It should come as no surprise that the best-selling Mercedes-Benz in the US is the GLC-Class. Although the humble crossover isn’t a standout in the same way as the ultra-modern EQS or slinky SL, the German automaker moves more than 50,000 units each year since 2018. And many of those customers are first-timers, meaning they’ll become Mercedes zealots if the experience is good or swear off the brand forever if not.
Why mess with success, then? With so much riding on its popularity, the redesigned 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 doesn’t take too many risks. The second-generation model (third, if you count the boxy GLK) retains a swooping form factor, modernized in detail instead of concept. The cabin’s updates are significant, borrowing liberally from the related C-Class sedan. Also important is the revised powertrain, which benefits from standard 48-volt mild-hybrid technology for added grunt and efficiency. Will potential – and repeat – buyers appreciate the updated GLC's minor-but-comprehensive alterations when it goes on sale this spring? I bet they will.
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|Quick Stats:||2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Pinnacle|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-Liter I4 With Integrated Starter-Generator|
|Output:||255 Horsepower / 295 Pound-Feet|
|Drive Type:||Rear-Wheel Drive|
|Fuel Economy:||25 City / 32 Highway / 28 Combined|
Gallery: 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class First Drive
Although it appears familiar at first, the 2023 GLC-Class feels more modern the longer you look at it. Squinting headlights dovetail into the wider grille, and the hood gets a pair of creases intended to recall the legendary 300SL Gullwing’s power bulges. A longer wheelbase and wider track give the 2023 GLC excellent proportions, with a long hood and favorable dash-to-axle ratio that look grander than rivals like the Lexus NX and RX. Clean, unadorned bodysides and a slightly pointier daylight opening pair with sharp, triangular taillights and a simple rear bumper.
Beyond the modernized overall appearance, there are some great details. Opt for the AMG Line styling package and you get a grille texture featuring a galaxy of three-pointed stars, along with painted wheel arch extensions and sportier bumper designs that forgo the obviously fake vents of the previous generation – thank goodness. And the new GLC cuts through the sky more cleanly than before, with a 0.29 drag coefficient compared to 0.31. Your pant legs might pay the price however, as the wider, more aerodynamic rocker panels catch both road grime and your calves.
Best to just stay inside, then, where the 2023 GLC-Class makes a positive first impression. There’s an appealing “bathtub” sweep of trim at the base of the windshield that dovetails into the sculpted windowsills, with three squircular vents sitting high above the driver-oriented 11.9-inch touchscreen and two more on the edges of the dash. This design DNA is shared with the C-Class, but unfortunately, so are some obvious cost-cutting choices – hard plastic on and around the door pulls and on the forward portion of the door panels, right where your hands and knees are most likely to contact them. At least the center console is nicely padded.
Borrowing a note from the S-Class, the GLC offers multi-color ambient lighting that I just can’t get enough of – more cascading pinks, blues, and yellows all around, I say. Also adding a bit of class are swathes of French-stitched MB-Tex upholstery on the dash and upper doors, which are included in the AMG Line pack. The faux leather is also the standard seat upholstery, even on the top-spec Pinnacle trim, but Mercedes-Benz knows how to do synthetics so well that it’s not bothersome at all. Genuine Nappa is available if you want it, but I’m not convinced it’s worth $1,450, as my car’s Neva Gray MB-Tex seats felt supple and sophisticated.
Hitting The Curve
The 2023 GLC has only been announced in base 300 form so far, receiving the same mild-hybrid, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four as the C300 sedan. With 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the 2023 represents 22 extra torques over the outgoing model, with an integrated starter-generator adding 23 hp and 148 lb-ft in low-load situations to compensate for what little turbo lag the engine has. As a result, the GLC300 never feels flat-footed or taken by surprise when passing or merging – with one unfortunate exception.
Theoretically, the 48-volt electrics are supposed to get the car moving from a standstill while the engine wakes up from its automatic idle-stop, but in practice, it’s way too easy to catch the GLC by surprise. Even when driving away gently, the turbo four always feels like it’s rushing to catch up with your inputs, tossing your passengers into their head restraints and forcing you to apologize to your mother-in-law for spilling her coffee. That’s really the GLC’s only major accelerative downfall, because both the torque-rich engine and genteel nine-speed automatic transmission play well together once up to speed.
The GLC300 isn’t much of a thriller when the road gets twisty, but like any modern Mercedes-Benz, it handles with competence. My tester was rear-wheel drive, and it drove like it, with more accurate steering and a lighter feel than I was expecting. But the default behavior when pushing hard is safe, predictable understeer, with nary a whisper of the front tires’ intentions through the helm. The non-adaptive suspension is tuned toward body control and away from slushiness, which helps improve driver confidence when you want to have fun, but overall, the GLC is a sedate offering, not a sporty one. Gotta leave some room for AMG improvement.
A Silicon Fist In A Silken Glove
The benefit of somewhat aloof driving dynamics is a freeway ride that’s smooth and serene over most surfaces, and the GLC does a good job of managing road and wind noise. There isn’t even much tire slap going over expansion joints – of which we have a zillion in Los Angeles – and I was very impressed with the Mercedes’ composure. If I had a complaint, it would be the guttural noises coming from under the hood in hard acceleration, but they quiet down nicely when cruising. If you truly can’t abide the noise, a customizable engine note artificially augments some of the more agricultural engine sounds with a sassy little snarl.
Adding to the class-competitive level of comfort and isolation is one of the industry’s best active safety suites, but as we’ve come to expect of German automakers, much of the tech is optional. Automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and blind spot monitoring come standard, but unfortunately, adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and automatic lane change assistance are relegated to a $1,950 package. So equipped, my tester handled stop-and-go traffic very naturally, compensating for other vehicles encroaching on my lane by slowing a bit and giving a bit more lateral room where appropriate.
Giving the driver total control over all of those comfort and safety systems is a newly standard 11.9-inch touchscreen display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Unlike last year’s optional, monolithic single bezel, the 2023 model’s canted center screen and hooded gauge cluster looks far fresher and sleeker. And it all works as well as it does in any other Benz, with a zero-layer map display on the screen with suggested and frequently used functions overlaid in tile form. The only downsides are the touch-slider volume control and touchscreen-intensive climate functions that take some getting used to.
Make It Make Cents
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is one of the most expensive vehicles in its class, starting at $48,250 with destination – 4Matic all-wheel drive is another $2,000. Go for the Pinnacle, like my tester, and you’ll be on the hook for $52,600 to start, though you’ll get a surround-view camera, kickin’ Burmester audio system, the trick multicolor ambient lighting, navigation with augmented video, a head-up display, and adaptive LED headlights.
Some of my car’s big-ticket configurator options were the advanced driver assistance system, $3,450 AMG Line package, $1,500 panoramic sunroof, and $800 20-inch wheels. A handful of other goodies brought the total sum to $61,350, not an insignificant amount of cash for a rear-wheel-drive small crossover. By contrast, a comparably equipped BMW X3 would demand about $57,000, as would a loaded Audi Q5 (which comes standard with all-wheel drive).
Helping offset some of your extra spend at the finance department is an EPA fuel economy rating of 25 miles per gallon city, 32 highway, and 28 combined with rear-wheel drive or 23 / 31 / 26 with all-wheel drive. Each of those numbers is at least two ticks up on their BMW and Audi equivalents, and my informal experience with fueling the GLC would suggest they’re easy to achieve in normal traffic, especially if you can get the engine to shut off and sail by being gentle on the throttle on the freeway.
And even without the fuel savings, the 2023 GLC300 feels worthy of its highish price thanks to a quiet, smooth ride and a few gee-whiz features – looking at you, Malibu Sunset ambient lighting scheme. Its familiar, reassuring driving manners won’t upset M-B apologists, nor will the evolutionary exterior design. And the GLC’s larger, crisper screen should be easier to use than its ever-so-slightly dated predecessor. The conservative tweaks may not be particularly thrilling, but the 2023 GLC is likely to keep butts in seats, which will be yet another win for this popular small SUV.
GLC-Class Competitor Reviews:
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Pinnacle