Mercedes-Benz GLC Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Monday 20th March
The new GLC has done enough to cement its position at the top of the Mercedes tree, and the plug-ins have decent range, for once

Good stuff

Better than the previous version in lots of small ways, dependable family transport

Bad stuff

Not especially exciting to drive, would you show it off to anyone?


What is it?

It certainly wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the GLC is crucially important to Mercedes – perhaps its most important car. Why’s that? Because since it first went on sale in 2015 it has rather swiftly climbed its way to the number one position on the Mercedes sales chart until it’s become the firm’s global best-seller. Who’d have thunk it, eh?

What are the changes over the old car? 

Mercedes modestly says that it was “hard to improve” on the outgoing car, but that hasn't stopped them tinkering with it. The styling is sleeker (21mm narrower, to be precise), longer and lower than before, with 70 litres of space freed up in the boot. We think that the styling is improved over the previous-generation GLC too – a touch more elegant and sophisticated, you could say.

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Why do people like it so much? 

Well, there’s the question – it’s quite a neat little family SUV, sitting alongside the C-Class in Merc’s parallel universe range of slightly bloated soft-roaders. It looks alright, not too ridiculous, it drives decently and there’s plenty of room for the family. Plus it gets some fun tech.

Such as?

Well, you’ve got the now ubiquitous ginormo-touchscreen on the inside that draws the eye as soon as you get onboard. The GLC has almost done away with buttons, but the set-up is still decent here. The aircon controls are always available in the corners and the graphics are fairly crisp and intuitive.

The other tech excitement comes from the powertrain department: all the basic petrol and diesel versions of the car come with at least 48V mild hybrid tech as standard, which means a beefier starter motor for extended periods with the engine off, including the odd shutdown going down a hill or suchlike. But there are plug-in hybrid versions of the car available with both petrol and diesel engines.

But the plug-ins' electric range is miserable, right?

You’d think so, the way everyone expects us to get excited about 30 miles of electric power that runs out quickly, but the PHEV versions of the GLC are rated for around 60 to 80 miles of WLTP range, which is actually pretty good. Even better, they come with 11kW onboard chargers as standard, but you can option CCS fast charging at 60kW to juice up even quicker. It’s the plug-in hybrid that thinks it’s a real electric car.

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On UK roads and cold-to-mild temperatures, we managed nearly 60 miles from the battery. That’s enough to cope with most people’s commuting round trips, meaning you’d be using cheap(er) electric top-ups to deal with the daily grind. That’s not a small thing. 

How does it drive? 

Initially we drove full German-spec cars with air suspension and strange pinstriped wooden dashboard (the Germans love their weird interiors), but the fancy suspension isn’t likely to come to the UK. Which is good, because it doesn’t ride particularly well. In everything bar the diesel plug-in (the heaviest combo you can get) the car wallowed about excruciatingly in Comfort mode and tightened things up in Sport mode, which got body roll in check but meant for a firmer ride than we’d like in a nice family SUV.

Once we’d tried UK-specific models, things improved. The GLC 300 e 4Matic Premium Plus (yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful), came with Comfort suspension and the ‘dynamic select’ system with a choice of driving modes (Comfort, ECO, Sport, Sport+, Individual); not the plushest of rides, but definitely good enough not to impinge on the overall experience. Sport mode remains a bit wooden-kneed for UK roads - and there’s a distinct lack of ‘sport’ in the GLC’s make-up anyway - it’s the kind of car that does business without having to acknowledge such things. If you bought one thinking it was a sportscar, you’re in the wrong place. 

What will it cost?

The range begins with the GLC 220d 4Matic AMG Line diesel - non plug-in, mild-hybrid - at £51,855 and walks up from there to the 300 de AMG Line Premium Plus with the plug-in capability at £74,460. All get the 9G-Tronic Plus nine-speed automatic, and they’re all 4Matic four-wheel drive. AMG Line, AMG Line Plus and AMG Line Premium Plus are essentially the trim lines, so you pick the weight of equipment that suits and then decide on the drivetrain. The 300 e Premium Plus that we tried in the UK had more bells’n’whistles than you could possibly ever need, and did well on the economy tests - but it lists at a smidge over £72k - which isn’t beans. AMG Line Plus is probably the best compromise, but the GLC isn’t a particularly cheap option.

What's the verdict?

Merc's C-Class on stilts impresses with its PHEV range and relentless competence

We already know that the GLC is the most popular Mercedes in the world, and there’s nothing to suggest that the latest version of the car will do anything to harm that status. If anything, the decent slug of range on the new PHEV versions of the car will only make it more compelling to company car buyers and those who want a car capable of zero-emission running but suffer from range anxiety.

The GLC is a great all-rounder that will slot painlessly into the lives of its buyers and provides a useful entry point into electric motoring. Of course, we’ll always say you’d be better off getting a nice C-Class Estate, but that doesn't make the GLC a bad purchase.

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