The field of compact luxury crossovers is an eclectic mix of fancy and sporty, and the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC-class is more of the former than the latter. While Mercedes does offer two higher-performance versions courtesy of the brand’s AMG subdivision, the mainstream model is more focused on style and refinement. Of course, those who think those traits are alluring but want something more fashion-forward can opt for the sloped-back GLC-class coupe, reviewed separately. Regardless of body style, the GLCs are motivated by a turbocharged four-cylinder, and it makes this SUV surprisingly quick. The squareback Benz also includes a plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) model that has higher fuel-economy estimates than its PHEV rivals. The 2021 GLC-class isn’t as fun to drive as its sportier peers, but it is definitely one of the more luxurious options in its class.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, Mercedes gifts the GLC lineup with more standard features and more standalone options. A passive hands-free entry as well as a self-parking function and rear cross-traffic alert are now included on every model. Automatic high-beam assist and a 360-degree camera system are now available separately on a GLC300 without being bundled as part of a package. Mercedes also adds Cirrus Silver to the list of available paint colors.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We’re smitten with the sportier GLC43, which we review separately, but the GLC43 costs an additional $17,000 and is more crossover than most consumers want. Those buyers considering the tamer models should select the regular GLC300, and those who want an added sense of wintertime security can equip the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system for $2000. Although it already has a host of desirable standard features, we’d improve its luxury cred with the Leather Seating package that swaps the faux leather for the real deal. We’d also choose the packages to secure the ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and the suite of driver assists.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
A 255-hp turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission is the GLC300’s standard powertrain. Front-wheel drive is the default setup but all-wheel drive—called 4Matic—is optional. The GLC300 4Matic we drove in Germany had mostly responsive acceleration and well-behaved transmission behavior. While we haven’t driven the GLC350e plug-in hybrid, it’s Mercedes’ answer to electrified alternatives such as the BMW X3 xDrive30e and the Volvo XC60 T8. The standard GLC lacks the driving verve of the Porsche Macan and other sportier rivals—see the AMG-tuned versions for maximum engagement—but it at least delivers a smooth and quiet ride. The GLC300 4Matic we tested also posted a brisk trip to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. Its all-season tires provided a respectable 0.87 g of cornering grip, and contributed to the compact ute’s 172-foot stop from 70 mph. These results were close to the X3 xDrive30i that we compared it against, but in the end we gave a slight nod to the better Bimmer.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
With a plug-in hybrid available, the GLC has a model for those who prioritize fuel economy. The EPA estimates that the gas-powered GLC300 will earn 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway highway; the all-wheel-drive model sacrifices 1 mpg in both categories. The plug-in GLC350e boasts an all-electric driving range of 22 miles and has a combined MPGe rating of 68 MPGe. That efficiency number is much higher than both plug-in versions of the X3 (60 MPGe) and the XC60 (57 MPGe). While we haven’t had a chance to test the plug-in’s real-world fuel efficiency on our 75-mph, highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, we’ve tested the GLC300 4Matic and observed 25 mpg in the real world.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The GLC interior delivers attractive materials, wonderful build quality, and comfortable passenger accommodations. Mercedes also stocks the GLC with luxurious standard equipment that includes dual-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats with heated cushions. The SUV also can be upgraded with leather surfaces, head-up display, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, and more. Unfortunately, the GLC is less generous with its limited interior cubby storage and mediocre cargo capacity, which measures 19 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 57 cubes with the back seats folded. Both volumes are smaller than the BMW X3 that offers 29 and 63 cubes, respectively.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Mercedes gives every GLC a versatile infotainment system that benefits from a variety of control inputs and contemporary features. The standard 10.25-inch touchscreen supports the company’s latest MBUX software that responds to voice commands. The system also can be operated by touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel or a mostly intuitive touchpad on the center console. While Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are standard, the fanciest audio system and wireless charging cost extra.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 GLC hasn’t been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) wasn’t named a Top Safety Pick. The Mercedes SUV also offers a variety of standard and optional driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Mercedes-Benz provides competitive warranty coverage compared with premium rivals. However, the German automaker doesn’t provide the complimentary maintenance that BMW and Jaguar do.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance