WHATEVER YOU do, don’t call it a soft-roader. Perhaps in response to the increasing numbers of SUVs that offer all the hardiness of a pair of flip-flops, Mercedes is talking tough about its new GLC and muscling in on Land Rover’s territory. Priced from just under £35,000 and smaller than the Mercedes M-class, the GLC was revealed last week as a new entrant in the Great British School Run.
The German car maker says the GLC is durable enough to tackle serious off-road terrain too. It has a longer version of the platform of the C-class saloon, re-engineered for four-wheel drive and (optional) air suspension.
All GLC models will come with permanent all-wheel drive, until next year, when a cheaper, rear-wheel-drive version is expected. An optional off-road pack gives drivers five selectable operating modes: Slippery, Off-Road, Incline, Rocking Assist and Trailer. The only one missing is School Lane Kerb.
There are three exterior styling packs for the car too: a normal road-car look, a rugged off-roader and a sporty AMG version.
Mercedes will also offer three engines. The range will start with the GLC 220d, a 168bhp diesel said to return 56mpg, plus a GLC 250d with 201bhp that strangely returns 56mpg as well. The 208bhp petrol GLC 250 manages 43mpg.
If those models sound a little too sensible for your tastes, hybrid and high-performance versions are on the way. The plug-in GLC 350e should go on sale by the end of the year, and will combine the 208bhp petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor. It is expected to emit about 60g/km of CO2, making it exempt from road tax and the congestion charge, and tax-efficient for company car drivers.
Not quite so tax-efficient will be the GLC 450 AMG Sport, with a twin-turbo V6 engine producing about 360bhp.
Although Driving has yet to try the GLC for size, Mercedes says its long wheelbase gives it more cabin space than rivals, in particular the BMW X3. The GLC can be ordered now, priced from £34,950; deliveries start in November.