Pretty, powerful, and gaining a plug-in hybrid, the 2018 GLC premium compact crossover is a worthy Mercedes-Benz

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC

What changes will make the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC different

A plug-in hybrid and possibly a turbodiesel model. Mercedes-Benz’s compact crossover SUV dropped the GLK tag and became the GLC with its model-year 2016 redesign. Larger, more gracefully styled, and better-driving than its predecessor, the GLC was joined for model-year 2017 by a four-door fastback Coupe and sporty AMG variants. The plug-in hybrid GLC350e is projected to have an electric range of about 21 miles.

The GLC300d diesel was expected to be added for 2017, but it’s been delayed. According to the trade publication Automotive News, as of early January 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withholding certification on most diesel vehicles – including those from Mercedes – until the agency is assured the engines meet clean-air regulations under all conditions. This is, of course, in response to the recent case of diesel-engine emissions-test cheating by Volkswagen and similar allegations leveled at other automakers.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

If you’re in the market for a beautifully engineered premium compact crossover and want to reduce your carbon footprint in the process. The GLC350e 4Matic plug-in hybrid is designed to travel some 21 miles solely on battery power drawn from a wall charge. After that, it’ll operate as a conventional hybrid, with the electric motor assisting the gasoline engine. As “4Matic” in the name indicates, Mercedes’s all-wheel drive (AWD) system will come standard. You might also want to wait if you’re a fan of high-torque, high-mileage diesels — assuming the EPA finally clears the GLC’s four-cylinder turbodiesel for emissions purposes.

Otherwise, updates versus the 2017 GLC line are expected to be minimal, so waiting would net you little more than the inevitable annual price increase. The ’18 GLC will continue to reside in the Mercedes lineup between the subcompact GLA crossover and the midsize GLE crossover.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Only if you’re curious about the coming diesel or plug-in-hybrid iterations. Otherwise, the 2017 GLC should suit you just fine. Small crossovers, especially luxury-brand models, are the hottest things going in the auto business these days. As buyers are discovering, they make a lot of sense over compact cars in terms of added interior and cargo room, easier entry and exit, and a higher driving position that gives drivers a greater feeling of command.

As Mercedes’ recently adopted naming scheme suggests, the GLC is closely linked to the automaker’s C-Class compact- car line, sharing the car’s basic underpinnings and major components. The core of the 2017 GLC lineup will carryover for model-year ’18. With a conventionally squared-off crossover body, the GLC will return with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the rear-wheel-drive GLC300 and the AWD GLC300 4Matic. There’ll also be a GLC300 4Matic Coupe fastback. Both body styles will also return as sportier Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic models with a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine.

Will the styling be different?

No. The GLC is still relatively fresh from its model-2016 debut, and the next styling updates aren’t expected until model-year ’19 or ’20. So it’s status quo for the returning 2018 models, aside from perhaps a new color choice or two. The ’18 GLC350e will, however, likely have a few subtle visual tweaks to differentiate it from the rest of the line.

As it is, the GLC is among the more attractive small crossovers, with graceful lines accentuating its muscular front- and rear-end treatments. While the 2016 redesign brought some much-needed additional interior space, the Coupe models sacrifice some practicality. Trading the classic “two-box” profile for a sleeker look with a lowered roofline compromises outward visibility, cargo volume, and rear-seat headroom.

The 2018 GLC43 versions will continue their more aggressive visual treatment, with a specific front-end look, unique tailpipes, and exclusive wheels. Although they’re influenced by design and engineering rooted in the automaker’s high-performance AMG division, these “43” models are not full-fledged AMG vehicles in the mold of the high-performance AMG “63” family, such as the C63 sedan and coupe.

Inside, the 2018 GLC will retain its handsomely cast dashboard, with large and legible round gauges, metal-trimmed round air vents, and wood veneer trim. Centered atop the dash will again be a tablet-like 7-inch video display for the infotainment system, which is governed by a computer-mouse-like controller on the center console that enables handwriting-recognition input for the navigation system.

Any mechanical changes?

The coming GLC350e 4Matic plug-in hybrid is expected to pair a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor. With a net 275 horsepower and a combined 413 pound-feet of torque, it’ll do 0-60 mph in an estimated 5.9 seconds. Assuming the turbodiesel engine eventually joins the line, Mercedes says it will be a 2.1-liter four-cylinder with an estimated 201 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

Don’t look for notable mechanical updates to the 2018 GLC300 or AMG GLC43 models. The GLC300 and GLC300 4Matic Coupe will again have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The AMG versions will also stay the course, reprising a much quicker 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet. The GLC350e is slated for a 7-speed automatic transmission, the other models will again have a 9-speed automatic.

Adding 4Matic to a GLC300 should again run about $2,000; we recommend it over rear-wheel drive for lots of added grip on wet or snowy roads. Standard on the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and GLC43 Coupe, 4Matic normally splits engine power 45/55 percent front/rear – 31/69 for the GLC43s – to maintain rear-wheel-drive-biased handling. During acceleration off the line or if sensors detect tire slip, 4Matic automatically reapportions torque between the front and rear wheels to maintain traction.

