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

Updated on August 10th, 2017

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC Buying Advice

This is the best premium compact crossover for you if you relish choosing from a lineup that spans roomy refinement to rowdy performance. To its roster of tame but tempting mainstream models this upscale five-seater adds for 2018 a plug-in-electric hybrid version and AMG “63” hot rods with as much as 503 horsepower.

In competition with a swarm of upscale rivals, including the Cadillac XT5, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Porsche Macan, and Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes offers an unmatched range of body styles and powertrains. A name switch, to GLC from GLK, accompanied a model-year 2016 redesign that brought needed upgrades in passenger and cargo space, traded blocky styling for curvaceous forms, and revamped the engine lineup to include a turbocharged four-cylinder as well as the only V-8 in the premium compact crossover class.

The GLC fills the space in Mercedes’ SUV lineup between the smaller GLA subcompact crossover and the midsize GLE. The 2018 GLC range again features both a conventional, squared-off wagon-type body style and a trendy four-door fastback Mercedes calls the Coupe. The mainstay GLC300 line offers both; its wagon version is the only GLC available with both rear-wheel drive and Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. All other GLCs come with 4Matic, including the new plug-in-hybrid GLC350e, which is projected to have an electric-only range of about 20 miles.

Should you buy a 2018 or wait for the ’19?

Buy a 2018. The model-year-’18 additions should sustain this crossover to its next anticipated change, a styling refresh likely for model-year 2020 or ‘21. The GLC won’t be significantly altered until then, meaning the ’19 model will be a virtual repeat of the ’18, but is almost certain to cost more. And its look and feature set will have a shorter shelf life before the midcycle refresh.

One potential reason to wait for the 2019 GLC – introduction of a diesel model — seems more remote by the moment. Pending an EPA review of its compliance with diesel-emissions rules, Mercedes has suspended sales of all its diesel vehicles and has instead turned its attention to launching additional plug-in-hybrid and even pure-electric cars and crossovers.

Shoppers surveying the 2018 GLC lineup aren’t likely to want for variety. Returning are the GLC300 wagon and coupe with their turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Also back are Mercedes-AMG GLC43 editions of both body styles; they have a twin-turbocharged V-6. Although 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.

Mercedes corrects that for ’18 with introduction of the AMG GLC63 wagon and coupe, topping off the line with the even-more radical GLC63 S Coupe. The GLC63 and GLC63 S — the only V-8 entries in the segment — are among the most powerful crossovers of any size.

Changes

Styling: The GLC300 – the wagon in particular — easily accounts for the lion’s share of GLC sales. For 2018, it’s newly available with chrome trim for the liftgate, a $200 option. Mercedes also merges the Exterior Sport Package and Interior Sport Package into a single AMG Line option. This $1,600 package brings a whiff of AMG styling via touches like a darkened grille background and front-vent strakes, plus front brakes with perforated discs and Mercedes-Benz-lettered calipers. It also exchanges the standard 18-inch alloy wheels for 19-inch AMG twin-five-spoke alloys. Inside, you get a flat-bottom steering wheel, brushed aluminum pedals with rubber studs, AMG floor mats, and a black headliner in place of light-gray.

For ’18, the GLC300 Coupe acquires its own AMG Line option. This a $2,800 package that includes the wagon’s AMG-style kit, but with a chrome diamond grille background and stainless-steel pedals. In a standard-equipment change shared with the GLC300 wagon, extra lighting in storage compartments and entrance lamps for the doors no longer costs extra.

The 2018 GLC43 models again feature more aggressive styling touches, mainly a bolder grille with one horizonal bar instead of two, a sharper-edged front fascia, and larger standard wheels. The GLC43 models continue with 20-inch AMG-style wheels standard. Inside, the GLC43 models share with the GLC300s a choice of standard real wood or combination wood-and-aluminum trim on the doors and center console, although the “43s” come upholstered in MB-Tex faux leather with microfiber inserts, while the GLC300s are MB-Tex only (leather is optional for both.)

