Driving report: Mercedes GLC 400e 4Matic: More luxury, more off-road

What's really new is hidden under the body.

Driving report: Mercedes GLC 400e 4Matic: More luxury, more off-road

What's really new is hidden under the body. Externally, little has changed with the new Mercedes GLC, the SUV version of the Swabian C-Class. why? The classic shape, which was already softer than its predecessor, has become a little flatter, looks more dynamic and is six centimeters longer and four centimeters lower than its predecessor. The flanks and wheel arches look a little more powerful, the rear a little crisper, there are optional running boards. What's the point of experimenting when things are going well? And it's going well. Since the start of the series in 2015, 2.6 million units have been sold worldwide. It is the best-selling Mercedes model of the past two years, says Britta Seeger, who is responsible for sales on the Mercedes board.

A lot more happened where you don't see it at first glance. There are now only hybrid units under the bonnet: Four engines as mild hybrid versions with a reinforced starter generator and three plug-in hybrids with a purely electric range of up to 130 kilometers (WLTP), system outputs of up to 280 kW / 381 hp and a combined torque of 750 Nm. There are also numerous technical amenities that make driving the 4,716 mm long, 1,890 mm wide and 1,648 mm high SUV comfortable and safer.

With the plug-in versions, after pressing the start button, things get down to business purely electrically. The Swabians' marketing promises "More electric than ever" in the most beautiful advertising English. With a range that is actually 100 kilometers, everyday life can usually be managed purely electrically. City trips, excursions in the immediate vicinity, commuting to work - all without consuming a drop of petrol. On longer journeys, the combustion engine automatically kicks in at some point, but the driver usually only notices it when the display on the right-hand side of the instrument cluster changes. A combined range of over 1000 kilometers is no problem.

The driving comfort is excellent - especially with the optional air suspension. Bumps, potholes - not a thing. The Mercedes engineers also worked on noise insulation. A bit of wind, road noise especially in electric mode - that's it. And if the combustion engine starts? It doesn't really get any louder either. Somehow the high-class Burmester system with its 15 loudspeakers and a total output of 710 watts has to be worth it.

In terms of space, the GLC does not deny its genes from the C-class. Not exactly lavish for an SUV, but big enough at the front not to get in the way. It gets a little tighter in the back, especially when the front seats are pushed far back. The central 11.9-inch screen floats in the middle of the dashboard - slightly inclined towards the driver. Everything that moves a technology freak's heart can be controlled and adjusted there in a voluminous abundance - plus entertainment including streaming and navigation. The navigation system at least takes some getting used to and sometimes only reacts when you've already passed the descent. But at least it's colorful and playful. The load compartment has grown by 70 liters to 620 liters compared to the predecessor and is now one of the largest in its class.

The off-road topic deserves a special mention – not exactly a must for the popular SUVs on the market, which occasionally have to be the highest obstacle, banging the curb. The GLC, on the other hand, can do off-road. Really off-road. Stony inclines, twisted and washed-out paths, scree, slippery descents, narrow forest paths - no problem at all. Numerous, mostly optional aids support the driver. The "transparent front hood", for example, on which cameras on the central screen show what it looks like under the vehicle. The rear-axle steering makes the GLC amazingly agile and agile on winding paths. The steering angle on the rear axle is up to 4.5 degrees, the turning circle is reduced by 90 centimeters. There are also optional air suspension for increased ground clearance, driving programs for easy and precise driving down the hill, optional underrun protection and much more. All of this also works perfectly in purely electric mode. This SUV is actually also an off-roader.

Mercedes is still silent about the prices of the plug-in hybrids. In the mild hybrid versions, the basic GLC 200 version starts at 57,631.70 euros – around 10,000 euros more than its predecessor. As announced, Mercedes is on the way to becoming a pure luxury brand. To the "economy of longing," as CEO Ola Källenius recently called it.

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