Behind the Wheel

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC Review: Robust power, disappointing technology dominate the SUV's refresh

The GLC is a family hauler that provides sufficient space for four adults on a short road trip.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Vehicles are all about the user experience. Whether it's how comfortable the seats are, how easy the infotainment system is to use, or how obtrusive the safety technology is, automakers are attempting to tick every box in every vehicle, within their (and the customer's) budget constraints.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC goes a long way in checking boxes for the average buyer. The model won't be winning awards for cutting edge design anytime soon, but there's nothing wrong with that. Its exterior design is pleasant enough, especially with the minimalist grille on the GLC 300.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC The minimalist grille on the GLC really enhances its appearance.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

As tested, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Its get up and go is good enough for daily driving and acceleration off the line is inspired. Still, this version of the GLC just isn't that exciting.

Front-wheel drive is standard in the model and all-wheel drive is available. Mercedes has updated the SUV's handling for the 2020 model year and it delivers with an engaging ride in a car that stays planted in daily driving situations without many complaints.

However, the steering wheel's control (not steering wheel controls – those operate as expected) leaves a lot to be desired. The wheel passes along every uneven bit of tarmac to the driver's hands consistently requiring a firm grip on the wheel. However, steering is sharp so adjustments can only be slight without causing major deviation from the route.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC This SUV has its shifter and other controls on the column in the same places the automaker keeps similar equipment in other vehicles.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has outfitted the GLC 300 in premium materials that are befitting its $50,000 price tag. As is expected, the Germans have given the model excellent fit and finish.

What wasn't expected is the GLC's numerous, very noticeable mediocrities. Let's start with small item storage. Don't expect much and you'll still be disappointed. Owners will have to make do with the center console and little else.

The car's wireless charging pad is located under the center stack and behind the cupholders. Its slim space means that while phones fit, getting a hand in there to get the phone is a pain, especially when the cupholders are full. Also, the in-cabin lighting system illuminates the screen of any phone charging in a way that is distracting while driving, especially in the dark. This is clearly a case of "where to stick it" rather than thoughtfully planned design execution.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC The car features a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

In the center of the dashboard sits a standard 10.25-inch touchscreen. The picture is sharp and the system's response to touch is quick. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

Gone is the rotary dial in the center of the console that controlled the infotainment screen and worked so well. There instead is a touch pad that, while operationally functional, is not nearly the gem of a solution to navigating the infotainment system that the dial was. Its functionality allows swiping and pushing to select while offering a proper amount of feedback.

Still, to scroll through your favorite channels, you either have to swipe by each one individually or go to the screen that lists a few and swipe up or down to find what you want. If the user wishes to change the channel by swiping through to see more previews, then there's more unnecessary scrolling. Even scrolling between favorites takes too much attention leaving eyes off the road for too long.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC The touch pad seems to be the answer to a question no one was asking.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Want to skip the scrolling and just input the station you're looking for? While that's a slightly easier scenario thanks to the ability to use a finger as a stylus and write the number of the channel, the system has a heck of a time trying to differentiate between zeroes and the letter "o".

The touch pad is sensitive, which is both good and bad. Its location makes it possible to frequently change the channel just by brushing up against the pad. Reaching for a phone in the wireless charging tray almost always resulted in a brush against the pad during the test week.

Simply put, this touch pad is the answer to a question no one was asking.

The GLC comes standard with a long list of safety and driver assistance technology. While most work as advertised and expected, there are two big missteps that were evident after a week of testing.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC The cockpit of the GLC is set up nicely and allows for the driver to easily reach all the controls.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes technology reads both speed limit and minimum speed limit signs the same. It's easy to be driving along at a clip, say 75 mph, pass a minimum 40 mph speed limit sign on the road, and have the technology slow the car from 75 to near 40 mph in a jiffy, no matter how close the car behind you is to your tailgate, night or day. A driver has to stomp on the gas to override the action. That is unacceptable.

While there are numerous algorithms for lane centering technology, getting a car to stay in the middle of a lane is something a handful of automakers do well. In the GLC, the technology allows for a ping pong effect where the SUV mildly dances from one line to the other in an effort to stay centered. Driving on the highway at speed, with the technology activated, is maddening at best.

That all being said, the mechanics of the GLC are mostly great, albeit not that exciting. The new infotainment and safety technology could stand a thorough once over by someone not invested in reinventing the wheel.

For $50,000, buyers are better off going elsewhere to check out the BMW X3 or X4, Volvo XC40, Porsche Macan, or Acura RDX. Each executes its features list better than the GLC.

Kia Motors has given insight into the company's future product plans.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia is charging ahead with an aggressive electric vehicle (EV) implementation plan that includes 11 new vehicles in the next five years. The strategy, called "Plan S" starts with the company's first dedicated EV in 2021.

Plan S is a dual-focus shift for the company. On one side they will be progressing toward an EV-centric product strategy while in the other hand Kia will be focusing on customized mobility solutions. They will also be focusing on autonomous vehicle development.

By the end of 2025, Kia plans to offer a full line-up of 11 battery electric vehicles. The company is aiming to have 25 percent of its vehicle sales outside of China come from what they call "eco-friendly cars" by 2025 on their way to achieving a 6.6 percent market share in the global EV market (500,000 annual EV sales excluding China). According to a McKinsey & Co. analysis published April, the U.S. EV market almost doubled to 360,000 EV units in 2018, mainly because of the strong sales performance of Tesla's Model 3.

