Mercedes-Benz may be the most diverse vehicle manufacturer. It introduced gull-wing race cars and station wagons in the 1950s, about 30 years after the brand debuted. The enduring carmaker’s modern-day sedans still define automotive maturity.
The marque also made a hybrid in 1906 and it customized sedans in the 1930s with bullet-proof windows for the WWII German regime.
With the 2020 GLC 300, one of its nine sport utility vehicle options, Mercedes-Benz is also at the forefront of the luxury people mover market. It’s the carmaker’s youngest segment; SUVs have been part of the brand since 1997.
As a five-passenger, compact SUV, the GLC 300 receives a half-dozen upgrades as the carmaker’s most affordable utilitarian vehicle. But it’s well-disguised as another Mercedes-Benz luxury machine. Its exterior styling and well-crafted, high-quality interior are among the brand’s signature traits.
Amendments to the 2020 model include more stylized headlights, a new grille and new styling to the front and rear bumpers.
The GLC 300 with rear-wheel drive or 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) is the so-called “base” offering. But unlike other manufacturers’ entry-level models, it’s unfairly categorized. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and a nine-speed automatic transmission, the GLC 300 perfectly meshes performance with prestige. The automatic transmission is smooth-shifting and is the only option available. Choose all-wheel-drive and it’s $2,000.
With its upgraded engine (an additional 14 horsepower), the GL 300 accelerates from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds. Gas mileage estimates are 21 miles per gallon in city driving, 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
The GLC 300 will likely satisfy the majority of buyers. But the AMG GLC 63 high-performance choice has a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with 469 horsepower. It also has a symphony hall-quality Burmester surround-sound audio system.
The GLC 350e is the most efficient choice. It matches a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and won’t be available for about six months.
Mercedes-Benz has maintained the industry’s furious pace in technological advancement. The GLC 300 includes a complete host of standard features highlighted by LED headlights, a power liftgate and power-adjustable and heated front seats. One unique feature is the forward-facing camera shows the view ahead and upon approaching a turn.
The new MBUX infotainment system is anchored by a 10.25-inch touchscreen as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking, a drowsy driver warning system and blind-spot monitoring.
There’s also a centerpiece console touchpad with voice control. Tap the button on the steering wheel and use the phrase, “Hey, Mercedes,” and you’re in business. The voice-command system inadvertently activated a few times when an occupant said a word similar to “Mercedes.” To stop the system, you have to say “cancel.”
An exhaustive list of stand-alone and package options are offered. Highlights include a self-parking system, upgraded leather seating, console wood and aluminum door trim and 64-color ambient lighting. None of it is cheap. The GLC 300’s MSPR is $44,500, but the price jumps to $64,605 with more than three-dozen additions.
Beyond its engineering, Mercedes-Benz is likely most renowned for its vehicles’ driving characteristics. The GLC 300 complies with the legacy. The ride is smooth and powerful, the steering responsive. Maneuverability is keen in traffic, on the open road and if tight circling is needed.
The saturated SUV marketplace features plenty of much-alike vehicles, and competition is rugged. The Audi Q5, BMW X3, Porsche Macan and Volvo XC60 are all worthy choices. But the GLC 300 isn’t in that herd. Everything it offers proves it.
Article Last Updated: December 16, 2019.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.