Think of it as a GLK, but with a new name,
sleeker body and an engine transplant.
By MALCOLM GUNN
Change is apparent wherever we look, but does changing the Mercedes-Benz GLK name to GLC represent a change for the better?
Updating and modernizing models on a regular basis is a time-honoured practice in the auto biz. However, changing a successful nameplate concurrently – thus surrendering hard-fought brand awareness – is a gamble. Nevertheless, Mercedes-Benz is undertaking that kind of effort with a number of vehicles. The compact five-passenger tall wagon that has done well since the 2010 model-year as the GLK is henceforth to be known as the GLC. In this case, the “C” relates to the vehicle’s connection to the C-Class sedan’s platform and other components, which also expands on the lineup-within-a-lineup concept.
Although remaining on the smaller side compared to M-B’s GLE- (formerly M), GL- and G-Class wagons, the GLC that’s now arriving stateside is 11.7 centimeters longer between the front and rear wheels than the GLK. The overall length grows by about the same amount. But what really underscores the differences between the two is a completely redesigned shell that makes the GLC seem, shall we say, less nerdy. By contrast, the new body is better proportioned and is certainly more fetching to the eye; a round-hole GLC compared to the square-peg GLK, but the new model drops about 80 kilograms with a greater use of lighter-weight aluminum components.
The shape results in slightly more cargo room with the 40/20/40 split rear seat folded or upright, which is an important bonus resulting from the GLC’s increased dimensions. The redesigned cockpit-style cabin mimics the C-Class design with a large control panel/floor console separating the front seats and an 18-centimetre touch-screen display perched above a trio of prominent fresh-air vents. For a wagon that’s focused on practicality, it doesn’t get much sportier than this.
It’s only when the driver fires up the GLC that “sporty” gives way to frugality. For 2016 the only available engine is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that generates 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That’s a far cry from the previous 302-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 that was the base gasoline engine in the GLK. The V6 won’t be returning, although a four-cylinder turbo-diesel and a plug-in hybrid model will become available in a year or two.
The turbo four-cylinder that powers the 1,735-kilogram GLC is sourced from the current C-Class sedan, but it doesn’t share that model’s seven-speed automatic transmission. Instead, an all-new nine-speed automatic selects the gears for you. Fuel-consumption numbers aren’t yet confirmed, but they should be similar to the C-300 sedan’s rating of 10.9 l/100 km in the city and 7.5 on the highway when equipped with the same engine. As with the C-Class sedan, the permanently engaged 4MATIC all-wheel-drive setup is standard and will be especially welcome since winter driving conditions and/or bad roads are pretty much the norm in most of Canada.
The base GLC 300, which lists for $47,000 (including delivery charges), comes with plenty of standard stuff befitting a luxury-oriented wagon. That includes climate control, power front seats and 19-inch wheels wrapped with run-flat tires. A number of stand-alone options and groupings is how you’ll get a panoramic sunroof, power-operated tailgate, navigation system, up-level interior trim, premium Burmester-brand surround-sound system, 20-inch wheels (part of an AMG upgrade package) and air suspension (in place of the usual shocks and steel springs). The latest in active-collision-warning and prevention aids can be added as well as an active-damping system that continually adjusts ride firmness based on how hard you’re driving or how bad the roads are.
The GLC’s revised mission that combines basic luxury with modest performance, improved fuel efficiency and exemplary styling should strengthen Mercedes-Benz’s hand in a popular category. That is, of course, once buyers become familiar with the wagon’s new sequence of letters.
What you should know: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive wagon
Engine (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC I4, turbocharged (241)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Market position: The original GLK was a benchmark model among several entry-luxury wagon entries from Europe-, Asia- and North America-based automakers. The re-badged GLC continues in that role.
Points: A successful redesign to go with the new name; Four-cylinder gasoline engine is shy on horsepower, but makes up for it in torque; No more V6, but turbo-diesel should return soon and a hybrid is on the way; More room for passengers and luggage is always a plus; Careful, option creep could easily inflate the base price.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver’s knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy) 10.9/7.5 (est.); Base price (incl. destination) $47,000
Base price: $45,500
240- and 300-horsepower engines and standard AWD highlight this wagon.
Base price: $39,000
New 2016 model available with non-turbo-V6, or potent 2.7-liter V6 turbo.
Base price: $43,900
Turbo 2.0-liter engine, Quattro AWD and attractive price are appealing.