During the end of 2012, Mercedes-Benz India decided to call 2013 as the ‘Year of Offensive’. The oldest luxury car player in the country was fast losing market share to BMW and Audi, and a strategy to regain the foothold was needed. The plan focused on building a good product portfolio, increasing the network, correcting the brand perception, and total customer ownership.
The next year, 2014, was called the ‘Year of Excellence’, during which, among other initiatives, 10 new models were launched in India.
‘Live the Best’ was the company’s driving philosophy in 2015.
These strategies paid off substantially. If sales is one of the many metrics of success, Mercedes beat BMW in 2014 and overtook Audi in 2015.
The current year is called ‘Winning in 2016’. The company wants to achieve the objective of growing a profitable and sustainable business in India, and further extend its customer-focused approach. Now, since there is a growing penchant for SUVs amongst luxury car customers in India, the company has driven in the GLC, the midsize luxury SUV. We too drive it.
The GLC has a massive road presence for an SUV this size. The large three-dimensional radiator grille with a twin louvre in matt silver and chrome inserts highlight the front. The centrally-positioned three-pointed star proudly reflects the new global design language of Mercedes vehicles. LED high performance lamps provide it a mean stance, complemented so well by arch-shaped daytime running lights. The side profile is enhanced by subtle character lines, aluminium-look running boards with rubber studs, and 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels. The rear is muscular—horizontal orientation of the contour lines and the split LED tail-lamps give it a widened stance.
What especially look good on the GLC are front and rear skid plates, and the exhaust system with two visible stainless steel tailpipe trims—mounted in the bumper (in petrol model) or decorative tailpipe trims (in diesel model). The company says the GLC has best-in-class coefficient drag figure of 0.31 and the total aerodynamic drag of 0.794.
The cabin, among other things, proves that Mercedes-Benz is mad about quality. In no other SUV in this segment will you find such fine craftsmanship. The GLC is currently available as a CBU (Completely Built Up) import—called the Edition 1—but we don’t think that the India-made GLC, which is expected to arrive in a few months’ time, will have a different interior theme or lesser attention to detail.
The seats have an exclusive upholstery layout and contrasting stitching. Both driver and front passenger get four-way lumbar support, and both the front seats come with a memory function—you can record your favourite sitting position, and the next time you take a seat, at the touch of a button the car will adjust the seat for you. For more comfort, there is a three-zone automatic climate control system. For more light, there is a panoramic sliding sunroof. The cabin is spacious, and the large glass area adds to the feeling of space. However, while the luggage area is enormous for a vehicle this size, the spare tyre eats up a lot of usable boot space.
There are two models—GLC 300 (petrol) and GLC 220d (diesel). The petrol is equipped with a 1991cc engine that churns out 245bhp of power and 370Nm of torque, while the diesel is a 2143cc engine that produces a peak power of 170bhp and a torque of 400Nm.
Both engines are powerhouses in their own right. The petrol is super-quiet and you have to nudge the accelerator to really feel the motor running. It goes from 0-100kph in just 6.5 seconds before touching a top speed of 222kph.
The diesel, which provides a velvety auditory experience, goes from 0-100kph in a slightly slower 8.3 seconds and has a top speed of 210kph.
Both models come with five driving modes—Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. In each mode, parameters such as engine performance, transmission, steering, climate control and the ECO start/stop function are adjusted differently; each mode provides a unique driving experience.
The GLC is also available in an off-road engineering package, in which the body is raised by 20mm. In this package, there are three driving modes—off-road, incline and slippery.
It’s called 9G-Tronic. Featuring nine forward gears, this is the world’s first nine-speed automatic transmission with hydrodynamic torque converter in the premium segment. The wider gear spread means the GLC can achieve higher speeds at lower engine RPM—as compared to traditional automatic gearboxes. However, while gear changes are quick, I personally feel that the DSG—found in Audi vehicles—shifts gears more smoothly.
The beauty of the 9G-Tronic is that it is able to skip individual gears, and so multiple downshifts are possible for fast and powerful sprints. In fact, from any speed to any speed, the GLC—provided you floor the accelerator—shoots ahead like a cat possessed.
With the launch of the GLC—which fills the existing gap between GLA and the GLE models—Mercedes-Benz now boasts of the largest SUV portfolio in the luxury car segment in India, with as many as six SUVs. The 300 Edition 1 petrol is priced Rs 50.9 lakh, while the 220d Edition 1 diesel is priced slightly lower Rs 50.7 lakh. While its primary competitors—Audi Q5 and BMW X3—have starting prices close to Rs 45 lakh, the more expensive GLC has a plusher cabin, distinctive design and, at least for the next few months, will stand out among the competition. Throw in Mercedes’s extensive dealership and service network and the deal is sweetened a bit. However, in case you want to wait, we are sure the India-made GLC would be priced closer to the competition.
The 9G-Tronic is the world’s first nine-speed automatic transmission with hydrodynamic torque converter in the premium segment. Developed independently by Mercedes-Benz, the nine forward gears in the 9G-Tronic allow a larger gear ratio range with even smaller jumps in engine speed between gears. This results in faster, smoother and more efficient gear changes—as compared to a traditional automatic gearbox—for enhanced driving comfort and reduced noise levels.
(Prices are ex-showroom, Pune)