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