Mercedes-Benz launched some new SUVs recently, all prefixed with the letters GL (Apart from the legendary G-Wagon, of course). I had the opportunity to sample the two mid-sized models, the GLC300d and a GLE450 Coupé.
The smaller of the two, the GLC, is powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that is rather surprising. It pulls so nicely that I thought it was a larger capacity motor. Boasting 180 kW and 500 Nm of torque, it should come as no surprise that the 300d moves rather swiftly. The motor is smooth and refined, too. It’s a pity the world has come to hate diesel so much, as they make an awful lot of sense in large cars like this.
I’ll leave you to decide what you make of the GLC’s appearance. Personally, I think the front end looks rather flat, as if the bonnet is trying to sit lower than the headlights, but overall it’s nice enough. Inside is where things get tasty. Mercedes is making some lovely looking interiors of late. I’ve even started to become accustomed to the whopping touchscreen affixed to the dashboard. The only let down is that the switchgear can, in some places, feel cheap. I think the standard is set so high by the way it looks, that when you use it and it feels plastic to the touch, it can be disappointing. More so when you’ve forked over just shy of R1 million.
The ride is perhaps even more disappointing. It’s harsh, made worse by AMG-line alloy wheels. Opt for the air suspension if you can and the smallest wheel and biggest tyre available, it will help tremendously.
That sentiment comes directly from my time with the GLE450. It had air suspension with a fair bit of tyre profile and it felt marginally okay over bumps and ruts. Although neither the GLE nor GLC can handle a close knit series of small bumps in a road. There’s a ripple sent through the entire car, as it shimmies over the road surface in an unsettling manner.
That aside, the 450 is equipped with a fantastic engine. 286kW and 500 Nm of torque is starting to border on too much power for an SUV, even one that weighs over two tons. Fortunately this 3.0-litre turbopetrol unit is silky smooth. Silent, too – but not friendly at the fuel pumps.
The interior has a similar layout to the GLC. But being a more upmarket model, there are more toys and nice bits. You can change everything in a car these days, even the colour of your ambient lighting. Not just a handful of colours, either. They offer the full spectrum. You could spend days choosing the shade of blue you like.
I suppose at R1.57 million you’d hope so. It does offer more, of course. Everything that opens and shuts is on offer at a price. Lane keep and active cruise control are things I’d tick as they make long journeys a lot easier on the driver. Just set your cruising speed and arrive at the other side.
Another option worth mentioning is high-beam assist. Headlights are becoming so clever these days. Not only will they point around corners but will also keep the high beam on into oncoming traffic but just turn off the bits of the LED that blind the other chap. Amazing technology.
Both the GLC and GLE can be spec’d with an optional off-road package. This adds a fully variable, stepless all-wheel drive with low-range gearbox and special traction control programme’s ,to optimise traction on different surfaces. The suspension can be raised to new heights to give more ground clearance, the combination of which makes the GLC and GLE fairly capable in rougher terrain. At this point any whiff of low profile tyres becomes especially unpleasant, though, as wheel and tyre damage is almost inevitable.
It’s a pity these two SUVs sport a standard suspension so poorly setup for normal road use, as they are otherwise rather nice vehicles. Fortunately for Mercedes, the other German manufacturers are just as guilty in this regard. As a consumer, though, you might want to look elsewhere if comfort is high on your priority list.
Mercedes-Benz GLC300d 4Matic
Power: 180 kW/500 Nm
Fuel consumption: 5.9 litres/ 100 km (claimed)
Top speed: 231 km/h
Rivals: Volvo XC60 D5 Inscription, BMW X3 xDrive30d
Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic
Power: 286 kW/500 Nm
Fuel consumption: 9.4 litres/ 100 km (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h
Rivals: Volvo XC90 t8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription, BMW X5 xDrive45e xLine