All 2018 GLCs should also continue to include Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system with powertrain, suspension, and steering settings that allows drivers to dial in more- or less-aggressive configurations. The GLC43 will again have higher-performance suspension and braking systems, plus 20-inch wheels and tires versus the other models’ 18s. Again standard on the AMG versions and optional otherwise should be an air suspension to optimize ride and handling, perform load-leveling, and enable the crossover to lower 1.6 inches for easier ingress/egress and cargo loading.

By virtue of its crash protection scores and in particular the standard autonomous emergency braking, all versions of the 2018 GLC should again earn the coveted Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To gain that status, a vehicle must receive top “Good” ratings in all IIHS’ crashworthiness tests, including front, side, roof strength, head restraint performance and the small overlap frontal test that replicates hitting tree or utility pole at 40 mph. It also means the vehicle either offers or comes standard with an autonomous emergency braking system that can avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in either of two tests conducted at 12 and 25 mph.

Will fuel economy improve?

With no mechanical alterations to returning models, no change in EPA ratings is likely for the GLC300 and AMG versions. That means 22/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined for the GLC300 with rear-wheel drive and 21/28/24 mpg with 4Matic AWD. The GLC300 4Matic Coupe should again rate 22/27/24 mpg. Expect the AMG GLC43 4Matic models to again favor speed over frugality, rating 18/24/20 mpg.

We anticipate the turbodiesel GLC300d will get an EPA rating of around 26/35/31 mpg. Compared with diesel-powered class rivals, that would edge the 27/34/30 rating for the 2017 BMW X3 xDrive28d and spank the 26/33/29-mpg rating of the Jaguar F-Pace 20d.

Fuel economy ratings for the GLC 350e 4MATIC were not released in time for this review, but plug-in hybrid should obtain a rating at about the electric equivalent of 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving. As with all plug-in hybrids, real-world fuel economy favors those with modest commutes that rely less on the gasoline engine; Mercedes says the 350e can run solely on battery power for the first 21 miles on a full charge.

Will it have new features?

Anything new added is likely to be minor or an update to an existing feature. All versions of the 2018 GLC should again come equipped with power front seats with driver’s-side memory, a power liftgate, and a 40/20/40 split/folding rear seat to accommodate carrying large objects.

Also likely to remain standard across the line will be the aforementioned adjustable driving mode system. The Driver Assistance Package should again bundle many of the latest high-tech systems that take the vehicle a step closer to autonomous driving, including autonomous emergency braking to help avoid a frontal collision, automatic lane-centering steering, and a novel safety system that flashes the vehicle’s tail lights if sensors detect an inattentive driver riding behind the GLC is about to rear-end it.

Options are plentiful and should again include assorted appearance packages and upscale items like a 360-degree around-view camera, head-up instrument display, heated rear seats and steering wheel, a panoramic moonroof, and even a cabin fragrance dispenser borrowed from Mercedes’ flagship S-Class sedan. See below for some options-related qualifiers.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’re likely to increase and, given the popularity of luxury compact crossovers, they could go up a bit higher than normal for a carryover model. Estimated base prices in this review include Mercedes’ destination fee, which it was $925 for the ‘17 GLC models.

Estimated base price for the 2018 GLC300 is $41,000 with rear-drive and $43,000 with AWD. Expect the GLC300 4Matic Coupe to be priced from about $47,750. Estimated base price is $56,750 for the AMG GLC43, $61,500 for its Coupe counterpart. The diesel-powered GLC300d should start around $44,000. A rough estimated pegs a base price for the plug-in GLC350e 4Matic of around $56,000.

Options can drive up the cost, of course, especially when Mercedes is expected to continue to intertwine some of the most desirable. Stand-alone options should again include a panoramic sunroof at around $1,500, LED headlamps at about $900, and heated front seats at around $600. Unfortunately, many options—including the latest collision avoidance systems – will probably again be limited to costly packages, with others linked together with required equipment. For example, those wanting to add the M-B Tex (faux leather) covered dashboard to the 2017 model were required to also choose either the Leather Seating Package at $1,900, the Sport Package at $1,900, or either the white or black Designo Leather Package at $3,950

When will it come out?

Expected release date for the 2018 GLC is fall 2017.

Best competitors

Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 Cadillac CT5, Infiniti QX50, Jaguar F Pace, Range Rover Evoque, Porsche Macan, Volvo XC60.

What change would make it better?

A more value-oriented bundling of options packages and fewer mandatory options. Mercedes might do well to consider one or more higher trim levels that come with the most wanted upscale items. That would help keep transaction prices lower, but we suspect that’s not the general idea behind the intertwined-options plan. Some might also wish for a full-zoot AMG model, and some reports indicate they may get their wish. A GLC63 model is reportedly in the works, with about 500 horsepower.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]