First Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class Review

Goodbye GLK. Hello GLC. A closer look at the new 241-hp compact SUV from Mercedes-Benz.

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Atlanta, GA — In 1993, a 35-year-old rocker from Minneapolis changed his name from a mononym to a symbol, giving rise to a temporary, unofficial and unavoidable moniker, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

In 2015, in an effort to bring order to what was, apparently, chaos, Mercedes-Benz is changing the name of some of its SUVs, giving rise to new, unofficial but hopefully temporary monikers, including The SUV Formerly Known as ML and today’s subject, The SUV Formerly Known As GLK.

So, GLK becomes GLC, ML becomes GLE, GL becomes GLS and G-Class remains G-Class. With me so far?

For 2016, the GLK didn’t just get a new name, it’s entirely new. The GLC dumps the boxy shape of its predecessor in favour of a sleek bodystyle that harmonizes with the rest of the Mercedes lineup.

Inside the new 2016 GLC-Class: closer look at the interior and tech

And while M-B improved the interior between the first and last GLK, it didn’t come close to the new style of the GLC, with a wraparound dash, iPad-like display and tasteful aluminum, wood or, my favourite, open-pore wood trim. The open-pore wood trim gives a real sense of texture and warmth that highly polished wood trim can’t.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC
Mercedes-Benz GLC 350 e 4MATIC, EDITION 1, Designo, Platinum White Interior

The GLC also continues a Mercedes trend toward higher levels of standard equipment and, to an extent, a less-punishing path to certain other features. For instance, heated seats are standard and a heated steering wheel is a mere $250 stand-alone extra. In model years past, Mercedes would package such features into option groups that increased the cost and often meant you were paying for features you may not otherwise have wanted.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC

Turbocharged 2.0-litre Engine

The only engine offered now is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline mill delivering 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A diesel, which comprises 80 per cent of previous-generation models sold in Canada, won’t be offered until later in 2016. New for the GLK-cum-GLC is a nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s the only transmission offered.

All-wheel drive is the only layout offered: rear-wheel drive, as offered in the U.S., doesn’t make sense in Canada, said Chris Goczan, national product manager for Mercedes-Benz.

And while it has the chops to go off-road, Goczan harbours no fantasies of coming across one on the Rubicon Trail.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC
Mercedes-Benz GLC. Motorraum GLC 250 d.

“As much as it’s fully capable off-road, we know what our customers use them for,” he said.

Goczan said the late availability of the diesel engine, odd given its overwhelming popularity, was always the plan, and wasn’t a reaction to the Volkswagen diesel scandal.

For 2016, the GLK didn’t just get a new name, it’s entirely new. The GLC dumps the boxy shape of its predecessor in favour of a sleek bodystyle that harmonizes with the rest of the Mercedes lineup.

The gas engine provides plenty of zip, particularly with the car set to Sport+ mode, which holds transmission shifts longer and remaps the accelerator control for greater acceleration. That dynamic control also tightens steering response. Sport, eco and normal are the other pre-set modes. Individual, which allows you to choose different settings for different parameters (comfort steering but sport+ acceleration, for example) is the last mode.

Driving Impressions

On the road, the GLC feels planted and stable, even in high-speed turns. Mercedes’ trademark heavy steering feel provides for excellent on-centre tracking, while the optional DISTRONIC Plus offers adaptive cruise control as well as active steering (it will actively steer the wheel to help keep you in your lane and will take over from you in slow-speed, heavy-traffic crawling.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC

My driving partner, New Brunswick’s Malcolm Gunn, and I chuckled at some of the pronunciations of the navigation system, particularly when we arrived at our lunch stop, Montaluce Winery. Of course, Montaluce is supposed to be “mon-ta-LOO-che”. The nav system called it “mon-TAH-loose”. It did, however, get most of the English words correct.

The COMAND control from other Benzes is here, too. It’s a knurled-aluminum knob and joystick placed underneath what looks like a hand rest. But that hand rest is actually a touchpad, allowing you to use gestures and write numbers for certain applications, such as zooming in or dialling a phone number.


The new GLC represents an interesting argument to step up to luxury. When you consider a topline Kia Sportage — an excellent vehicle, by the way — is more than $38,000, the leap seems not so steep.

And for the little bit extra scratch, I much prefer the GLC to the smaller GLA. The GLC has more power and feels more substantial — more Mercedes-esque — than the GLA.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Specs:

  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4
  • Power: 241 hp @ 5,500 r.p.m.
  • Torque: 273 lb-t @ 1,300-4,000 r.p.m.
  • Transmission: nine-speed automatic
  • Suspension: Independent Mercedes-Benz multi-link (front and rear)
  • Brakes: four-wheel discs
  • Steering: power-assist rack-and-pinion

Kelly Taylor
Kelly Taylor has been writing about cars since 2000. His favourite ride has been the Audi R8 from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, where he nearly traded the car for a Ford Ranger, a Greyhound Bus and the Blue Heron Gift Store in Kenora, Ont.