By Jonathan Crouch
The GLC brings a bit of Mercedes polish to the premium part of the mid-sized SUV segment and this improved post-2019 facelifted version of the first generation model was a significant step forward from the original. The whole of the mainstream engine range was refettled as part of this update and infotainment media connectivity took an equally large step forward. Plus efficiency, refinement and build quality represent other strongpoints. It's a very complete package.
5dr SUV (2.0 diesel [GLC 220d/ GLC 300d] / 2.0 PHEV [GLC 300e/ GLC 300de] / 3.0 petrol [GLC 43 AMG] / 4.0 petrol [GLC 63 AMG)
In an era where one in every three Mercedes models sold is an SUV, this GLC is a crucial model for the brand. In mid-2019, four years into its production run, this mid-sized premium model was usefully updated to create the car we're going to look at here.
And what an important one it was. These days, outside of the company's front-driven compact models, hardly anything the brand makes now out-sells the GLC. Which makes it incredible that the segment it populates wasn't even competed in by the Stuttgart maker prior to this car's original launch in 2015. That's because its predecessor, the GLK, was never engineered for right hand rive, an oversight that must have cost Mercedes millions in lost sales.
Still, the GLC has rapidly been making up this lost ground, helped by an ever-widening portfolio of variants expanded first by Coupe and Mercedes-AMG models. With the revised post-2019 MK1 model line-up, the range was broadened further, with mild hybrid technology, a plug-in variant and (for Europe at least) even a hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell version. This was one of the first Mercedes cars launched with the brand's current naming convention. 'GL' means this car is an SUV, while 'C' refers to its size, this model being based on the same MRA chassis as the fourth generation C-Class. That platform was designed from the outset to accommodate 4WD, which enables all GLC models to offer 4MATIC traction.
Beyond those underpinnings, there's plenty else that's shared with the C-Class models that rolled down the same German production line in Bremen. Which is why the GLC benefitted from much the same kind of update package that was visited upon the fourth generation version of that C-Class in 2018. So this update brought the MK1 GLC a smarter LED headlamp and grille combo and inside, infotainment updated with the brand's MBUX media system. Semi-autonomous driving tech made a first appearance, there was the option of a fully-digitalised instrument cluster and, as before, buyers got the chance to add sophisticated air suspension.
More important than all of that though, was the fact that the volume 220d diesel variant that almost all GLC buyers chose got a completely fresh 2.0-litre OM654-series engine that offered vast improvements in refinement, efficiency and technology. PHEV tech was introduced in 2020, first with the petrol GLC 300e, then with the diesel GLC 300de. In short, the GLC in all its facelifted forms was much better equipped to take on key direct rivals launched since its original introduction, cars like the third generation BMW X3, the second generation Volvo XC60 and Alfa Romeo's Stelvio, as well as improved versions of established rivals like the Audi Q5 and the Jaguar F-PACE. Time to check the later version of this MK1 GLC out as a used buy.
What You Get
Subtle changes mark the revised version of this first generation GLC apart from the original. The fact that it's also available in a separate Coupe body style relieves this standard SUV variant of the need to look too self-consciously sporty, but there's still just enough visual dynamism here to interest someone who might also be considering, say, an Evoque, an F-PACE or an Alfa Stelvio in this segment.
The GLC's cabin was always a showroom selling point and with this revised model, thoughtful changes further enhanced it. A smarter three-spoke steering wheel incorporates little touchpads, the left hand one of which can operate the much larger 10.25-inch touchscreen positioned on top of the dash. This much more sophisticated media set-up incorporates the Stuttgart brand's 'MBUX' ('Mercedes-Benz User eXperience') multimedia platform with its clever 'Hey Mercedes' voice-activated functionality. It offers navigation, radio, phone, media, info, apps and store settings you can also flick between using an intuitive touchpad between the seats. Similar options are found in the instrument cluster. Base-spec 'Sport' trim stays with old-tech analogue dials surrounding a central 5.5-inch display, but upper-spec GLC models feature configurable virtual gauges on a 12.3-inch TFT screen.
And in the back? Well overall, we think that a couple of adults should be very comfortable here, even if they're six-footers. Try and fit three folk in the rear though and things are far less pleasant, with issues likely to be created by the rather high central transmission tunnel and the fact that the middle seat has a rather firm backrest. Luggage space is accessed via the standard electrically-operated EASY-PACK tailgate. Mercedes obviously benchmarked this car's arch-rivals BMW's X3 and Audi's Q5 here, for the load capacity on offer here (550-litres) matches that you get on those cars exactly.
