The street I live on seems to be under constant construction and is pitted with gravel and potholes created by large machinery.
This makes for a really good suspension test, which the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC
SUV passed with flying colors. For as sporty as this SUV can be on a smooth highway, it handles the pitted urban streets just as well.
The GLC has a handsome design, and luckily, it's one of those vehicles that looks as good as it handles. For 2020 it gets a complete redesign, adding more technology and a more powerful engine. THE NEW ENGINE
A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine delivering 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque powers the GLC. This accounts for a 14-horsepower increase, while torque remains the same.
This is certainly adequate power for passing while at highway speeds, but I found that there is considerable turbo lag from a stop. Turbo lag is also troublesome at lower-speed acceleration, especially when in Comfort mode. In fact, there were a couple times I was concerned I wouldn't make a left turn into fast-paced traffic without getting hit.
This lag is especially noticeable when the auto stop/start engine engages. Just imagine sitting at an intersection and the engine cuts off just as a break in traffic affords you an opportunity to go. You take your foot off the brake, which restarts the engine, and you press the accelerator to bridge the traffic gap only to be met with a lack of power because the engine is off boost. Not cool.
Thankfully, the GLC comes standard with a Dynamic Select system with five different drive modes. So, to combat the lag, I set the drive mode to Sport+ every time I fired up the engine. Turbo lag still exists in this mode, but it is significantly reduced.
The other four modes in the system include Comfort, Eco, Sport and Individual. If you add the Offroad Engineering package, there are two additional modes: Offroad and Offroad+. The former works best on loose surfaces such as snow, and the latter is for firm, rocky surfaces with steep gradients.
The Mercedes is available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. EPA estimates that the rear-wheel drive GLC SUV will get 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, the AWD version is estimated to deliver 21/28 mpg numbers. Both versions get a combined mileage rating of 24 mpg.SUV DESIGN LANGUAGE
Our test vehicle was the SUV version - as opposed to the Coupe - and with the redesign, the GLC SUV gets a sportier façade and stronger horizontal lines that sweep from front to rear. The front and rear bumpers have been refreshed, and LED high-performance headlights are now standard.
The overall effect is handsome and athletic.
The most notable thing about the exterior of our GLC tester, which had the AMG Line Package ($1,600), was its grille. The large three-pointed star emblem is clearly the focal point, but the elegant chrome dots surrounding it create a brilliant 3D effect that can be mesmerizing. The regular grille is fine, but this is one appearance package I'd opt for because the AMG grille is so much prettier.
The interior also gets a major overhaul. The clean design lines and intuitively placed controls provide an air of minimalism.
The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) might be the most refreshing (and needed!) change - both from a design and technological perspective. The 10.25-inch info screen on the center stack is standard, and there are now multiple ways to interface with the system. In addition to the touchpad on the center console, you can now use a touch controller on the steering wheel, say "Hey, Mercedes" to activate voice commands or touch the screen itself.
Throughout its press materials, Mercedes makes a point of talking about the ergonomics of the new interior design - but they mean it's ergonomically correct for an average-sized adult.
With my far-forward driving position, I had to twist awkwardly to reach the touchpad, so I never used it. Thank goodness for redundant touch screens.GADGETS GALORE
As a next-gen Mercedes vehicle, there is a lot of interesting technology available on the GLC SUV. "Available" being the operative word.
One of the more visually appealing available features is the 12.3-inch behind-the-wheel instrument cluster that displays vehicle information and a navigation map.
Another interesting bit of available tech is the Augmented Video for Navigation, which uses a camera to capture surroundings - such as traffic signs and house numbers - and incorporates it with the video image.
Other available technology includes wireless charging, near-field communication (NFC) pairing, Burmester surround-sound system, a surround-view camera, a park-assist system that will help parallel park the vehicle and various driving assistance packages.
Standard features include the MBUX with 10.25-inch touch screen, push-button start, a power liftgate and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Curiously, three USB-C chargers are also standard. This means if you have an older phone, you'll need to either carry a converter to plug into a rear-seat port to charge or buy a USB-C chord for your phone if you want to access CarPlay/Auto.AS-TESTED
The GLC SUV is available in two trims, excluding the plug-in hybrid and AMG variants with different powertrains.
The big thing to note is Mercedes, like other German automakers, truly wants you to customize your vehicle adding the options and packages you specifically want - which is both a curse and a blessing. A blessing because you get exactly what you want and none of the extras you don't. A curse because the price escalates quickly.
Like really quickly.
The GLC 300 SUV test vehicle, for example, added the 4-Matic AWD system as well as a slew of pricey options including the Graphite Grey Metallic paint, AMG Cranberry Red/Black Leather seats, panoramic roof, Off-Road Engineering Package, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 20-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels, Burmester surround-sound audio system, heat and noise insulating front side dual-pane glass, wireless charging, NFC phone pairing, Driver Assistance Package, Parking Assistance Package, Exterior Lighting Package, Multimedia Package, Night Package, AMG Line Package and Premium Package.
That is a long list of options, which raised the as-tested price to $60,575 - nearly $20K more than the starting point.
So, the point is: Anyone who thinks they can buy into this vehicle at $40K and hold the line is either delusional or has really good self-restraint.MY FAVORITE THINGS
The good news, however, is there was a lot to love about the test vehicle with all its available accoutrements.
The AMG seats are supportive and comfortable, and with the drive mode in Comfort, the vehicle evens out rough road surfaces.
Living in an urban environment, it is hard for me to find a vehicle that provides a cocoon-like cabin. However, the optional heat and noise insulating front side dual-pane glass did an excellent job of creating a sense of peace inside the vehicle.
I was also a huge fan of the available red-and-black leather seats that come with the AMG packaging. They looked really smart with the metallic gray exterior paint.THE BOTTOM LINE
I liked the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC, but I continue to be confounded by the "everything's an option" mentality of the German automaker.
There are certain things I expect to be standard at the $42K price point - including safety technology and paint colors. Yet, Mercedes adds $1K here and $2K there with its bevy of available features.
If you are one of those people who can keep yourself from ticking all the extra boxes, however, and you only care about ride and handling, the base GLC 300 SUV is a comfortable and handsome vehicle. I'm sure it would look lovely in black or white paint, which are the only colors that don't cost extra.