2023 Mercedes-Benz CLC 300 is all new

Mercedes' global bestseller
gets an update and a hybrid

By Jim Prueter

(September 10, 2023) The compact Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV has been around for over 15 years when it debuted as a GLK and produced from 2008 to 2015. Since that time it's been the world's best-selling Mercedes-Benz and is all-new for the 2023 GLC tested and reviewed here.

While there are some major changes beneath the surface of the new GLC there is very little visual difference to the exterior with the outgoing GLC model. Mercedes was careful not to mess up a good thing with most noticeable difference an updated grille to meet pedestrian-protection crash regulations and an overall increase of 2.4-inches in length that shows up in improved rear-seat legroom. Rear cargo space has been increased to 21.1 cubic feet, up 9 percent from the outgoing GLC model.

The outgoing 2022 GLC model was also available as both a square back and "coupe" body style, the updated fastback version will skip the 2023 model year and appear again for the 2024 model year.

The new GLC is mechanically similar to its sibling C-Class sedan that was equally difficult to tell from its predecessor, and shares the same standard silky-smooth 255-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo engine that's now assisted by a 48-volt mild hybrid setup for a slightly better fuel economy rating. It's paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional. The other major change is the base MSRP that's about $3,000 higher than the 2022 model.

The biggest difference and changes lie in the interior design where the GLC gets Mercedes' new generation cabin, including the upgraded 11.9-inch portrait-format MBUX infotainment system and touch-sensitive controls that's been lifted intact from the C-Class setup. It occupies prime cabin real estate mid-center and is canted slightly in favor of the driver's view and operation. There's no physical buttons for the HVAC system nor a knob for the audio volume. Those are operated via touch-sensitive swiping that we found more annoying and distracting. A 12.3-inch digital gauge display indicates the vehicle's mechanical and driver assist information as well as vehicle speed.

But there were drawbacks to be sure. We found most of the touch-sensitive operating controls fussy and not easy to use. Voice commands for the infotainment system were hit and miss and often required repeated commands and at times it didn't work at all. GLC buyers will need to spend some detailed quality time sitting in the driveway familiarizing themselves with at a minimum the commonly used functions like operating the audio system, voice command system, or cruise control functions before they take to the road.

The new cabin is plush and looks terrific and modern with premium upscale materials that mimics the flagship S Class sedan that draws your eye as soon as you enter the vehicle. There was plenty of real metal switchgear and trim and leather trim throughout the instrument panel, console and door trim making an impressive look to the cabin.There's interesting-shaped air vents — three on the upper center dash and one each on the far sides of the dash, plus ambient lighting, wireless smartphone charging, heated front seats and a power tailgate.

The tailgate height opening can be adjusted if opens too high or not enough and there's even a button that lets you lock the entire vehicle while closing the tailgate. There's a new steering wheel with touch-sensitive control buttons that we found fussy and didn't work particularly well.

Seating is for 5-passengers with a split-folding rear seat for additional cargo space. Options on our GLC 300 included panorama roof, SiriusXM radio, 19" multi-spoke wheels, a driver assistance package that included active steering assist, active lane change assist and lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, brake assist with cross-traffic function and evasive steering assist. Burmester Surround Sound system, surround view Guard 360 camera system, illuminated door sills, enhanced ambient lighting and MB navigation were all included in the Exclusive Trim package.

As typical with our driving impressions of Mercedes' vehicles, the GLC handles and drives like a luxury vehicle with a dash of sportiness. The turbo 4-cylinder is responsive with ample power when accelerating up to interstate speeds as well as overtaking a vehicle on two lane highways. Body roll in curves and cornering is well controlled and steering provides good feedback for confident driving. Conversely, we found the brakes had a too-soft pedal feel and the ride somewhat disappointing and less comfortable than expected.

Other available options not included in our test GLC is the sporty-looking AMG Line package and 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

Overall, while the GLC as stated is the most popular Mercedes in the world with the brand careful not to over tinker with success and screw up a new generation of the vehicle. While sleeker and a bit longer making the overall look a bit more elegant and dare I say sophisticated?

The new interior is where the excitement for the new GLC comes from and we would say the mild hybrid is a welcome improvement also. The GLC has the right badge on the grille, the right look and driver assist features going for it. Of course we wished it rode better and was more comfortable and the vehicle's tech is fussy to operate and doesn't make the vehicle more compelling. Still, it's a better GLC than the old version in lots of ways, will be a dependable family hauler and there's nothing to say it won't continue to be Mercedes' best global selling vehicle.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $47,100
Price as Tested: $54,100
Engine/Transmission: 255-Horsepower 2.0-Liter inline turbo 4-cylinder with mild hybrid paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 25/32/28-MPG - City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Where Built: Bremen, Germany

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The 2023 Mercedes GLC has not been crash tested for safety ratings by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing.

Competes With:
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Audi Q5
Genesis GV70
Infiniti QX55
Jaguar F-Pace
Lexus NX
Volvo XC60

Plush, beautiful interior
Brisk acceleration, fuel-efficient engine
Advanced driver assist features

Fussy infotainment and operating controls
Disappointing ride quality
Soft brake pedal