2020 Mercedes GLC

AMENIA, N.Y. — Given Americans’ infatuation and craze for SUVs, it isn’t surprising that the Mercedes-Benz GLC recently replaced 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, for 2020, the GLC gets a heavy mid-cycle refresh that includes new front and rear styling, upgraded technology and expanded safety systems.

Along with the new updates is an enhanced plug-in-hybrid model with a bigger battery and a substantial torque increase. Gas-only GLC models feature a new 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an increase in horsepower – up from 241 to 255 – and delivering power through a nine-speed automatic transmission. We recently had the opportunity to drive the new GLC models in upstate New York.

The GLC comes in two different variants: the standard SUV and a coupe with the sloping roofline. Available models include GLC 300 and 300 4MATIC SUVs, GLC 350e 4MATIC plug-in hybrid SUV, GLC 43 AMG SUV and coupe, and GLC 63 AMG and GLC 63 S AMG coupes.

On the outside, even with the newly styled front and rear, to the untrained eye, it might take seeing both the old and new GLC parked side by side notice exterior differences. Up front, new standard LED headlamps are thinner, there’s a new grille and a more prominent fascia. At the rear, there’s new part halogen, part LED taillamps along with a new rear fascia.

Mercedes makes some of the sportier AMG appearance trim elements — like the AMG grille, door sills and other trim pieces – available as options on the less powerful base GLC trim levels. So, you basically have a faux GLC AMG.

The AMG comes standard with 4Matic Plus all-wheel drive; on the GLC300 it’s a $2,000 option. The GLC300 comes standard with 18-inch wheels; the AMGs get 20-inch standard.

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.

Both the AMG GLC 63 and 63 S model variants remain largely unchanged and are immediately recognizable by its unique AMG grille and gaping front intakes. Both models are only offered in the four-door coupe versions.

The powertrain in the 63 model is a thing of beauty, delivered via the hand-built AMG 4.0-liter V-8 biturbo engine, generating 469 horsepower – 503 in the 63S –with maximum torque of 479 and 516 lb-ft, respectively. Mercedes claims a zero to 60 mph time of 3.8 seconds for the 63, while the 63 S model clocks in at just 3.6 seconds. Both models are enhanced by the AMG sport suspension, based on air body control and the electronically controlled differential lock.

Depending on the engine, the driver can select from six available drive programs: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Race (S model only). AMG versions also come with Mercedes’ new three-chamber air suspension.

We drove both the base GLC 300 and the high-performance GLC 63. The 300 was well-mannered, solid and sure-footed on the hilly, twisty roads we encountered on our drive routes. If we weren’t so advised prior to or drive, we could discern little difference between the new 2.0-l engine and the one in last year’s model. Acceleration is compliant and overall performance will satisfy the overwhelming majority of drivers. We did think the engine was noisy under full throttle but quieted down as soon as we reached our cruising speed.

The powerful AMG 63 model made the GLC a completely different vehicle. While our drive route didn’t include any track time, we were able to stick our foot in it when getting up to speed on the planned interstate. To be sure, it’s an SUV, but a hot rod SUV, and especially recognizable with its and optional 21-inch wheels, and updated sports exhaust that crackles, pops and burbles.

Power comes on instantly off the line, actuating flawlessly and pushing the driver firmly back in the well-bolstered seat. As expected, the ride is firmer, with more precise handling, thanks, in part, to the all-wheel drive, high-performance summer tires, and its sports suspension, based on the air body control. If you’re looking for overkill by any measure, this is the SUV to buy.

Overall, we think the GLC is the best compact luxury SUV available and out classes and out performs competitors from Audi, BMW, and Porsche. It drives shockingly well and satisfies both one’s need for luxury, and the beauty of massive power.

Vital Stats
Base Prices: $42,500 -  $81,800
Price as Tested: $83,655 (AMG GLC 63)
Seating: 5

Crash Test Results: The GLC has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Where Built: Bremen, Germany

Competes With:
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Audi Q5
Jaguar F-Pace

Fab Features
Wide range of GLC models offered
Powerful engines
Superb handling

— Jim Prueter