2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV drive review: Bettering the beauty of a beast
- Capable drive dynamics
- Spacious and luxurious cabin
- Off-road abilities
- Cabin still cramped for five
- Petrol motor has a bit of grunt
Just how important the GLC SUV is for Mercedes-Benz is highlighted by the fact that the Germans have sold more than 26 lakh units of the model the world over since 2016. Just how important the GLC SUV is for Mercedes-Benz India is showcased by the fact that around 13,000 units have been sold in around seven past years. Popularity defines sales numbers and vice-versa but there is no guarantee that the momentum will continue in a world where competition is always hot. As such, the updated Mercedes GLC comes in and comes in hot with the promise of bettering the beast.
The updated Mercedes GLC SUV was showcased to the world in 2022 itself and so, it has taken a while for the model to touch down in India. The German luxury car giant, meanwhile, has been busy with its top-end vehicles (TEVs) this year so far. The E53 Cabriolet, updated G-Wagon and AMG GT 63 Performance were launched earlier this year. But while these TEVs are a great show of confidence in the luxury vehicle space, models like the GLC forms the base of what the company likes to call the ‘core’ of its India business.
In the product portfolio, the GLC sits between GLA and the GLS, and that's quite a sweet spot to be in. The competition isn't massively intense with the likes of BMW X5, Audi Q3 and Land Rover Discovery Sport competing for attention with the Mercedes GLS. So does the GLS, an SUV that has always punched big, once again step out to deliver the knockout blow?
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Here is the first-drive review of the updated 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC:
Watch: Mercedes Benz GLC 2023: First drive review
Mercedes-Benz GLC: Styled for the suave
The updates on the exterior of the 2023 Mercedes GLC are few but some are quite significant in lending the vehicle a cosmetically different visual appeal from the preceding model.
The face continues to be dominated by a large radiator grille with the Mercedes tri-star logo placed prominently at the center once again. What is new though is that the sleek LED headlight units now merge into this radiator grille while the under guard towards the bottom has been finished in chrome.
From the side, the new GLC has been stretched in length - by 60 mm to 4,716 mm, which has resulted in the wheelbase increasing by 15 mm to 2,888 mm now. Visually, the stretch isn't quite as noticeable as the new alloy design on the 19-inch wheel. The styling of the five-spoke alloys is quite sporty, lending the model a fresh appeal.
Towards the rear, the GLC gets LED tail lights which get a three-dimensional visual effect and under guard in chrome and a powered tailgate. Overall, the GLC continues to be an extremely smart looking vehicle which ought to appeal to both the sophisticated as well as enthusiastic buyer who priorities visual appeal. But the updates aren't quite enough to instantly underline that this here is the newer GLC.
Mercedes-Benz GLC: Cutting-edge cabin
The updates on the inside aren't quite radical either but Mercedes appears to be tinkering with the idea of not mending what's not broken. And as far as the cabin of the GLC is concerned, it remains typically upmarket and spacious.
The new GLC comes in three upholstery colour options - Sienna Brown, Black and Macchiato Beige. The unit for this review sported the Macchiato Beige hue. But while colours are meant more for aesthetics, there is a lot of tech-based highlights that would keep the driver and occupants mighty pleased.
The 11.9-inch vertically-oriented screen has been carried forward and its positioning, resolution and touch interface remains the best in the market. Interestingly though, the new GLC is the first in the Mercedes portfolio to get the updated MBUX: NTG7 telematics. And the most significant highlight here is that instead of depending on the rather shoddy navigation system of the vehicle itself, one can make use of wireless Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay. What's also new here is that the screen puts out feed from not just the 360-degree camera but has a unique under-bonnet feed when the off-road mode is engaged, clearly showing the terrain and if any stones and rocks may pose a threat.
The feature list also packs in a mammoth sunroof, a 15-speaker Burmester sound system, an all-digital driver display, three-spoke steering wheel with mounted controls, electronically-adjustable front two seats and a powerful air-purification system with two-stage purification. The air quality figures are put on the center console.
Space and seat cushioning is what a connoisseur of luxury vehicles would come expecting from a GLC. The passengers at the back get rear AC vents and a central arm rest adds to the comfort factor. Large windows, complete with manual shades, further elevate the experience of being inside the vehicle. But much like on most luxury vehicles in the market at present, the middle seat space is a compromise because the center console juts back and there is a mammoth floor hump.
Overall, the GLC cabin continues to blend luxury with a lot of tech-based features to offer a pleasing space for both busy city commutes as well as leisurely highway journeys. It isn't exactly designed to wow existing owners of high-end luxury vehicles but still has enough appeal to be to their liking.
Mercedes-Benz GLC: The delight is in the drive
The biggest strength of the Mercedes GLC has been is in how mature yet spirited it is to drive. While a fair share of GLC buyers would task their favoured chauffeur to ferry them around, here is an SUV that deserves to be driven than be driven in.
Mercedes is offering the updated SUV as GLC 300 4MATIC (petrol) and GLC 220d 4MATIC. This review covers the former which is quicker to the triple-digit mark at 6.2 seconds compared to eight seconds it takes the diesel model. The GLC isn't meant for sprints but there is enough power here still to put a smile on the face of the casual enthusiast.
The GLC continues to be offered in multiple drive modes but one does not need to necessarily engage ‘Sport’ mode even on open highway stretches to get dollops of pulling and pushing power. The other aspect where the GLC continues to excel is in the quality of the drive and ride. The suspension set up continues to soak in much of what Indian roads would offer in the form of challenges and the solid control over NVH levels provide a pleasant cocoon for occupants regardless of the hullabaloo outside. The petrol engine does have some uncharacteristic noise - and that's a bit of a downer, but this is restricted to the outside and none of it creeps into the cabin even when the SUV is being pushed hard.
The GLC also comes with a 48V Integrated Starter Generator tech which pushes up its power and torque figures marginally. It also helps the vehicle, according to claims made by Mercedes, enhance mileage while lowering emissions when compared to figures from before.
And the fact that both variants of the Mercedes GLC are now capable of solid off-roading is another great highlight although this review did not focus on this aspect in detail. The GLC, however, was driven on some seriously patchy stretches and it came out absolutely unscathed.
Overall, the updated GLC remains an eager SUV but also one that goes about its daily chores with arrogant ease. It has a reassuring drive trait for most parts but can be a fun machine each time the pedal is pressed aggressively.
Mercedes-Benz GLC: Verdict
The updates on the latest GLC aren't elaborate or extravagant or even extensive. Whether it is the change on the outside or the cabin layout or even the drive traits, the GLC is a familiar machine still. But that's just it, isn't it? For a well-engineered and smart-looking SUV, the boundaries need not be stretched much just for the sake of it.
For existing admirers of Mercedes brand, the GLC is still a very compelling option but will it mesmerise one and all with its list of updates? Time will tell.