Addition of the GLC63 and GLC 63 S versions brings yet another look to the line, most evident in a unique front end featuring huge lower air intakes and an exclusive grille. Highlighted by thin vertical bars, Mercedes calls it the Panamericana grille, after one used on its 1950s sports-racing cars that won what was commonly called the Mexican Road Race. The grille was previously reserved for the AMG GT family of exotic sports cars. These genuine-AMG crossovers get quad exhaust outlets and look lower and wider than other GLCs, thanks to specific body-side-sill panels and expanded wheel-arch cladding. The GLC63 S Coupe has its own Matte Iridium Silver grille and rear-bumper finishes.

Inside, the GLC63 versions have specific aluminum trim and combination MB-Tex/microfiber seating. Besides upgraded stitching, the S Coupe covers its seats and AMG Performance steering wheel in a leather-microfiber theme and has an AMG instrument cluster with red highlights.

Overall, any GLC provides a premium experience, blending solid construction, upscale good-looks, and Mercedes prestige. As the C in the name suggests, the GLC is built on an enlarged version of the same underskin engineering Mercedes uses for its C-Class premium compact sedan. Compared with other premium compact crossovers, the GLC’s wheelbase (the distance between front and rear axles) is among the longest in the segment, though overall body length is midpack.

The rangy wheelbase helps provide outstanding rear-seat legroom, although cargo volume is slightly below average, at 19.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 56.5 with the seats folded. That’s about what you get in a compact hatchback car. The GLC Coupe is 3.1 inches longer overall than the wagon, and Mercedes says they have the same maximum cargo volume. But the Coupe’s roofline is 1.6 inches lower and its slope reduces back-seat headroom from generous in the wagon to a tight fit for those taller than 5-foot-7.

All GLCs share a high-fashion interior modeled after that first seen in the C-Class. It features refreshingly no-nonsense main gauges in a sweeping dashboard punctuated by classy round climate-system vents. The broad center console slopes gracefully, at its upper terminus a tablet-like screen for Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system (7-inch-diameter standard, up to 8.4 inches with the available navigation system). At the driver’s elbow is the knob-and-button cluster that’s the primary COMAND interface.

Décor starts at elegantly understated on GLC300 models and gets increasingly theatrical as you ascend model grades and option choices that include two-tone upholsteries and diamond-pleated leathers.


Mechanical: GLC300 and Mercedes-AMG GLC43 models are unaltered except for newly available exhaust-system upgrades: a sport-toned setup at $350 for GLC300s equipped with the AMG Line option, and the even louder and lower-restriction AMG Performance Exhaust System, at $1,250, for the GLC43.

The GLC300 wagon and Coupe return with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder of 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That’s the default engine configuration for entry-level models in this class, and the GLC’s is roughly par for output and acceleration. Teamed with a smooth, prompt-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission, this is a sterling powertrain that delivers fine pickup and ready power to merge or overtake. With rear-drive, the GLC300 is a nicely balanced five-seater with the elevated seating position of a crossover.

The GLC300’s 4Matic setup delivers 44 percent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels, adding a dimension of cornering predictability and, in particular, invaluable traction security on snowy or slippery surfaces. Like all GLCs, the 300s continue to include Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system with powertrain, suspension, and steering settings that allow drivers to dial in less- or more-aggressive configurations. Mercedes’ automatically adapting Air Body Control Air Suspension is a $1,900 option.

The GLC43 wagon and Coupe up the ante with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 of 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. It’s a dramatic step forward in performance. Zero-60 mph takes 4.8 seconds, down from the GLC300’s 6.4 seconds, and the GLC43 delivers a thrilling punch from virtually any speed. It gets a sport suspension with air springs that, along with calibrations for its AMG-tuned nine-speed automatic transmission and steering effort, can be driver-adjusted into Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race, and Individual modes.

The GLC43 models’ 4Matic is an AMG Performance setup with a 31-percent-front/69-percent-rear torque bias; it includes a limited slip rear differential. This is the GLC’s answer to the 355-horsepower BMW X3 M40i and its coupe-like companion, the X4 M40i, as well as the 380-horsepower Jaguar F-Pace S and Range Rover Velar SC, and the 400-horsepower Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in-hybrid.

