Mercedes GLC 300 — One of the best compact luxury SUVs gets updated

By Jim Prueter

(May 6, 2020) Mercedes’ luxury compact GLC is now the German automakers best-selling vehicle recently replacing the C-Class sedan as the brand’s best-selling vehicle. Since replacing the outgoing GLK compact SUV back in 2016, GLC has received only mild updates. Now, four years into its production run, the GLC gets a heavy mid-cycle refresh to keep it competitive as it battles the likes of popular SUVs like the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Lexus NX, Porsche Macan and others. 

Further, the 2020 GLC is the newest of vehicles in its category and has the advantage with the X3 last refreshed a few years ago, the Q5 design is ancient along with the Porsche and Lexus all expecting a refresh in the coming years.

Mercedes gives the GLC a new 2.0-liter turbo I4 that boosts horsepower from 241 in the outgoing GLC to 255 in our GLC 300 model tested here. Power is delivered through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Other updates include a new grille with thinner standard LED headlight designs, reshaped front and rear fascias and new part halogen, part LED rear taillights.

Front-wheel drive is standard with 4Matic Plus all-wheel drive on the GLC 300 a $2,000 upgrade. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard. There’s also several available AMG trim packages for the 300 like the $1,600 AMG Line that adds exterior body styling, larger 19-inch AMG twin 5-spoke wheels, s sport brake system, AMG interior appointments, sport steering wheel and brushed aluminum pedals. Choose the $2,000 AMG Night Package and you get everything in the AMG Line plus gloss black exterior accents. So, you get the look of the AMG sans the expensive engine performance upgrades. If that isn’t confusing enough, you can also get stand-alone optional 20-inch twin 5-spoke wheels for a $1,250 upcharge.

Inside, the look remains mostly the same, with the biggest news being the upgraded Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system that includes a larger 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and a tablet-like dash-mounted center screen that has grown from 8.0 to 10.0 inches.

The MBUX system includes the more intuitive center-console-mounted touchpad interface we’ve experienced in other new Benz vehicles, plus the upgraded user-experience software. Along with the new software is an interactive intelligence “Siri” like operation that promptly responds when someone in the vehicle says, “Hey Mercedes.” Actually, we found that any verbal mention of the word “Mercedes” activated the system, to an annoying and frustrating fault. Mercedes says that the “Hey Mercedes,” feature can, thankfully, be turned off.

What we did find delightful was the upgraded, augmented navigation system, with numerous cameras that provide real-time visual prompts and information on the center screen that precisely directs you where to turn. We found it extremely helpful when, at a five-street intersection, a blue arrow pointed to the exact street by name, indicating where to turn.

One of the highlights about the GLC’s technology is its operational redundancy, meaning the driver can control most things like the climate, audio system, and navigation through either the touchscreen, the center-console-mounted touchpad, voice assistance, or steering wheel controls.

The interior is extremely attractive and upscale with exceptional luxurious appointments and supreme build quality. Leather upholstery is top rate, switchgear is made from finely crafted metals, and veneer appointments include two new wood trims – natural grain grey oak and natural grain walnut — that are nothing short of eye candy. Available upgrades (which are too numerous to mention) include head-up display, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, and more. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities are standard, but the upgraded audio system and wireless smartphone charging cost extra.

Standard safety features include forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind spot assist, and rearview camera. Lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control cost extra.

Mercedes also offers the AMG GLC 63 and 63 S model variants that remain largely unchanged for 2020 and are immediately recognizable by its unique AMG grille and gaping front intakes. Both models are only offered in the four-door coupe versions of the GLC. If you prefer the less powerful and much less expensive GLC 300 it can also be had in coupe styling if you like the looks of a sleeker profile and a bit less practicality.

On the road the 300 was well-mannered, solid and sure-footed on the hilly, twisty roads encountered on our drive routes. I noticed little difference between the new 2.0-l engine on this year’s model and the one I tested last year. Acceleration is compliant and overall performance will satisfy the majority of drivers. I did find the engine noisy under full throttle but quieted down as soon as we reached our cruising speed.

There was noticeable turbo and transmission lag with heavy acceleration but once power engages our GLC quickly gets up to speed when entering the interstate or when passing another vehicle. 

There were a few other things we didn’t like about the new GLC including the aforementioned “Hey Mercedes” feature. I also didn’t like that there are no “old USB ports” in the new GLC and rather use the new USBC ports that so many of the new Smartphones are using. However, not everybody and especially iPhone users don’t have the new USBC connectivity with their phones. So, if you have the older style phone you will be unable to plug in to the new GLC.

Another thing we found annoying and bizarre is that the GLC doesn’t come standard with keyless entry. This is a feature that we find standard on some vehicles costing half the price of the GLC.  If you want keyless entry where all you have to do is grab the door handle and the vehicle unlocks rather than fumbling for your key fob, you’ll have to opt for the $500 optional Premium Package that also includes Sirux XM radio, 64-color ambient lighting, and illuminated door sills. We think it should be standard in a $43,000 luxury vehicle.

Overall, we think the GLC is the best compact luxury SUV in its competitive set outclassing and outperforming competitors from Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo and others.
Vital Stats
Base Prices: $42,500
Price as Tested: $49,790
Seating: 5

Crash Test Results: The GLC received an overall “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and highest possible 5-star rating for side crash results and 4 out of a possible 5 stars for rollover from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Where Built: Bremen, Germany

Competes With:
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Audi Q5
Cadillac XT5
Jaguar F-Pace
Porsche Macan
Volvo XC60

Fab Features
Wide range of GLC models offered
Gorgeous, comfortable interior
Composed handling, smooth ride
Loaded with advanced technology