Suburbanites can finally unite and join hands across the well-to-do enclaves of America for the mid-model refresh of Mercedes-Benz’s best-selling model line, the GLC. For the 2020 model year, the GLC line capitalizes on the strengths of the current models: upscale interior, well-integrated tech, and no-too-wild exterior styling. If you liked the first generation, you’ll find the mid-model refresh compelling. We drove both the turbo four-cylinder GLC 300 models and the bonkers twin-turbo V-8 AMG GLC 63 variants, covering both ends of the compact luxury spectrum in traditional SUV and “Coupe” styles.
The facelifted GLC lineup sports a newly ventilated and illuminated front fascia, a dollop more horsepower for its base turbocharged inline-four engine, and some rather fancy steering wheel buttons. Not to mention an entirely digital instrument cluster, courtesy of a 12.3-inch screen.
Whether or not you opt to pay the $10K premium to go from SUV to fastback Coupe, the GLC presents the least polarizing, most interesting exterior in the coupe/crossover market this side of the Porsche Macan (which doesn’t yet offer a spin-off variant). Mercedes-Benz didn’t change much about the GLC’s exterior, adding extra ventilation and chrome accents to the lower fascia and bolting a nicely detailed step-up panel along each side. The now-standard front LED lights have a slightly more angular expression, and the rear lights changed to a two-cell display that looks pretty slick, even in the sunlight.
From the driver’s seat you’re greeted by not one, but two screens; in addition to the multimedia 10.25-inch touchscreen, Mercedes-Benz replaced the instrument cluster with another 12.3-inch display for the refreshed model. As customers increasingly expect from luxo-crossovers, each screen displays a payload of highly customizable information: navigation, music, and various driver-assist functions. Fingernail-sized touchpads on the steering wheel allow you to tap and swipe your way through the digital instrument cluster. A newly designed touchpad in the center console provides redundant controls for the main touchscreen. The touchpad allows for less-distracting adjustments to the main screen while driving, and will probably keep some dirty fingers off the larger screen.
Concentrating the bulk of the information on two screens leaves the rest of the cabin pleasingly clean, other than the seat adjusters mounted on the door in the vicinity of the door handle. That round button you’ve been reaching for and confusedly tilting on the side of the seat? That’s lumbar support.
Despite the concentration of information on the two screens, mundane adjustments such as volume and climate control also get redundant analog buttons, textured with a cross-hatch to indicate their toggle-worthiness. This is a thoughtful and useful consideration for those who don’t want to navigate through a digital menu for simple operations.
Should you prefer to sidestep both the touchscreens and manual controls, Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX infotainment system awakens with the phrase “Hey, Mercedes,” and will adjust climate control on either side of the cabin to match the direction of your voice command—driver or passenger side. However, the voice-assistant system also perks up with “How may I help you?” or any phrase containing a sufficient number of sibilants, and will only register the “cancel!” order from the side of the cabin where the erroneous message originated. “Oh, so you’re from Traverse City?” How may I help… “Cancel!”
Out of the parking lot, the GLC 300’s 2.0-liter, 225-horsepower turbo inline-four merges you into traffic with brisk (if not astounding) ease. The spoken navigational directions, for drivers adapted to Apple Maps, are efficient and not overwhelming in the slew of an unfamiliar city’s traffic. You might feel more chic in the GLC’s Coupe variant, but, peering out the rearview mirror, you might envy the standard GLC’s superior rear visibility. The blind-spot tech helps with the sizeable constraints of the Coupe’s C-pillar and raked roofline, but if you can resist the “Coupe-is-cooler” instinct, the practicality of the standard GLC is more accommodating.
After driving comfortably through the stop-and-go congestion of Newark, New Jersey, we swapped the inline-four for its beefy biturbo brethren and went in search of some mountain roads. On the curvy roads of New York’s Catskill mountains, freed from the lurching rhythm of stoplights, the AMG GLC 63’s twin-turbo V-8 was a delightful, powerful companion. The stable ride, generous torque, and open back roads encourage spirited driving, but even in the 63 S Coupe equipped with all-wheel drive, you won’t want to pit 503 horses against wet pavement and damp autumn leaves if you want to avoid unsettling wheelspin. Even if you can resist the temptation, though, the louder exhaust setting means you can settle back and enjoy the burbling V-8 soundtrack without pounding through corners.
That being said, the AMG power plant will provide some on-ramp thrills and serious cool-parent points at stoplights (if you’re in Sport mode or any above it, which deactivates the fuel-economizing stop/start function). Outside of the occasional mountain vacation, most customers buying an AMG SUV do it more for the aesthetic and less for all-out track days.
The cheapest way to join the GLC contingent is with the rear-wheel-drive GLC 300, which starts at $43,495 (delivery and destination included). The base model is closest to Audi’s $43,945 Q5 in the compact luxo-SUV space, compared to to BMW’s $42,945 X3 and Lexus’ space-age RX with a base price of $46,200 (all prices with delivery and destination included). The GLC 300 Coupe starts at $50,995 with all-wheel-drive (no rear-drive Coupe is available). You’ll pay a big chunk of extra change for the twin-turbo AMG V-8 in the 63 S—$85,095 for the slinky Coupe before any pricey optional equipment.
The refreshed GLC line will be available at dealers by the end of this year. Soon to come is a hybrid offering and refreshed AMG 43 twin-turbo V-6 variant. If you spend more time in the car than on your couch and want to enjoy the smooth ride and posh cabin materials as your car maneuvers itself through stop-and-go traffic, the GLC will be right up your tree-lined alley.