This review could be four words long – I really liked this car – except that wouldn’t either fill the page, get me paid or tell you much. You could go on that and buy one and you’d almost certainly really like this car too. People would ask you: ‘Hey, Bob! How’s that new cars of yours?’ And you’d say, ‘Yeah. Er … I really like it.’ They’d look for more, shrug expectantly. Embarrassed, you might add, ‘It’s great.’ There’s a level of competence that stifles comment and the Mercedes GLC is at it.
I think back to the car I drove all those months ago – I took it on a long trip to Wales, the 550-litre boot (see what I’ve done there?) crammed with fishing rods – and try to tease from the memory, as I have been doing ever since, some profound commentary on the steering for example (just fine), or the brakes (excellent really): and I struggle. It was all so very good. I really liked it, in fact.
Which only makes me wonder (steeling myself to expand here, before I get the sack) why Mercedes took so long to build it. Early this year I was on a motorway somewhere and this car I’d never seen before came bowling past: now that’s a foxy SUV, I thought. Mercedes has been turning out some eye-catching machines lately. There’s something about the family look: the raised radiator grill, the air-hungry front end, the lipo-suctioned flanks and gym-bunny wheel-arches that really works in a slightly edgy, gangsta kind of way. And all of this had translated brilliantly to whatever had just overtaken me. A sort of X3-, Q5-sized Mercedes that I had never seen before because Mercedes had, inexplicably, never built it before. This giant segment of market for a mid-sized 4×4 had been completely unaddressed. In the UK. Over in Europe they’d had the GLK. But something about its transmission system could not easily translate into placing the steering wheel on the correct side of the car and so the K was never available here. Which was just as well really, because the GLK was a much less happy styling exercise. Like a bread van onto which a child had sellotaped cereal packets, it was boxy more than foxy.
As it is Mercedes has pretty much nailed it from the kick-off with the GLC. If the exterior is a happy exercise in pimping the best styling cues from the rest of the range, the interior is an effortless air-lift straight from the C-class. Which is no bad thing. It’s all very sleek and black with curvy edges and there’s a pleasing almost retro edge to the modernity: the air vents for example have something of the Flash Gordon about them. Not so retro, the multi-media touch-screen is of iPad dimensions, and tested with no reference to the instructions, it proved iPad intuitive too. Overall you have a cosseted and effortless piloting experience. Passengers will also like it. There’s easy seating for two tall adults in the back. The seats pop flat with the flick of a button and split 40, 20, 40, which is both unusual and useful: especially for fishermen.
There’s plenty of smooth oomph from a grunty but un-intrusive four-pot diesel: I much prefer six-cylinder diesels but this one had me wavering. When pushed it was sportily loud, but never raucous or strained. The nine-speed auto box no doubt helped in that regard, but the marriage is a happy one. It zips through the ratios and was always in the correct one while 70 mph on the motorway is a barely-above-idle 1500 rpm! Which may in turn explain the wallet-friendly drink habit of 55 mpg. I even liked the ride, and I wasn’t expecting to, given I was testing the more bling AMG version with lower-profile tyres and coil springs. This car cornered flat without ever being bone-jarring or jumpy. If I was buying one, I would choose the less costly Sport trim and upgrade with the Off-Road package (£495) for higher sidewalls, and better ground-clearance and the Air Body Control (£1495) for a more comfortable, adaptive ride. Had I the £40,500 necessary and were I to do that I would say, without any shadow of a doubt, that I really liked this car.
Mercedes 250 d 4Matic AMG Line
OTR from £39595
Annual road fund licence £110
Combined fuel consumption: 56.5 mpg
Power 204 bhp
0 – 60: 7.6 secs
Top speed: 143mph