AT TIMES, deciphering the names of models within a car maker’s range can feel as daunting as your first lesson in Latin, all those years ago at school. The GLC Coupé reviewed here is based on the GLC, which in turn is based on the C-class (GL means SUV these days, with the following letter indicating on which hatchback/saloon it’s based).
Whereas Mercedes’s GLC promises a sure-footed SUV option when the going gets soft or craggy, taking aim at the Land Rover Discovery Sport more than the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the GLC Coupé is designed to be much more of a corporate cruiser; albeit a heavy duty one.
But Mercedes has done more to it than simply chop off a section of roof at the rear to make it look sportier. It’s almost 8cm longer and 4cm lower than the GLC, and so is more car-like in appearance.
Despite this, it’s more cramped in the rear and comes with a loftier pricetag. This style and exclusivity over practicality approach says everything you need to know about at whom this car is aimed. Its owners (or leasees) will no doubt favour pin-stripe suits and its natural hunting ground is most likely the City of London.
Does that mean it’s a slick, honed beast of the road, then? Unfortunately not. All versions come as standard with Dynamic Select drive modes including Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, although even in Sport+ mode our test car (fitted with the optional £1,495 air suspension package) felt very soft on-road. The GLC Coupé tended to roll noticeably through corners and dip its nose under braking, and you couldn’t call it agile, with changes of direction fully conveying the bus-like weight (around 1.8 tonnes) being lugged around.
It’s more of a lumbering pudding than a sports car, no matter how Mercedes spins it. This was despite it sitting on over-sized and less forgiving 20-inch wheels. BMW’s X3 feels more composed, let alone the sportier X4 that is more of a direct GLC Coupé rival. The Merc’s standard suspension is a steel spring set-up with variable damping, which may be a preferable to the air suspension set-up for everyday use.
The suppleness does lend itself to a comfortable ride, at least, and the Mercedes at excels as a pliant cruiser, ironing out road imperfections with ease, even with the thinner tyres that come with the 20-inch wheels.
It’s more of a lumbering pudding than a sports car, no matter how Mercedes spins it
The high driving position and comfortable, supportive seats are combined with a well-insulated cabin that shields passengers from tyre, engine and wind noise. There are four diesel and four petrol versions, including a plug-in hybrid and more powerful (and, no doubt, fun) Mercedes-AMG model. Our 250 d test car’s 2.1-litre, 204bhp diesel was a little rattly when standing next to the car at idle but from the inside, on the move, any harshness is superbly deadened.
It’s a smooth power delivery, too, offering plenty of grunt from very low in the rev range, while the nine-speed automatic gearbox shifts through the cogs seamlessly.
The interior deserves praise, as it’s class-leading in terms of design as well as fit and finish. The quality of the materials, equally, is second-to-none, although we’re still not sold on the Halfords-esque infotainment screen protruding from the dashboard; the latest E-class and S-class integrated screens are much more in keeping with their surroundings.
Mercedes’ infotainment system isn’t the simplest to navigate, either, and we were especially bemused by the optional Air Balance package, with offers cabin fragrance diffusion with three levels of intensity. Surely on or off would do, if you really have to make the interior smell like a minicab? More usefully, it allows oxygen ionisation and improved filtering, which removes sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and aromatic hydrocarbons from the air entering the cabin. Good news for those negotiating traffic jams.
There are so many safety features packed into the GLC Coupé — mostly with preposterous-sounding names such as ESP with Curve Dynamic Assist and Parktronic — that it’d send you to sleep if we were to list them here in detail. But they’re there, especially if you opt for the £1,695 Driving Assistance package, and it should all help keep you on the road and make the GLC Coupé a safe car to drive. Importantly, these assistance features don’t appear to interfere in normal driving conditions; it all happens in the background and doesn’t nanny as do the systems of some other cars.
It also has plenty of gadgets fitted as standard, including LED headlights, keyless entry and start, sat-nav, DAB radio, heated seats and a reversing camera, which neatly pops out of the three-pointed star badge on the tailgate when needed. Our test car came loaded with the 360-degree camera set-up (£335).
Overall, on balance it’s hard to recommend the GLC Coupé as it’s less practical and not as good off-road as the GLC and not much fun to drive on-road, either. However, if all you want from a car is a body that cuts a dash, and a comfortable and commanding perch, not to mention the Mercedes badge, there is some appeal.