That meant the GLK, already a contrarian in the segment thanks to its "interesting" look and cozy cabin, was an outcast in Mercedes' own SUV lineup. The GLC fixes that, for those of you who thought it needed fixing. Gone are the sharp creases and angles inspired by the G-Class, replaced by a the curves dictated by brand purity. To this writer, it looks like a smaller version of the new GLE. Which makes this corporate exercise another in a line of good-looking-yet-less-distinctive successes.
Less confrontational outside, the GLC is downright inviting inside. The cabin that impressed us in the C-Class is equally impressive here, particularly when optioned with the Designo leather and open-pore wood. The rear quarters feel roomier than the additional 1.3 inches in legroom would make you think, and it's the same with the three extra feet of cargo space – there's a lot of room behind the rear seats. One thing to note: the hybrid (which we won't get initially) loses a fraction of that extra room with a slightly higher load floor over the batteries.
Although it makes less visual impression outside, the G-Class hasn't been forgotten here. The godfather of the lineup is the reason for stressing the GLC's off-road capability. We don't really believe the GLC will need to pass any off-road exams – at least, not on purpose – but that's not the point. By including such capability, Mercedes establishes a concrete connection with its war-tested and thoroughly badass SUV halo, a connection that none of its competitors can make save for Land Rover.
On that subject, due to different regulations, the US-market GLC will have slightly different bumpers; instead of the 31-degree approach angle and 25-degree departure angle other markets get, our model will allow a maximum of 28 degrees front and back. Those numbers put in the same off-road playground as the Range Rover Evoque. As to the impact on looks, we were told by a Mercedes spokesperson, "If you look very closely you may notice a difference [between US-market and global units], but the overall look of the car will be so similar you won't notice much of a change."
Starting in November, US buyers will be able to take home either a GLC300 or GLC300 4Matic, the latter with a 45/55 torque split front-to-rear. The sole powerplant we'll get at launch, a 241-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, puts out 61 less hp than the 3.5-liter V6 currently offered in the GLK but has the same torque. The numbers reflect the general industry downsizing and shouldn't come with a performance penalty, the GLC being 176 pounds lighter than the crossover it replaces and making use of a nine-speed transmission.
Pricing will remain close to the outgoing model, at an estimated $39,000 – $1,000 more than the GLK. Diesel and plug-in hybrid options, like the white GLC250d and silver GLC350e in our galleries, are expected in the next couple of years, as well as a performance option and something derived from the GLC Coupe concept shown at Shanghai earlier this year.
The GLK is still a competitive vehicle in its segment at the end of its life, outpaced by the Audi Q5 but outselling the BMW X3 by a few hundred units so far this year through May. The GLC, though, pulls the same trick that the current C-Class pulled on the previous generation: it is finer in every way, and makes the GLK, which remains a nice vehicle, feel old. On top of that, by having access to the trove of standard and optional luxury features Mercedes has been rolling out the past few years – and a right-hand-drive model – we should not be surprised to see it glide up the sales charts.