The battle for supremacy in the compact luxury SUV segment has gotten more intense in the last few years. Despite the extra competition, big kahunas like the Mercedes-Benz GLC Class have remained unfazed. Given that it’s now six model years old, you would think that the GLC would be struggling to keep up with the newer offerings in its segment. However, that’s definitely not the case. Keep reading to find out why.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC slots in between the subcompact GLA and the midsize GLE. It’s an ideal size for most people — not too small and not too big. This may be part of the reason why it is currently the top-selling Mercedes-Benz SUV on the market. The GLC is loved for its refined yet dynamic styling (both inside and out), luxurious yet sporty character, next-generation tech, and all-around practicality.
New for 2021: Never Park Again
For 2021, all trims of the Mercedes-Benz GLC Class come equipped with proximity entry with push-button start (Keyless-Go), a self-parking system, and a rear cross-traffic alert. In addition, the GLC300 can now be optioned with an automatic high-beam assist and a surround-view parking camera. The surround-view parking camera is also now standard on the GLC AMG 63.
Exterior Styling: Suave Yet Sporty
With the major styling refresh it got last year, the GLC is now more appealing than ever before. It exudes elegance and sophistication with its clean, muscular lines, smooth curves, modern LED headlights — with incorporated LED light bars — and its sleek profile. Its athletic stance and boldly styled front and rear fascias add subtle doses of sportiness, with the subtlety ratcheted up more than a few notches in the AMG trims.
The GLC300, GLC300 4MATIC and GLC350e 4MATIC trims feature a chrome grille, anodized roof rails, dual rear exhaust tips, and standard 18-inch wheels. Optional exterior features for these trims include brushed aluminum running boards, a panoramic moonroof, and 19-inch/20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels. The performance-focused AMG 43 and AMG 63 trims, on the other hand, have even more cosmetic goodies. There’s an exclusive AMG vertical-bar “panamericana” grille, a twin power-dome hood, a sportier and more aggressive front fascia, quad exhaust tips, and a rear diffuser. Lest you forget these are the performance versions.
What’s Under the Hood: How Does a Twin-Turbo V8 Sound?
The 2021 GLC is offered with a variety of advanced powertrain options. The 300 and 300 4MATIC trims each feature a 2.0-liter turbo engine, good for 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels (or to all four on 4MATIC models) via a nine-speed automatic transmission. According to Mercedes, both 300 trims need just 6.1 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standstill.
The 350e 4MATIC trim features a hybrid powertrain that pairs the same engine from the 300 trims with a 90kW electric motor. The result is a total of 315 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque. That translates to a 5.6-second 0-to-60 time.
The high-performance GLC AMG43 trim gets a handcrafted 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, paired to an AMG nine-speed automatic transmission. This setup generates 385 hp at 384 lb-ft. of torque. As expected, things get even better with the range-topping GLC AMG63. It’s powered by a handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine rated at 469 hp and 479 lb-ft. of torque. This engine is mated to an AMG multi-clutch nine-speed transmission that helps the SUV rocket from 0-to-60 in just 3.8 seconds. That’s extremely quick for a small SUV.
While the 300, 300 4MATIC, and 350e 4MATIC trims prioritize driving comfort and refinement, they can deliver swift performance when called upon. These trims are fitted with four-wheel independent suspensions, a selective damping system that adjusts to the driving style and road conditions, and torque vectoring brake technology that applies brakes to the inside rear wheel during cornering.
The GLC AMG43 and GLC AMG63 trims drive as aggressively as they look and sound. They both deliver sports-car-like handling and exhibiting explosive performance. Each trim is equipped with an AMG “air body control” sport suspension systems. This feature sharpens handling and includes a multi-mode adaptive damping system.
Surprisingly, the most fuel-efficient GLC-Class on offer is the base model 300 trim. It achieves an EPA estimated 22/29/25 MPG. The plug-in hybrid 350e 4MATIC averages 25 MPG combined but can travel up to 30 miles purely on electricity. Adding all-wheel drive to the mix drops the GLC-Class’ fuel efficiency by about one mpg across the board.