Want more? Addition of the Mercedes-AMG GLC63 models elevates this crossover to the top ranks of performance in the segment, rivaling the 505-horsepower Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and the 440-horsepower Porsche Macan Turbo with Performance Package. AMG’s hand-built twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 produces 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque in the GLC63 and 503 and 516, respectively, in the GLC63 S Coupe. Zero-60 takes a mere 3.9 seconds, and just 3.7 with the S.

These giant-killer GLCs get specific powertrain tuning, including the new AMG Speedshift nine-speed automatic with rapid gear changes, AMG Performance 4Matic+ with fully variable front/rear torque split, a multi-adjustable AMG air sport suspension, and an AMG Performance Exhaust System. Also standard is a “RACE” drive program, in which all driving parameters are configured for maximum performance.

At the other end of the spectrum is the GLC350e 4Matic plug-in hybrid, due in showrooms in late 2017 or early 2018. Full details were unavailable in time for this review, but expect it 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. It can tap a home or commercial electrical supply for enough charge to travel some 20 miles on electricity alone. When the battery is sufficiently depleted, the GLC350e automatically reverts to conventional hybrid operation, charging its battery via regenerative coasting and braking and running on gas, electric power, or a combination as sensors automatically determine the best mix for performance and economy. It uses a seven-speed automatic transmission.

As with its powertrains, this crossover’s ride comfort and handling prowess covers a spectrum, from tame to torrid. All versions, however, operate at the top echelons of those descriptors. The GLC300 is comfortable and composed, especially on its standard 18-inch tires. Impact harshness is more prevalent with the 19s (a $500 option) and can become intrusive with the 20s ($750). Similarly, the air suspension option adding a degree of compliance that we don’t think justifies its extra cost.

Mercedes tunes the GLC300 Coupe for tauter handling and, indeed, ride quality gets progressively firmer, handling increasingly tenacious as you move up through the AMG versions. Wonderfully responsive and able to tackle corners with aplomb, the GLC43 models represent segment benchmarks for their blend of performance and — all things considered — value. Again, though, ride quality is firm on the standard 20-inch wheels and tires and try-before-you-buy stiff on the optional 21-inch alloys shod with summer performance tires.

We haven’t yet tested a GLC63, but expect nothing less than dominating acceleration and road manners that stretch the envelop to realms few owners will fully exploit.

Features: As American-brand automakers increasingly follow the Japanese example and prune options in favor of comprehensively equipped individual models, Mercedes hues to European tradition, offering a plethora of extra-cost appearance, comfort, and performance features so you can customize your crossover to suit your taste and budget. That’s certainly the case with the ’18 GLC. Although even un-optioned models come fairly well equipped, however, you’ll still pay extra to get some features that come standard on less expensive crossovers. That’s German tradition, too.

Standard on all GLC300s is pushbutton ignition, a power driver’s seat with memory, rearview camera, power liftgate, and power folding mirrors. GLC43 models add their special trim, décor, and performance hop-ups, plus standard satellite radio, blind-spot warning, and keyless entry. Those three items are optional on the GLC300 as part of its $1,350 Premium Package; blind spot-warning is also a stand-alone GLC300 option at $550.

As of this review, Mercedes had released the already-covered styling and performance features for the GLC63 models, but not full details on other standard equipment or options. Expect such amenities as standard sport seats with microfiber inserts, aluminum cabin accents, and AMG-exclusive switchgear, and for the exterior, carbon-fiber-trim options.

On the safety front, every 2018 GLC comes standard with Mercedes’ Collision Prevention Assist Plus system. This includes autonomous emergency braking that can automatically slow and then stop the crossover to prevent a frontal collision. That capability is a prerequisite to qualify for coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

As mentioned, the GLC43 adds blind-spot warning as standard. But for both the GLC300 and GLC43, other driver assists cost extra. To get adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, automatic lane-maintaining steering, and rear cross-traffic detection requires the $3,150 Premium Driver Assistance Package. The package adds blind-spot detection to the GLC300 and equips it and the GLC43 with the automaker’s novel rear-end-collision protection. This is designed to detect an impending impact from behind and flash the GLC’s brake lights to alert the approaching driver while minimizing injury to the Mercedes’s occupants by tightening the seatbelts and applying the brakes.

