Taking to the road in a luxury crossover

Published: Monday, November 30, 2015    

This month, Irwin B Fletcher takes the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 4MATIC on an epic, cross- country journey to Abu Dhabi and finds that not all SUVs are created equal - sometimes, they are T created like a sedan. And that should make luxury-crossover aficionados extremely excited.

The Mercedes-Benz showroom at Eastern proper Mercedes-Benz. The visibility is stunningly Motors here in Al Ain is a vast, three-dimensional unobstructed and the body is solid and safe.

catalogue of German precision engineering, that is absolutely glorious to ‘flip’ through.

Positioned across the floor, you’ll find in this ‘catalogue’ a city smart A-class, a sophisticated S, an AMG with muscle – all of them sitting alongside each other, just begging every passerby to let their inner child come out and play for a moment and drive them to a new destination they haven’t been before.

Throughout 2015 we have seen this 3D catalogue be increased, revamped, and in some cases, completely redesigned. Which makes this issue’s GLC – yes, that’s a ‘C’ as in C-class - a crossover that luxury aficionados can really get excited about.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 replaces the GLK from ‘yesteryear’. Don’t get alarmed, it certainly holds onto the tradition of being a relative in the compact GL line of SUV luxury vehicles, but the ‘C’ makes it, at least mechanically, a C-class sedan, which is what intrigued me to take notice - and ponder my next long road trip.

Poised and eager to really find out what the new mid-size SUV segment could bring, one thing was for certain - to get the real ‘feel’ of this new segment, a classic road trip had to be undertaken.

I would love to have taken this on a really long trip – across continents perhaps - but with limited time available, I headed for Abu Dhabi to meet friends.

The first thing to address with this model is the fact that the GLC does actually drive like a C-class sedan, only it’s higher off the ground. Even though it is classified as an SUV, it certainly handles like a Like the C-class, it comes equipped with multiple performance selections, which include Economy, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual.

Individual is great for those drivers, myself included, who want the reactive performance of Sport+ from the drive train, but the cushy, lap-of-luxury ride of the Comfort setting. Simply put, you design the car for the ride that you prefer.

The interior is much like that in the C-class as well - rich, elegant, and timeless. The stitched leather that wraps around the steering wheel continues across the dash and down the door panel. The centre console gives the driver command of every aspect of the GLC’s performance within fingertip reach.

The Touchpad mounted on the centre console is the main instrument in handling nearly every function of the car, from navigation and climate, to phone messaging.

The cluster of buttons on the centre console, as well as the steering wheel, conveyed the impression of being designed intuitively. The button that you needed seemed to be placed exactly where you thought it should be, allowing the driver to react completely autonomously and without hesitation.

But the real joy of the GLC is driving it. As mentioned earlier, it handles as if it is a C-class sedan. And for those of us who just can’t seem to wrap our minds around buying a family-size, grocery-getting, errands-around-town SUV, which may or may not go off-roading, the GLC certainly impressed us out on the road.

The 4-cylider engine provided a respectable 211 horsepower which certainly did not hesitate at any of the roundabouts around town. Switching the drive mode from Comfort to Sport only increased the reactiveness from the throttle.

From a dead stop it went from 0-100 kph in 7.3 seconds. This is certainly enough response to get you around a slower moving vehicle in a timely manor, should the situation present itself, or during those times when trying to slip into uncompromising main road traffic from an entrance lane – on the School Road for example!

This quick response time is, in part, thanks to the 9G-Tronic transmission, which is the new Mercedes- designed 9-speed automatic transmission. It performed well in all of the driving options offered by the Dynamic Select controller, quickly and transparently shifting from one gear to the next, even when I used the steering wheel mounted paddles for manual shifting.

The 4MATIC, all-wheel drive, also made sure that I was getting traction where and when I needed it.

Keeping the GLC even more in control on the roads is the Air Body Control damping system. This system is a multi-chamber air suspension that helps to reduce body roll around corners, across all of the driving styles. To help make loading the rear cargo area even easier, the rear of the GLC can be lowered by 40 millimeters.

At highway speeds it settled into ninth gear and made excellent mileage, which was increased slightly by switching the Dynamic Select controller back to Economy mode for highway cruising.

While jaunting down the highway, the cabin was quiet and hushed from the outside road noise, which made for a truly enjoyable ride with a little bit of conversation, without the necessity of shouting.

Compared to the blocky GLK predecessor, the driver is not the only person who will be enjoying the curvaceous GLC on journeys. The body is five centimeters wider and nearly 13 centimeters longer than the GLK, making even the back seats extremely comfortable with good legroom. Let’s be honest, a little more space in the back for passengers is always a good thing, especially when driving long distances.

Space is also expanded when it comes to cargo hold, thanks to the extra length and width.

According to the specs I was given, there is up to 56.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity once the back seats are folded down. Passenger-wise, 19.4 of those cubic feet still exist behind the second row when they are occupied by passengers, which makes for 3.2 more cubic feet overall. Clearly, the GLC is more inline with the segment allotted the ‘C’ designation for space and comfort, while still being considered a crossover SUV.

Parking is made easier and hassle-free with the 360-degree view that can be activated in forward or reverse, allowing the driver to clearly see around the car and gauge whether or not he or she is safely within the lines of a parking spot and/or, too close to the back wall to open the rear door.

One particular feature that I did happen to find surprisingly enjoyable was the built in air-freshener. A small cylinder is stored in the glove box and the potency is controlled through the ventilation controls on the dash. It was pleasant driving down the road with an occasional whiff of freshness coming through the vents.

All in all, is this the crossover SUV that has killed the Wagon-Queen Family Truckster? You know, the one where we all grew up sitting in the back seat facing the car behind us? I don’t know, but it should certainly serve as a template for future crossovers.

It has been expertly crafted for the driver and passengers alike. With a C-Class inspired front end and midsection and a non-sagging rear end, it is all put together to form a longer, wider, completely more enjoyable vision of what we all think ‘travel’ should be, for those longer journeys or the family vacation.

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