2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC

By January 28, 2021

The Mercedes-Benz GLC is the brand’s mid-size, five-seat crossover SUV. With a long list of lavish features and extravagant options, it is as sumptuous as any Mercedes sedan—with more utility.

The 2021 model only gets a few small updates, including standard keyless start and active parking assist. AMG models also benefit from standard parking sensors.

The lineup does get a bit smaller for 2021 due to the hybrid GLC350e being discontinued. However, the GLC continues to be offered with a coupe variant, which still sports four doors but features a far more rakish roofline.

The GLC can be had with powertrains that range from competent to absurdly quick. On the mild end of that spectrum is the GLC300’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 255 hp. The power is churned through an 9-speed automatic that is also used with the higher-performance engines. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but only the base trim has it. All-wheel drive comes with other versions.

Stepping into the GLC43 means getting a 3.0-liter inline-6 pushing 385 hp to all four wheels. The GLC63 goes one step further by squeezing a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 between the front fenders. It can be had with either 469 or 503 hp. Either way, expect 0-60 mph times of less than four seconds.

As expected, such performance won’t make for the most efficient travel. The EPA expects the GLC63 to return just 15 mpg city, 22 highway, 17 combined. The GLC43 isn’t much better at 18/24/20 mpg. The base model outdoes both by a wide margin with its 22/29/25-mpg rating.

Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and lane-change assist cost extra.

The government hasn’t tested the GLC yet, but the IIHS was impressed enough to call models with the optional adaptive LED headlights a Top Safety Pick.

Model Lineup

The $44,195 GLC300 is where things begin. Standard features include a 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 18-inch wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a power liftgate.

The GLC43 is distinguished by the turbo inline-6 and all-wheel drive, but otherwise is equipped identically to the GLC300. Prices begin at $62,570.

Stepping into the V-8-powered $74,950 GLC63 mixes in some unique aesthetics, nappa leather upholstery, highly bolstered sport seats, a surround-view camera system, and some other exclusive goodies. Like the other trims, it can be had in regular SUV form or as a coupe.

Exterior

Even when equipped with monster engines, the GLC is a sleeper, particularly in its standard form. A wide grille punctuated by a large three-pointed star is about the most daring aspect of the design. The rest of the body is a study in subtle elegance. Side flanks sport some subtle but effective creasing, the roofline works its rearward with just a hit of rake, and the back is finished off with horizontal four-piece tail lights.

The coupe tosses aside any notions of anonymity with a bold roofline that lifts inspiration from a traditional two-door. The loss of cargo space and rear head room probably won’t matter to those smitten by the looks, which has no trouble drawing attention. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but we’re sure fans of the bodystyle wouldn’t want it any other way.

Interior

The chrome- and wood-lined interior is unashamedly luxurious. The GLC cuts no corners in an effort to wow occupants. The quality of the materials and the general fit and finish are as impressive as the heft of the controls.

Highlighting the interior is a 10.3-inch touchscreen that sits atop and forward the dash, looking almost like an iPad someone mounted themselves after delivery. The floating design helps bring the screen closer to the driver and make inputs a bit easier. We still prefer manipulating the MBUX software with the large rotary dial mounted in the console, though. When you don’t want to take your hands off the wheel, the voice controls also work well.

The GLC’s seats offer plenty of adjustment and support, even in the base model. We would upgrade the standard synthetic leather to the real deal; Mercedes offers some quality hides in some interesting color combinations. But as for the seats, we find the base frames are fine enough for us, with plenty of cushion, nice bolstering, and ample adjustment.

The back seat is better for two adults, but three works fine when necessary. We’d still recommend shopping the larger GLE for anyone regularly shutting three rear passengers, though. Leg room is more than adequate.

Rear head room is fine on the regular SUV, but that isn’t the case for the coupe, which will force some taller riders to slouch in order to keep their heads from grazing the roofline. The coupe’s sacrifice in space is best captured by the cargo dimensions: while the regular GLC has 20 cubic of space in the hatch area and 60 cubes with the rear seat folded, the coupe only has 17.7 cubes in the back and 49.4 cubes in total.

Driving Impressions

Mercedes is infatuated with power, as the proliferation of AMG models in their lineup attests to. But most buyers still opt for the more affordable, tamer standard powertrains. In this case, that would be the GLC300, which, for “only” having 255 hp, moves quickly off the line and delivers snappy 6.1-second 0-60 mph runs. It sounds a bit coarse when pushed that hard, but under more typical acceleration this isn’t an issue. Our bigger concern is regarding the 9-speed automatic, which occasionally gets confused on which gear to jump to.

We have no concerns about the ride, which is creamy, smooth, and unflappable. It glides over the road with good damping, compliant springs, and a general sense of surefootedness. It all feels appropriately luxurious—even more so than the hot-rod AMGs, we might venture to say.

About those AMGs: both the GLC43 and GLC63 are ridiculously quick. Even the twin-turbo-6 GLC43, which is the more sane at 385 hp, will hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and eventually reach 155 mph.

That’s more power than any crossover needs, and yet the GLC63 adds another 100 hp or so to the mix. It is a riotous thing, all speed and noise and visceral experience. There remains nothing like the fury of a 469- or 503-hp, twin-turbo V-8.

Both AMGs feature an all-wheel-drive system that sends most power rearward; only about a third of the power is allowed to the front wheels. That gives a distinct handling advantage which becomes noticeable when the road starts to curl. That rear bias couples with adaptive dampers to provide a true sports-car experience.

Final Word

The 2021 GLC covers a lot of ground: three engines, two body styles, and plenty of available luxury upgrades will leave shoppers spoiled for choice. The AMG editions spool out amazing power and grip, but for a soft ride and luxurious amenities, the GLC300 is better. Either way, this is an excellent SUV that remains a class benchmark.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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