Mercedes-Benz GLC300: Compact Crossover Luxury

By Frank A. Aukofer, October 28th, 2017

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic forges a strong link in the longest chain of luxury sport utility vehicles in America. In a move that was prescient but a gamble in 1997, the German carmaker introduced the first luxury SUV, the 1998 ML320.

Following the practice of the era, the ML320 was built like a truck, with the body mounted on a welded steel frame. As such, it had significant off-road chops and also delivered great highway handling from an independent suspension system along with decent performance from a 215-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Moreover, it was American-made in a brand-new Mercedes plant in Alabama. Mercedes switched to a unit body for the second-generation ML-Class in 2005.

With two decades of experience, Mercedes now sells five models, starting with the subcompact GLA. It also has re-named others in the lineup to match their size classes. My tester, the compact GLC300, used to be called the GLK; the old midsize ML is now the GLE, and the full-size GLS used to be the GL. Also in the lineup is the G-Class, based on a Mercedes military vehicle.

As a compact, the 2018 GLC300 is a solid contender in its luxury category, available with almost every modern safety, driver involvement, and infotainment feature. Many come as options, which inflated the base price of $42,975 to $62,795.

Power is delivered by a responsive 241-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 273 lb.-ft. of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode controlled by steering wheel paddles sends the power to all four wheels. If you don't need all-wheel drive, the GLC300 can be ordered with standard rear-wheel drive at a savings of $2,000.

The GLC300 is 2 inches longer and nearly 500 pounds heavier, but with less interior room than the best-selling compact Honda CR-V, which has 106 cubic feet of passenger volume and 39 cubic feet for cargo. The GLC's passenger volume is 98 cubic feet with 19 cubic feet for cargo.

The 2-ton weight and an air suspension system translate into a hefty, planted, and comfortable ride on the highway with good road feedback through the steering wheel. Likely the acceleration would be better if a few pounds were extracted but the GLC300 is no slouch, reaching 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, according to Mercedes's specifications.

Some of that weight obviously has gone into insulation and other sound-deadening materials. This is a quiet highway cruiser with little intrusion of road, mechanical, or wind noise.

Five driver-selectable driving modes -- Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual -- adjust shift points and suspension settings to maximize fuel economy and move up from there to enhance performance.

Seats on the test car were upholstered in perforated leather, heated and cooled up front. Three memory settings can be saved the front seats and mirrors. Outboard back seats are similarly accommodating and even the center-rear position, hampered by a large floor hump, offers room and some comfort. The seatbacks fold flat with a finger pull on a switch.

Additional hidden space for small items is available under the cargo floor because the GLC300 now comes with run-flat tires. The under-floor space comes with a nice touch: two small bags that hold bright yellow vests to wear in an emergency.

Though there's an easy-to-use fingertip shifter, if you turn off the engine and forget to put the transmission in Park, the GLC300 will roll forward, or backward. Infotainment functions require learning and attention and should not be attempted while underway. The sunshade for the panoramic sunroof is flimsy and admits sunlight.

Still, if you have interest and the money for luxury surroundings and state-of-the-art driving and safety features, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 offers it all in a nice, tidy package.

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