What You Pay
We'll quote you prices based on the standard SUV body style. Prices for this facelifted version of the first generation GLC start at around £36,300 (around £39,750 retail) for a typical 'AMG Line'-spec 220d diesel, with values rising to around £42,500 (around £47,000 retail) for a later '21-spec car. For the rare GLC 300e petrol Plug-in Hybrid, prices start from around £37,000 (around £42,000 retail) with 'AMG Line' trim on a '20-plate, rising to around £40,100 (around £45,250 retail) for a late '21-plate car. The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 4MATIC performance model with base spec starts from around £39,500 (around £44,500 retail), with prices rising to around £48,100 (around £54,0000 for a late '21-plate car. The V8 Mercedes-AMG GLC 4MATIC+ with base spec on a '19-plate starts from around £65,100 (around £71,750 retail), with values rising to around £80,500 (around £88,750 retail) for a late '21-plate 'Night Edition' model. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.
What to Look For
Most GLC owners in our survey were satisfied, but inevitably, there were some who'd experienced problems. The most common problem we came across seems to be an inherent fault with all right hand drive GLCs; if you turn full lock, left or right, the outside tyre skips and jumps. The larger the wheel the noisier it is. This is a basic steering geometry issue and you need to check for it on your test drive. One owner replaced all brake disks due to bad vibration. A month ago the power steering stopped working as he went around a bend and the car had to be towed away prior to a complete replacement steering rack. In another instance, an owner's gearbox failed.
Otherwise, it's just the usual stuff. Check for signs of damage to the bodywork and alloy wheels. Even though all GLCs came with parking sensors, there may be some and top-spec variants with wide alloy rims are particularly prone to scratches. Check for uneven panel gaps and paint flaws. Inspect the electrics and the air conditioning functionality - it should blow our really chilled air. Some owners in our survey complained of un-Mercedes-like squeaks and rattles; try the car you have in mind across a bumpy bit of road to try and expose any nasty noises.
(approx based on a 2019 GLC 220d - Ex Vat) An air filter is around £32. An fuel filter costs around £60. A pollen filter is around £16. Front brake pads sit in the £26 to £88 bracket for a set, while rear brake pads cost around £25-£72 for a set. Rear brake discs can cost around £70. A headlamp is £170-£300; a saloon tail lamp costs around £180-£216. A clutch kit is around £264; a thermostat is around £88.
On the Road
This facelifted MK1 GLC was rejuvenated beneath the bonnet, the key update being the introduction of the 2.0-litre 'OM654'-series diesel unit in the GLC 220d variant that most buyers of this car in our market chose. This engine is far more refined than the rumbly 2.1-unit it replaced - and quite a bit more frugal too, in this 194hp derivative capable of up to 47.9mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 137g/km of NEDC-rated CO2. The same powerplant also features in the alternative '300d' model in an uprated 245hp state of tune. Both engines are mated to a package that as in all GLCs, includes 4MATIC on-demand 4WD and a 9G-TRONIC PLUS 9-speed auto gearbox, which works with the usual 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes that alter drive response, steering feel and ESP settings.
Shortly after this facelift, Mercedes also offered GLC buyers a slice of electrified technology. The brand's 48 volt EQ Boost mild hybrid tech features in the 258hp mainstream 2.0-litre petrol unit you'll find in the GLC 300. Or you can opt for a plug-in variant, the GLC 300e, which mates a 2.0-litre petrol unit with a 90kW electric motor to create a 320hp total output from a powertrain that when fully charged is able to achieve up to 27 miles of WLTP-rated all-electric driving. This was quickly replaced by a GLC 300de diesel PHEV variant using the same technology. If on the other hand, speed is everything from your petrol-powered GLC, you'll want the barnstorming V6 and V8 Mercedes-AMG petrol performance models that sit at the top of the range. The GLC 43 uses a 390hp 3.0-litre V6, while the top GLC 63 features a charismatic 4.0-litre V8, offered in either 476 or 510hp states of tune. Off roading won't be on the agenda for these variants (or indeed for any GLC model in normal use), but should it ever be necessary, light tracks are well within this car's remit - and you'll be able to attempt more than that should you opt for the priciest 'AMG Line Ultimate' trim level that gives you the brand's variable-height 'AIR BODY CONTROL' air suspension system.
Image is everything when it comes to premium mid-sized SUVs and on that basis, this improved MK1 GLC proved to be a very desirable package. In terms of styling, technology and efficiency, it borrows hugely from other Mercedes models - to very good effect.
Of course, this car's two closest arch-rivals, the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5 have strong followings. And beyond those cars, there are trendier-looking options from the 2019-2022 period - a Range Rover Evoque or an Alfa Romeo Stelvio for instance. Others may want the seven-seat capacity of a comparable Land Rover Discovery Sport. As an all-rounder though, combining many of the qualities you'll find in all of those cars, the GLC remains a tempting package. A segment benchmark? You'd have to say so.