The real shocker is that the AMG models don’t actually do terribly at the pump. The V6-powered AMG43 averages 18/24/20 MPG while the AMG63 tops out at 15/22/17 MPG. Those figures aren’t great, but they aren’t horrible given the level of performance on tap.
What’s Inside: The Benchmark for Interiors
The 2021 GLC is still widely regarded as the benchmark for interior style and craftsmanship in its segment. Its cabin, in true Mercedes fashion, blends first-class luxury with next-generation technology and sublime comfort. It features a sleek-yet-dynamic dash with signature circular vents, slick instrumentation, and infotainment displays. The center console blends rich wood with intuitive controls.
The cabins of the GLC300, GLC300 4MATIC and GLC350e 4MATIC trims feature soft-touch plastics and leatherette material along with natural grain brown ash wood trim on the center console. Other highlights include a dual-zone climate control system, heated and power-adjustable front seats, driver’s seat memory settings, and power-folding rear seats. The AMG 43 and AMG 63 trims offer performance-focused cabins, complete with front sport seats featuring red stitching, red seat belts, and an AMG-badged steering wheel.
The 2021 GLC has one of the longest wheelbases in its segment. As a result, it offers a very roomy cabin. The front row offers 37.8 inches of headroom and 40.8 inches of legroom. Meanwhile, its second row offers 38.5 inches of headroom and 37.3 inches of legroom. Passengers standing six feet can sit in both rows without feeling cramped. Even the second row can comfortably accommodate three adults. If you’re more worried about storing cargo than people, there is 19.4 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats. That rises up to 56.5 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded down.
All the trims feature a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display equipped with the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system. This system incorporates an intelligent voice-control system. It enables drivers to control functions by saying things like, “Hey, Mercedes, I’m chilly.” That turns up the heat, obviously. Those who would rather not talk to their car will be pleased to know that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.
Also standard is a FrontBass system. It positions subwoofers within the rigid front frame members at the base of the windshield to deliver bass from the front. This system is ideally paired with the optional 590-watt 13-speaker Burmester sound system and nine-channel digital amplifier. Additional optional tech features include an active heads-up display, navigation map updates, WiFi hotspot, NFC pairing, and wireless charging.
In terms of safety and driver’s assistance tech, the newest GLC comes standard with active brake assist, a rear cross-traffic alert system, blind-spot monitoring, and a PARKTRONIC system. That last one is an active parking assist that automatically navigates the SUV into and out of parking spots. The optional (and aptly named) Driver Assistance Package adds 13 more pieces of safety and driver assistance tech. The highlights of that package include evasive steering assist, active speed limit assist, and radar cruise control. Although many of the offerings in this package come standard on other models, the fact that it’s only $1,700 makes the sting of having to pay for additional safety tech a bit less painful.
Pricing and Trim Levels
The base GLC300 trim starts at $43,200 and comes pretty well-equipped. If you live in a snowy or rainy climate, the all-wheel-drive 300 4MATIC will cost you an additional $2,000. Those looking to do better at the pump — and for the environment — will have to pay for the privilege as the 350e 4MATIC costs $51,900. Then there are the AMG models. The less-potent AMG 43 will set you back at least $59,900, while the AMG 63 is even pricier and starts at $73,900.
There really isn’t a bad option here. It’s safe to say that the AMG models are more SUV than most drivers will ever need. The sweet spot here appears to be the 350e 4MATIC. It costs considerably less than the AMG models, but still delivers 315 combined horsepower and a monstrous 516 combined lb-ft of torque. All of that without without guzzling gas.
The Last Word
It’s not hard to see why the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC is the automaker’s top-seller. If anything, the only real question to ask here is whether it’s smarter to wait for the all-new GLC-Class, which is due out in 2022. Not much is known about the new mode. However, if the new C-Class it’s based on is any indication, then it’ll continue to be the segment’s standard-bearer. There’s really no bad call here. If you’re in the market for a compact luxury SUV, definitely take the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class for a test drive.