- More power
- Great looks
- Comfortable cabin
- MBUX sux
- Decreased efficiency on volume model
- Failure to break new ground
When the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class won our SUV of the Year award back in 2017, we acknowledged that it wasn’t the sexiest choice, but it was the smartest. “The design is solid, the interior is first-class, the engineering is as good as small SUVs get, and the value proposition is strong … and despite surprising all of us with its power output, displacing just 2.0 liters means that the engine is also scarily efficient.”
For our 2021 SUV of the Year competition, the revised Mercedes-Benz GLC seeks to join a select club of midcycle-update repeat winners.
It’s not all bad for those stateside; American GLC shoppers will find revamped powertrains in the non-AMG iterations. The base GLC 300’s 2.0-liter turbo-four gets a new twin-scroll turbo and some other internal changes, boosting horsepower from 241 to 255 (torque is unchanged), and the standard nine-speed auto is retuned to handle the updated engine. Fuel economy drops 1 mpg city/highway.
More interesting, the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid gets major changes, including a larger battery, an upgraded onboard charger to reduce charge times, and a more powerful electric motor. Total system output for the 2.0-liter turbo-four and motor combo is 315 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and electric-only range grows from only 10 miles to an EPA-estimated 22 miles.
All GLCs get lightly reworked sheetmetal and a revised interior, complete with larger digital displays and Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system. We requested both a GLC 300 and GLC 350e for evaluation, but the pandemic delayed the plug-in hybrid’s release.
Even with just the base variant present, the GLC 300 was quick to remind us why it’s a past winner. In simply driving from our staging area to the start of our loop, the GLC just makes you feel coddled. As a good luxury vehicle should be, the GLC is comfortable, capable, and relatively quiet, and it asks nothing of you. It doesn’t push you to drive harder, nor does it nag you to slow down. It’s comfortable, hassle-free transportation, surrounding you in luxe interior touches.
The added power comes on smoothly, but the engine sounds louder and feels coarser than the previous one. The GLC’s nine-speed seems better behaved than before, though—it’s smoother in operation and feels quicker to shift than in the pre-refresh GLC.
The mildly updated interior is a pretty nice place to be. The baroque-themed cabin is roomy and comfortable, and it certainly feels upscale, though Genesis and Volvo, among others, are quickly catching up (and even surpassing) the venerable GLC when it comes to Advancement in Design.
The replacement of Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system with MBUX drew mostly negative reviews. Although MBUX adds functionality—including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a “Hey, Mercedes” voice assistant—it makes simple tasks maddeningly difficult. “MBUX needs more UX,” head of editorial Ed Loh said. “Basic operations like advancing to the next track on the audio system are maddeningly difficult. They have come up with a solution for a problem nobody had.”
Ultimately, the GLC’s relatively minor updates mean it remains a wonderful compact luxury SUV that sits near the top of its class. We still recommend it.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC|
|Base Price/As tested||$45,495/$55,455|
|Power (SAE net)||255 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||273 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||6.5 sec|
|Quarter-mile||15.0 sec @ 91.8 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||112 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||26.9 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||21/28/24 mpg|
|Vehicle Layout||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine/Transmission||2.0L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/9-speed automatic|
|Curb Weight (F/R Dist)||4,063 lb (53/47%)|
|Length x Width x Height||183.8 x 74.8 x 65.5 in|
|Energy Cons, City/Hwy||160/120 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 Emissions, Comb||0.82 lb/mile|