Vince Pornelos / Kelvin Christian Go | June 15, 2018 14:41
Urban Luxury Crossover
Every Filipino family secretly desires to be able to drive their own Mercedes every day.
That may sound like a hasty generalization -a very common fallacy according to my philosophy professor- and it probably is. But ask yourself this: when you and your family drove past a Mercedes-Benz dealership, didn't you ever look and imagine what it would be like to upgrade from your Japanese saloon or SUV for something that aims that much higher?
That, however, wasn't very possible back in the day as Mercs came in just a few shapes and sizes. Think luxury saloons, estates, big SUVs, coupes and convertibles. Today's Mercedes is different; sure, the core values are still there but the variety has grown significantly, especially in the SUV categories.
Once upon a time there was only the G-Class or G-Wagen, however you prefer to call it. The G is to Mercedes as the Range Rover is to Land Rover; very capable, luxurious, and tough. Recognizing the potential for their SUVs, Mercedes diversified, building large crossovers like the GL (renamed GLS), and the ML (renamed GLE). More recently, under their New Generation Compact Car classes, Mercedes introduced their tiniest crossover in the GLA, which was closely related to the A-Class and B-Class.
The real test, however, was in the small premium SUV category; the stomping ground of BMW with the X3 and the Q5 from Audi. And that's where this GLC 200 comes in.
Since 2008, Mercedes has been competing with their GLK, and honestly, we truly liked it. The angular look, the performance of the V6 engines, and the overall driving feel swayed us into Merc's way of thinking with the crossover. The GLK's term ended in 2015 when the company introduced the GLC, again aligning the model with the new naming convention; being the compact model, the GLC shares its architecture with the C-Class.
The new GLC sheds the edgy design of the GLK in favor of something more modern, more aerodynamic, more genteel even. Honestly I would have preferred if they retained the overall styling direction of the GLK, but the new look was really done to sway new customers into the brand. It's understandable; many clients now are looking for the benefits of an SUV without the intimidating heft of something like a G-Class.
There is, however, the question of whether the GLC is truly an SUV. It surely looks like one with the 5-door wagon body, but it's a crossover, meaning there's no frame underneath. What's very surprising is the ground clearance, or the lack of it. The official figures are unclear, but I estimate its only somewhere around 180 millimeter mark; not enough to be really an SUV that can wade through common urban floods, and definitely not enough to be worthy of side stepboards. If anything, those extra running boards just muddy the back of your pants when you get out of the driver's seat.
Once inside, it's all Mercedes. There really is something about the fit and finish of German cars; the panel gaps are perfect and it just feels really solid. The seats feel great, as does the steering wheel. I particularly liked the way Mercedes trimmed the interior with brushed metal accents and piano black panels; not that reddish wood of old.
Despite being effectively an entry grade model of the GLC range, there's nothing entry level about the level of features in this 200. The seat adjustment is all powered via the control switches on the door panels. The new infotainment system is nice to use, albeit the new touchpad takes some getting used to at first. I love the audio system; the Burmester surround audio is impressive. The metal switchgear also looks and feels very nice to the touch.
The rear seats are quite comfortable, and have a decent amount of legroom; yes, you can cross your legs given the extra 57mm of legroom. Trunk space is quite respectable too; 550 liters. And it can be expanded when you pull some metal switches. The liftgate is also motorized, meaning it can also be opened remotely.
The GLC 200 is powered by a 2.0-liter, twin cam, 16-valve turbocharged straight four cylinder that makes 184 horsepower and 300 Newton meters of torque. Respectable power, and it should be good with the 9-speed automatic. This GLC 200 doesn't come with the 4Matic all-wheel drive system; it's not needed, given the primary clientele that live in gated communities.
With that target market, the GLC 200 does perform very well as a town tooler; the kind of crossover that you'd use to go to work or take the kids to soccer practice. The proximity sensor that's standard on this GLC is something of a mixed bag. It's extremely useful when you need to park with precision, but can be quite annoying with our close quarters driving conditions. Sometimes even the pressure generated by a motorcycle's muffler as he rides on the lane markings can trigger the alert, so much so that I found myself switching it off most of the time.
Despite that niggle with the parking sensors, I quite liked the manners of the GLC. There's a bit of jerkiness if you're not used to the throttle pickup, but once you adjust, you can be quite smooth with it. The suspension is something I would characterize as slightly on the firm side; you definitely feel more than expected on our bumpy concrete roads. The noise suppression is easily one of the best qualities of the GLC; noisy motorcycles are neatly muffled.
Fuel economy is likewise good. City driving yields about 7.1 kilometers per liter so long as traffic isn't too bad (23 km/h average) and if you're being calm and collected with the throttle. On the highway, the combination of the 9-speed gearbox and small turbocharged four cylinder means that fuel economy is at a very respectable 13.3 kilometers to a liter.
And speaking of highway driving, the GLC is indeed a great cruiser for out of town trips. The smoothness of the transmisison in the city is even better appreciated on an expressway. Wind noise is minimal; the same goes for tire noise. Hit an open road like a winding mountain pass and you can have a fair bit of fun; the Mercedes GLC does handle, brake, and accelerate quite well for a crossover that weighs 1800 kilos, thereabouts.
The most important question with the GLC 200 is whether or not it's worth it. In terms of overall quality, fit, finish, features, space, driving feel and performance, the GLC 200 is definitely a neat little crossover for cruising around town. And priced at PhP 3,990,000, it's a pretty good deal. And it undercuts the most affordable variant of the new BMW X3 by PhP 400,000.
The GLC falters in one important aspect: ground clearance. The height, even by just looking at the Merc GLC, is not enough. An SUV's height above the road is, after all, the primary reason why we like SUVs in this part of the world.