The Advanced Parking Assist Package is a $1,290 option for the GLC300 and GLC43 and includes a surround-view camera system, the ability to open the liftgate with a kick of the foot beneath the rear bumper, and hands-free parallel parking. See below for more on GLC features.

Prices

Befitting its Mercedes pedigree, the GLC line skews toward the upper price tier of the premium-compact-crossover segment. Entries such as the Acura RDX, Buick Envision, Infiniti QX50, and Lincoln MKC all start below $40,000. Beginning above that are the GLC, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5. Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan, Range Rover Velar, and Volvo XC60. Mercedes had not released pricing for the 2018 GLC350e or the AMG GLC63 models in time for this review, although we’d expect the former to begin around $50,000, the later around $70,000. Base prices listed here include the automaker’s $925 destination fee.

Base price for the 2018 GLC300 in the squared-off wagon body style is $40,975 with rear-wheel drive and $42,975 with 4Matic all-wheel drive. The 2018 GLC300 4Matic Coupe is priced from $47,525.

The cornucopia of options for these models includes vanities like an illuminated Mercedes star for the grille ($500) and carbon-fiber-look mirror housings ($250) and conveniences like a ski and snowboarding bag ($250). And note that any paint color other than basic black or white costs extra, from $720 for most other hues to $1,080 for “designo” shades to $3,950 for a Dakota Brown Magno matte finish.

Among commonly ordered GLC300 options not discussed earlier in this review is a panoramic moonroof ($1,500) and the Advanced Lighting Package ($1,900 for the GLC300, $1,050 for the GLC300 Coupe). The latter includes adaptive high-beam headlamps, steering-linked LED headlights, illuminated door sills, and ambient cabin lighting. The Leather Seating Package ($2,050) replaces the standard MB-Tex vinyl and includes natural hides, plus a power front passenger seat with memory. Heated front seats cost $580; add another $450 to cool them. A heated steering wheel is $250 and heated rear seats $580. A head-up instrument display is $990.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration costs $350. For more versatile onboard-navigation-system functionality, Mercedes offers a $625 SD card that activates a Garmin-sourced GPS system on the standard 7-inch dashboard screen. For fully imbedded navigation you’ll need the $2,200 Multimedia Package, which adds the 8.4-inch LCD screen with 3D map views, enhanced voice control, ten gigabytes of music storage, a CD/DVD player, and SiriusXM traffic and weather with a three-year subscription. A Burmester-brand surround-sound audio system is $850.

GLC43 options duplicate the $1,900 Advanced Lighting Package and $2,200 Multimedia Package, but exclusive extras include the aforementioned AMG Performance Exhaust, plus AMG Performance Seats ($2,500) and AMG carbon-fiber cabin trim ($975). Leather upholstery adds $1,620; designo nappa leather $3,100.

Fuel Economy

In this class, good fuel economy is the province of the entry-level engines, and the GLC line is no different. With its turbocharged four-cylinder, EPA ratings for the GLC300 ares 22/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and 21/28/24 mpg with 4Matic AWD. The GLC300 4Matic Coupe rates 22/27/24 mpg. Those numbers are in line with segment rivals of similar power. So are ratings for the GLC43 models, at 18/24/20 mpg for both the wagon and the Coupe. EPA ratings for the GLC63 and GLC63 S were not released in time for this review, but expect something in the neighborhood of 16/22/18 mpg city/highway/combined.

Fuel-economy ratings for the GLC350e 4MATIC were pending, as well, but expect something like 40/52/45 mpg-e, the EPA’s “equivalent” of gas consumption per mile by a vehicle running on electric power. Running as a gas-electric hybrid, look for something like 22/25/23 mpg. As with all plug-in hybrids, real-world fuel economy favors those with urban commutes that exploit the ability to run solely on battery power, which Mercedes says the GLC350e can for the first 21 miles on a full charge.

Release Date

GLC300, summer 2017; GLC350e, late 2017 or early 2018; AMG GLC63 and GLC63 S, early 2018.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]