Sometimes it can feel like there aren’t any “regular” Mercedes-Benz models out there. Plenty of AMG versions, or cars dressed up to look like they’re AMG’s handiwork (yes we know you who ticked the AMG line kit on the options list are reading this) and even the odd Maybach for the luxe-chasers, but a standard, solid car with the three-pointed star? That’s the real rarity, it seems.
Then again, this 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC seems to be trying its level best not to stand out. It may be riding on special 18-inch wheels – a pricey option – but with black paintwork, fulsome all-season rubber, and a marked absence of any sort of AMG styling package this is about as surreptitious as the automaker gets.
The GLC is the SUV cousin of the C-Class, and indeed it shares a platform with that sedan. It is, by German luxe standards, unexpectedly affordable: pricing kicks off at R1m. Even with a small handful of extras, this fairly restrained example clocks in at under R1.3m.
Mercedes’ design is restrained, too. The smaller and cheaper GLB has a more traditional, chunky SUV aesthetic; if you want less visual glamor, there’s the GLC sedan with its upright roofline. I suspect the GLC Coupe will age gracefully, though it falls short of being exactly memorable.
Under the bonnet is Mercedes’ familiar 2.0-liter inline-four turbo engine, with 180 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque. It’s paired with permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive and a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission.
They’re power numbers that look a little conservative, if you’ve been used to AMG excess, but they suit the GLC’s composed demeanour well. Sure, even in Sport mode, you’re not going to be flinging the SUV around corners and staging impromptu drag races away from the lights, but it’s ample for everyday use and generally refined. 0-100 km/h arrives in 6.5 seconds, Mercedes’ 9-speed slurs its ratios with practiced ease, and you get the sense that the GLC is much happier in Comfort mode.
The same could be said for the cabin. As standard, you get seating for five, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10.25-inch center touchscreen running the MBUX infotainment system, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and power heated front seats. The liftgate is powered, too, while safety tech includes blind spot assistance, parking assistance, active brake assist, LED lighting front and rear, and Mercedes’ PRE-SAFE Predictive Occupant-Protection System.
To that, Mercedes chose not to add the 12.3-inch digital cluster upgrade, meanwhile the MBUX Interior Assistant comes in standard – which responds to the “Hey Mercedes” wake-word and is surprisingly adept.
Were it my money, I’d spoil myself a bit by adding the digital cluster upgrade and bigger screens. I can’t say I minded the MB-Tex seats, either, which aren’t leather but still feel just fine. They’re likely easier to clean when the SUV is buried in family duties, too.
Maybe not every SUV needs to pretend to be a sports car. Perhaps it’s absolutely fine to be quiet, luxurious, handsome in a conservative sort of way, and relatively attainable. They’re qualities the 2021 GLC 300 Coupe 4MATIC has in spades.
Indeed, you could see the midsize Mercedes as a perfect reminder of just what the automaker has built its reputation on. Quietly proficient and amply cosseting, without straying over into excess. If you’re in the market for a family SUV with lingering prestige, the GLC undoubtedly fits the bill.