The GLC SUV from Mercedes-Benz is causing quite a stir in Mzansi. While it may not be the biggest or most extravagant SUV from the automaker, it certainly made waves as one of the top-selling models in 2022. So, naturally, all eyes are on the new 2023 GLC to see if it can live up to the hype.
With a starting price of around R1,211,220, it’s surprisingly accessible for a vehicle that proudly wears the three-pointed star. Compact SUVs are in high demand, and the GLC offers an enticing all-wheel drive option at a reasonable price, perfect for those with a thirst for adventure. But what really sets the new GLC apart is its infusion of cutting-edge technology inside the cabin, typically reserved for the more expensive Mercedes models, leaving the competition green with envy.
However, success can sometimes lead to complacency. While the GLC’s dashboard received a much-needed upgrade, the rest of the SUV remains quite familiar. The burning question is whether Mercedes has taken enough risks to truly make the 2023 GLC feel fresh and exciting.
Compared to its predecessor, the new GLC is slightly longer and lower, with a slightly wider track. The result is a more solid and grounded appearance, although it may take a keen eye to spot the differences between the two generations. But fear not, we’ll guide you through the subtle changes, starting with the front. The new grille now boasts a chrome surround and matching trim to the matte-grey louvers. If you opt for the AMG Line design package, you’ll even get the iconic Mercedes-Benz stars on the grille. The headlamps seamlessly connect with the grille surround, creating a visual impression of increased width.
Moving to the sides, you’ll notice the relocated mirrors, now mounted on the doors for improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise in the cabin. The running boards have also been redesigned, tapering from front to rear. The 2023 GLC features new two-section rear lights and more chrome accents to highlight the exhaust surround. It’s clear that Mercedes aimed to strike a perfect balance between a hatchback and its larger SUVs, resulting in a design that is both appealing and distinctive. And let’s not forget the 18- to 20-inch wheels, with the larger size allowing for a spare wheel in the boot, a practical touch.
One standout feature of the GLC is its support for Mercedes’ Digital Light system, where the headlights are composed of individually-controllable pixels. It’s a remarkable innovation that adds a touch of futuristic flair.
While the plug-in hybrid variant won’t initially be available in South Africa, the local market will still enjoy the benefits of mild-hybrid engine technology in the GLC 220 d, GLC 300 d, and GLC 300 models. During our test drive, we experienced the GLC 300 d, equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-four turbocharged petrol engine that delivers 198 kW and 550 Nm of torque. Paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, this 48v mild hybrid offers a smooth start/stop experience and an “EQ Boost” power boost of up to 17 kW and 200 Nm of torque, perfect for urban driving.
Don’t expect the GLC to be a high-performance SUV, though. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.3 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 243 km/h. The driving experience leans more towards enthusiasm rather than blistering speed. The suspension strikes a good balance between firmness and comfort, ensuring a composed ride even on uneven roads.
Interestingly, Mercedes emphasizes the GLC’s off-road capabilities. The SUV features a dedicated Off-Road mode and certain trims even come with a “transparent hood” feature, using the 360-degree camera to provide a magical view “under” the front of the SUV on the dashboard display. While it’s unlikely that GLC owners will venture off-road frequently, it’s a nice addition that sets the GLC apart from its rivals. The selective dampers on the steel suspension system enhance the drive modes, making the ride firmer in Sport mode. The GLC is neither boring nor excessively wild to drive, striking a balance that many will appreciate.
The most significant improvements in the GLC can be found inside the cabin. The previous model had a small touchscreen awkwardly placed above rows of vents and buttons, along with a touchpad interface on the center console. In the 2023 GLC, Mercedes has ditched all that in favor of a large touchscreen inspired by the S-Class. This new display utilizes the available space more effectively, resulting in a modern and user-friendly interface.
The latest version of MBUX, Mercedes’ intuitive infotainment system, is onboard, featuring useful and remarkably accurate voice recognition triggered by saying “Hey Mercedes.” The touchscreen provides easy access to common features, floating above a large map. Though it doesn’t boast the extravagant Hyperscreen display found in more expensive Mercedes models, the standard 11.9-inch portrait-aspect panel in the new GLC is more than sufficient.
The GLC’s interior also offers fingerprint authentication for different driver profiles, ambient lighting, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a wireless charging pad, albeit in an awkward location in the lower dashboard cubby. The driver benefits from a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, delivering vital information in a sleek and modern manner. Everything feels snappy and well-organized, except for the new steering wheel, which features finicky touch-sensitive buttons that can be a nuisance. Swiping my thumbs to adjust the volume or cruise control speed often resulted in overshooting the desired settings.
Mercedes positions the GLC as a direct competitor to BMW’s X3, Audi’s Q5, and Lexus’ RX. In terms of dashboard gadgetry and exterior aesthetics, the GLC has the edge over all three. With a starting price below R1.2 million, it’s likely that premium SUV shoppers will find themselves unexpectedly considering a trip to the nearest Mercedes dealership. However, if you start adding more luxurious packages, the price can quickly climb towards the R1.45 million mark.
Looking ahead, Mercedes has yet to reveal details about AMG versions of the GLC, but we can anticipate their arrival. These models should address the GLC’s more mainstream driving dynamics, injecting some additional excitement without compromising its overall appeal.
Even before those future developments, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC is undeniably more refined than its predecessor. While the exterior changes may require some explanation, the significant upgrades inside the cabin make this small SUV feel larger than life compared to the competition.
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