From 2022, Kia plans to add EVs in the passenger vehicles, SUVs, and MPVs categories. They further outlined their electric vehicle development:

The dedicated EV model to be launched 2021 will be built on a unique platform specifically engineered to accommodate the car's world-leading EV powertrain and technologies. It will offer a crossover design which blurs the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles, a future-oriented user experience, a single-charge driving range of over 500 kilometers, and sub-20-minute high-speed charging time.

Across its EV line-up, Kia plans to operate two different types of EVs with different charging capabilities (400V/800V) -- high-performance dedicated models and derivative models with reasonable pricing -- to meet the diverse needs of customers.

Growth in global EV sales will be pursued in accordance with a customized, market-oriented strategy, which considers regional differences in environmental regulation, subsidies, infrastructure and more.

These EVs are expected to first be sold as a trim level option in Kia vehicles in the same vein as the Niro EV and Soul EV.

Additional Kia expansion is planned to come from car-sharing and e-commerce businesses.

"Plan S is a bold and enterprising roadmap for Kia's future business transition, buttressed by the two pillars of electric vehicles and mobility solutions," said Han-woo Park, president and CEO, Kia Motors. "Our approach is to put customers first, and Kia will reinvigorate its brand innovation by developing products and services that offer new experiences for customers."

Easily missed in this plan is Kia's proposition to raise the sales of internal combustion engined vehicles while at the same time establish the development system for EV architecture. Though they say that they'll focus those efforts on emerging markets, it's relatively safe to say that the Soul, Forte, and Telluride aren't going away any time soon.

Kia is activating recent partnerships and company share acquitions to get to this goal. Last year, the Korean automaker invested in Croatian performance EV manufacturer Rimac Automobili and IONITY, which specializes in building high-speed charging infrastructures.

They're also planning on building "Mobility Hubs", transfer stations between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. Long term plans call for self-driving robotaxis and on-demand roboshuttles to also populate these Mobility Hubs.

Kia is part of a car-sharing services joint venture with Repsol, Spain's major energy corporation, in Madrid via its WiBLE brand.

The Chevrolet Silverado HD was redesigned for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

It already proved capable at hauling and towing on long stretches of road up, on, and around Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. That was a confined test, however, designed by Chevy to show off the redesigned Silverado HD's best qualities. When tested, unrestricted, on the rural roads, historic city streets, and highways of the East Coast, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD proved even more impressive.

The Silverado HD is huge. The 2500 that was delivered sat in the driveway towering over the Explorer parked next to it. The truck looks imposing too, especially with the large grille that faces a hood that is taller than this driver.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD The grille of the Silverado HD is quite large.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Thankfully there are grab handles and side steps to aid in getting in the truck. Without the steps, it's quite the pull-up to get into the 2500. Getting in the bed was also easy thanks to a sidestep and the bumper steps.

The Chevrolet Silverado HD just isn't as nicely appointed as the Ram HD. There's no getting around that. However, in its midgrade trim level, the interior appointment choices of the 2500 make good sense for its price point and likely utilitarian lifestyle.

That doesn't mean that it's not well-appointed. Its surfaces aren't plush like what you'll get in the Ram, but they're pleasant enough to look at and inoffensive to the fingertips.

The truck's seats are comfortable, even for 600 miles at a time, which is about the range of the 2500 when equipped with the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 engine.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD The Silverado HD is surprisingly well-mannered on the highway.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

On the road, the Silverado HD is much more impressive. Despite its enormous size, the truck is easy to keep between the lanes, even without the modern driver assistance technology you'll find on some regular-duty trucks. Driving the model on the highway isn't tiring.

Though it does feel its size when you're behind the wheel, the truck is reasonably nimble and easy to maneuver. That's helpful on small, historic streets of places like Charlottesville, Virginia, where the size of the lanes and availability of parking spaces will make you wish there was a "HD trucks" setting in the navigation system. At around 78 inches tall as delivered, the Silverado HD is too tall to fit in most of the parking garages in historic areas.

That being said, the truck's numerous camera angles and wide mirrors made it easy to back into a spot and parallel park when necessary.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD Mid-grade Silverado HDs, including this LTZ trim model, are the best balance of capability and value.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The Silverado HD is tremendously more stable on the road and it soaks up most of the imperfections. It doesn't have nearly the amount of body lean when cornering that the Ram HD does.

The engine is just as competent as the handling. Despite being plenty beefy and brawny for the task at hand, the diesel delivered around 22 mpg in mixed traffic situations, including some stretches pushing the upper limits of allowable speed on the highway and idling in traffic several times in bottlenecks. That number makes the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 about 50 percent more fuel efficient than the 2020 Toyota Tundra in similar driving situations.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD The interior of the Silverado isn't as nice as the Ram HD, but it's good enough.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The Silverado HD LTZ came with standard with an 8-inch infotainment system. It worked as advertised with the latest operating system running in the background, which isn't too much of a departure from the previous one resulting in a very shallow learning curve.

The Silverado 2500 made a lasting impression during a week of road tripping. Its comfortable seats and fuel efficiency were the biggest surprises and the only true disappointment was that its height made it incompatible with parking garages.

With the capability and appointments considered, its $70,000 sticker price seemed appropriate.

Chevy may not have hit it out of the park with the Silverado HD redesign, but they hit a solid double that keeps them in the game.