2023 Mercedes GLC lives its best life with hardly any SUV in it

Before you get settled in with coffee and whatever attention span you’re bringing to this Internet party, the hard news: there’s no AMG version, no plug-in hybrid, no inline-6, not even a GLC Coupe that’s not a coupe. The 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class has shown up, at long last, as the GLC 300 SUV, with or without all-wheel drive.

It’s still the handsome all-around player that fits somewhere between the GLA-Class and GLE-Class in the Benz lineup, with some of the same style and a lot of the same wagon-replacement mission. Make no mistake, this is no ersatz G-Class: the GLC, same as before, is a luxury car first, a do-it-all family shuttle second, and a performance vehicle in the offing, third.

Sure, you could drive a BMW X3, or an Audi Q5, or even a Jaguar E-Pace and find some of the same pleasures in roughly the same order. But something about the GLC-Class carries it off better than the rest, and most of that something can be found inside.

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

Is the Mercedes GLC a good-looking car?

With looks similar to those of the smaller GLA-Class and some hints from the EQS electric sedan and all-battery, all-the-time EQS SUV, the GLC hasn’t taken this moment to break new styling ground. That’s fine. It has a still-charming turtle-shaped roof line that applies details with care, not with abandon. The thick handlebar mustache of chrome across its nose—do you see it as an homage to former chairman Dieter Zetsche or maybe that’s just us?—fastens to a grille studded by dozens of small stars, dominated by one big one. Somehow it’s not overstated, and that’s in keeping with the rest of the design, from the faint shoulder lines that bridge fender to fender, until they reach the simple teardrop-shaped taillights. 

Sublime or subdued, take your pick, the exterior’s no match for the high-wattage cabin. 

The GLC posts up in its small-lux SUV class with a monster jam of a dash design. It bulges and flows in a waterfall of metallic or woodgrain trim, elevates armrests to another plane with Remington-razor trim, punches squared-off turbine vents into the dash, and places an 11.9-inch touchscreen at the top of a gloss-black obelisk that rises from the center console. It’s what tombstones will look like in the year 2525, if we still use tombstones then. For now, it’s a touch-tastic play space where Apple CarPlay runs full screen and where every speck of lint and Buc-ee’s BBQ sauce reflects in dapples of sunlight—which hit the screen often, because of the particular angle at which it reclines.

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

How comfortable is the 2023 Mercedes GLC?

The GLC-Class can shuttle with the best of its pack, too. It’s always been on the bigger side of compact; now, with 2.4 inches more in length atop the same 113.1-inch wheelbase as before, the GLC doesn’t just dress its space well, it extracts it well, too. 

It starts in front, where 16-way heated power seats find a swell driving position for most drivers. It’s a long-distance trekker of the highest order. Still, I couldn’t quite get the digital gauges entirely inside the multi-function steering wheel’s top half. 

Synthetic leather feels like a self-own here, but it’s virtually a sure bet the AMG versions to come will have the real stuff. So does the glossy black trim on the console, which lifts fingerprints as well as any FBI agent I’ve interacted with (total count to date: 2). Functionally the center console has its issues: the smartphone charging pad inside it tucks well up under the console, even with the lid open. Clearly, Mercedes engineers want you to put the phone down. The cupholders are fine, if you drink normal-sized beverages. The toaster-sized console bin can hold at least one package of English muffins, though it can’t get them crispy.

Special kudos go out to the GLC’s back seat. It’s almost ready for prime SUV time: four adults fit easily, a fifth sits well enough for a longer trip, and those same fussy engineers who have issues with Snapchatting and driving found toeroom and headroom for everyone in row two. And since there’s no third-row seat, they found a way for the 21.9 cubic feet of cargo space to transform into 59.3 cubic feet. It’s something they call folding the seat down. It sounds technical.

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

How fast is the Mercedes GLC?

What also sounds technical—and is—is the GLC’s running gear. You don’t need a mechanical degree to understand that the rear-drive GLC can be fitted with a system that also grants its power to the front wheels; you might even call it all-wheel drive. The GLC has it, but don’t get it twisted: this is a crossover, with some SUV hardware tossed in the mix, so its speciality is in all-weather traction. 

It can handle any weather, and it can pull itself into and out of most traffic situations with aplomb, thanks to one of the smoothest Mercedes 4-cylinders in memory. It’s a 258-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 that spins out 295 lb-ft of torque. Its integrated mild-hybrid system makes it even smoother and stronger by adding another 23 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque when needed—like from a stoplight start, where the GLC pulls cleanly and quickly off the stripe. Mercedes promises a 60-mph run in 6.2 seconds, a top speed of 130 mph, and fuel economy as high as 28 mpg combined; I saw better than that on the flattest east-west-east run across the Gulf Coast.

The GLC ships its power around via a 9-speed automatic, a very good gearbox despite the occasional hiccup before it selects the low gear an ardent right foot wants now, right now. The GLC’s drive modes can scare that hiccup away: spun into Sport mode the GLC drops its party manners and keeps the revs high and keeps the shifter on a short lease, snipping off downshifts like a physician clicks their pen when they write a refill for your Latisse prescription. (Take heart: There’s a support group for everything, even those slighted in the eyelash department.)

It’s nowhere near AMG territory in power, for sure, and the GLC’s stock tuning hasn’t gotten the good word yet, either. Still, it’s impossible to fault a vehicle with the GLC’s comfort-driven absolutism. With a four-link front and a five-link rear suspension, the GLC hasn’t yet adopted all the tech wizardry that can cope with a lot more power, things like adaptive damping and air springs. It doesn’t need them. On its standard 18-inch 235/60 all-season tires, or even on the 19-inch combo on my press vehicle—the GLC has the right amount of bend in its knees. Ride over long bumps and it picks up a spring in its step, but settles down quickly before it bobbles or, worse, stiffens in horror at its lapse. It’s resolutely silken, even when Sport mode applies about 20 percent more weight to its electronic power steering and when the shifting gets more intentional. Lope along I-10 to a marsh-front Cajun place and back via swampy two-laners, and the GLC wants to go back for another round of redfish nuggets. Sure, we all want the AMG edition now, but if we had to choose which GLC to drive every day, it’s difficult to see the justification for more than the GLC 300.

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

How much does the 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class cost?

In part that’s because it’s probably the most value-laden vehicle Mercedes builds today. In base spec, the GLC costs $48,250 and comes with digital gauges and a big touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, synthetic leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, 16-way power heated front seats, a power tailgate, and ambient lighting. That infotainment system, by the way, now can include augmented-reality navigation and dash cam services—but out of the box, comes with richly detailed maps and big favorites tiles for easy tapping between XM Lithium and New Wave.

Every GLC also has automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors, as well as automatic high beams. 

Spend $50,500 for the Exclusive and the GLC gains navigation, Burmester sound, and a surround-view camera system. That’s the sweet spot, unless you need augmented reality and a head-up display—both of which come in the $52,600 GLC Pinnacle.

The GLC Coupe body style should return to the lineup in the 2024 model year, along with various AMG styling kits and even an AMG edition. We fully expect a plug-in hybrid, too. For now, if AMG-ness and coupe-ness don’t chart on your Hot 100, the GLC 300 should. It’s a luxury shuttle of the first order, whether you agree on the redfish nuggets or not.

Mercedes-Benz delivered a GLC 300 to us for our test drive review.

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