Big, strong and speedy: Mercedes- Benz GLC250 is safe and solid

The Mercedes- Benz GLC250 has plenty of torque and sharp steering.
The Mercedes- Benz GLC250 has plenty of torque and sharp steering.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The Mercedes- Benz GLC250 has plenty of torque and sharp steering.
The Mercedes- Benz GLC250ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The Mercedes- Benz GLC250 has plenty of torque and sharp steering.
The Mercedes- Benz GLC250 has plenty of torque and sharp steering.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The new GLC fills Mercedes' recent vacant slot in the mid-size SUV segment

GLC stands for government-linked companies. It is also the name of Mercedes' latest sport utility vehicle.

It is probably coincidental that the Merc GLC is also safe and solid, even if it is a tad staid - characteristics one might associate with the other GLC.

The car replaces the GLK, a mid-sized SUV that was never available here. The C in the nomenclature refers to the car's platform, which it shares with the Mercedes C-class. GL refers to Mercedes' light offroaders, as opposed to its hardcore G-class.

The GLC is bigger than the GLK. Against the BMW X3, it is wider but shorter. Against the Audi Q5, it is longer bumper to bumper, but does not stand as tall. Among them, the Merc has the most generous wheelbase of 2,873mm. And it shows. Inside, the GLC comes across as half a class bigger.

There is plenty of wiggle room for five occupants and a cavernous cargo area about a quarter the size of a pool table.

  • SPECS/MERCEDES-BENZ GLC250 4MATIC

  • Price: $225,888 with COE

    Engine: 1,991cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 211bhp at 5,500rpm

    Torque: 350Nm at 1,200 to 4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 7.3 seconds

    Top speed: 222kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.1 litres/100km

    Agent: Cycle & Carriage

The car is resplendent with premium amenities such as drive mode selection, keyless system, motorised tailgate, LED headlights, a touchpad infotainment screen, glossy wood trim and ambient cabin lighting.

But on the whole, it is a tad less luxurious than the C-class sedan, perhaps on purpose.

The GLC250 is powered by a road tax-friendly 2-litre turbo regulated by a nine-speed autobox that transmits power to all four wheels when necessary. It is a punchy combination. The car moves with prodigious speed, dispatching the century sprint in 7.3 seconds and clocking a peak velocity of 222kmh.

This is immense for a vehicle that weighs more than 1.7 tonnes powered by a mere 1,991cc engine.

Alas, its heft shows in the way it moves. While it delivers oodles of acceleration, it feels like a truck at the wheel - somewhat coarse and forced. Its SUV suspension set-up proffers the movements of a lumbering mass on stilts, with every minor indentation on the tarmac or every degree of snappy steering input translating to wavy cabin movements.

The transmission is somewhat abrupt initially, but that could have been because of the style of the car's previous driver. After two days, it settles down to a less aggressive mode. Still, its last two cogs are hardly used.

Getting anywhere in a hurry in the GLC is a cinch. The car has reserves of torque and sharp, quick-response steering. It is fast and agile, even if it is not the most comfortable car to play boy-racer in.

Styling-wise, the GLC is somewhat more elegant than the GLK, but it comes across as more functional and conservative than, say, the Audi Q5 or the Lexus RX.

Its side-step, while giving the car a more rugged appearance, is actually a hindrance. It is not wide enough to step confidently on. And if you bypass it, it gets the legs of your pants wet when it rains.

The car is nevertheless an attractive option for Merc diehards who have never had a recent alternative to the X3 and Q5. It is swift and spatially superior to its rivals. So what if it is a little less exciting to look at?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Big, strong and speedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe