looks beautiful with the updated user interface. But the bigger news is that this infotainment now comes with an embedded SIM (powered by Vodafone), the acclaimed MBUX operating system.
The embedded SIM enables internet services and connected tech inside the new GLC. As a quick demonstration, a Mercedes-Benz India representative remotely locked and unlocked our test car using the app, from over 100km afar! Similarly, the GLC's cabin can be pre-cooled, the car's engine can be remotely locked out in case of theft and the vehicle can simply be tracked and geofenced too. Fleet operators will be able to pair one device with up to 78 cars! Using the internet of things (IoT), the car's health, fuel status and tyre pressures can also be monitored using the remote app. The iOS app also offers a version for the Apple Watch, meaning you can lock and unlock the car from you wrist too!
Such connected tech is already present in some lower-end cars, but we have seen the most efficiently working example of it on this GLC. The fact that Mercedes-Benz India is offering this suite on the locally assembled version (and the lower-spec 220d variants at that) of the GLC, will only force the competition to react positively and take the segment forward.
The MBUX's much talked about voice assistant feature works quite efficiently too. It wakes up to "Hey Mercedes" and did not have any trouble understanding Indian accents from the three of us present, and its reactions were pretty quick to adjust the temperatures, pull up Indian restaurant names on the navigation or even change the colour of the new ambient lighting package in this cabin. It is overly alert though, and sometimes even the slightest hint of the word 'Mercedes' wakes up the assistant - but then this isn't a word you will use often unless you are bragging about your new purchase to everyone you meet!
Compared to the C-Class sedan, the GLC has a larger number of chauffeured owners. Whether or not you are one, the rear seat gets a few updates to make life a tad bit better for the occupants. The windows now get manually-retractable blinds and there are USB ports at the rear too. All USB ports in the new GLC are type-C though, meaning you might have to keep a couple of adapters handy if your co-passengers aren't using the latest smartphones like you probably are. There is a wireless charging pad at the front, but there is no wireless Apple CarPlay - which is amongst the list of a few other features I was hoping to see in the updated GLC, like a memory function for the seats and Burmeister audio. I'm nitpicking of course, and the new features far outweigh the absence of these.
The steering wheel has a new design like the C-Class. The cruise control functions are on the wheel now, along with two swipe-pads that control the MBUX infotainment and the instrumentation. The instrumentation has a similar layout as before, with a digital display flanked by two analogue clocks - but a new three-dimensional design comprising of large bezels of the clocks, replaces the ageing, flat layout of the previous unit. The multi-info display has a more colourful interface that matches that of the infotainment. All these little updates make the cabin feel more tech-savvy than before. On the other hand, open-pore walnut wood on the centre console and in the trim in the doors and the dash, ups the luxury appeal. The sum of all these things easily makes the new GLC cabin the best to be in this segment, and that will remain one of its strongest attributes.
The other strong point of the GLC is its new engine. This is the same 2.0-litre OM 654 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine as the updated C-Class, and it replaces the 2.2-litre OM 651 that powers the outgoing model. Despite the smaller displacement, it is not only cleaner, more fuel-efficient and BSVI compliant, but also 24PS higher on power, thus hitting the ton 0.4s quicker with a 0-100kmph sprint time of 7.9s. You would have to live with the current GLC 220d to notice these advantages, though. If you did, you would also appreciate the more refined nature of this engine. In our tests, the 2020 GLC 220d went from a standstill to 100kmph in 8.7s and returned an overall fuel economy of 14.95kmpl (City: 13.8kmpl/Highway: 18.4kmpl). The is mated to Merc's favourite 9-speed gearbox, which is a tad slow to downshift when you are driving in the twisties but works efficiently in the city and highway environment.
After all, the GLC isn't really meant for spirited driving in the twisties. The suspension set-up remains unchanged and there are no adaptive dampers. There is a fair bit of body roll around corners and switchbacks, and from that sense, it isn't a driver's car but a laid-back premium cruiser that will ferry a family in comfort. Though there are no adaptive dampers, we found the new suspension set-up to be a tad bit firmer than the previous car, with better rebound control. As before, the brake pedal still needs a bit of a firm push, but it now comes with the Active Brake Assist, which upon detecting an impending collision, can apply full braking force even at a gentle dab of the brake pedal, or even brake autonomously if the driver doesn't intervene. This tech already exists on a few higher-end cars from Mercedes-Benz, but this is the first time it is being offered on the locally assembled car bearing the 'C' badge.
True to the 'C' badge, the GLC remains an easy driver for city and highway use. The new engine is extremely fuel-efficient too and makes for an excellent daily driver. With a few yet nifty additions to the rear seat kit, the new GLC has also become a more appealing option for those who are driven around. But the biggest advantage is that the prices are pretty much in the same zone as the outgoing car, which means that the GLC now offers even more value than before. So is this still the best buy in the segment? Without a shadow of a doubt, yes!
Starts Rs 57.36 Lakhs
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