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Merc’s global bestselling midsized premium SUV has landed in SA

Merc’s global bestselling midsized premium SUV has landed in SA
The 2023 Mercedes-Benz has just landed in SA. (Photo: MBSA)

Despite coming somewhat late to the segment’s party, Mercedes-Benz has sold in excess of 2.6 million GLCs since launching in 2015, firmly placing itself as the favourite when it comes to midsized premium SUVs.

On Monday morning, a group of motoring journalists found themselves in Tryn restaurant’s boardroom on Steenberg Estate waiting for the Mercedes-Benz business session to start. We were expecting what manufacturers usually do when launching a new vehicle: product jargon littered with cliched superlatives and grandiose claims, accompanied by million-dollar shots of mountain passes or endless aerial sweeps of dunes while squeezing in as much technical and spec info as possible. 

Over the years, I’ve become somewhat jaded when it comes to listening and watching silky-smooth PR talk.  

As our hosts signified that the launch was about to begin, some of us stifled yawns. It was 9am on a Monday after all. I’d just returned from three full days at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, doing six back-to-back book events. In all honesty, I was not on high alert for this. The room went quiet. Somebody coughed. The tech guy pressed “play”. The prerequisite one-minute countdown began to the global premiere of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC that was first launched to audiences on 1 June 2022. 

For the next 15 minutes, I sat spellbound. What unfolded was a tongue-in-cheek, highly comedic spoof of an ad team making a commercial for the GLC. 

There’s an eccentric director, Magnus, from Reykjavik nogal, who arrives on set and announces that none other than George Russell, Mercedes’ AMG Petronas Formula One (F1) driver, is going to be the guy who rides the GLC. Much to his chagrin, Magnus soon discovers his star has ditched the ad because of an unexpected “engineering meeting” with his F1 team. From that point onwards, Magnus progressively unwinds.

The new GLC is sleeker, longer and has a lower stance. (Photo: MBSA)

Meanwhile, Rebecca, the red-haired, harassed agency director, keeps trying to keep things on track by reminding Magnus to mention stuff like the GLC’s design highlights, which include new expressive digital headlights, running boards and a beautiful new star-speckled grille. 

The director trips, falls and bumps his head. On awakening, he immediately gets distracted by Dragan, one of the handsome tech crew members on set. Magnus appears to fall for him.  

At her wits’ end, Rebecca tries to get Magnus and Dragan to showcase the GLC’s all-new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system, encouraging them to ask “Hey Mercedes”-type questions about all the new tech on offer. But all Dragan manages to say is “I love you”, to which Merc’s equivalent of Siri answers: “Was it love at first ride?” Magnus is deeply moved.    

Chaos on set continues to reign supreme. It gets even wilder when on Day 5, George Russell finally arrives and takes the GLC on a true bender, showcasing his and the GLC’s staggering drive capabilities. 

The comedic film is original, highly irreverent, hugely hilarious and pokes fun at every take-yourself-too-seriously car advert ever made. The Germans have not always been known for their sense of humour, so this one really felt like it came out of nowhere. And boy did it work.   

(You can watch it here. You probably won’t have seen anything quite like this before.) 

By the time the “launch film” was over, I was amazed at just how much product info I’d actually retained, because very cleverly, the “failed advert” manages to get the viewer to experience all the highlights of the GLC without realising you’re watching a product launch — you’re so engrossed in the characters and chaotic story. 

Sleeker, longer, lower

What I learnt was that the new GLC has a kickass Burmester audio system. Its interior is premium lux, with leather upholstered seats and luxurious trim. (There’s also an optional leather-lined dashboard with nappa-look belt lines, which comes standard in the AMG line). There are 64 colours to choose from when it comes to ambient lighting. It’s sleeker, longer and lower than the second-generation GLC.  

The all-new and sophisticated MBUX system, the one that Magnus was trying to find the meaning of love from, has an optional feature, whereby the driver can switch on “transparent bonnet” mode for a virtual view of any off-road obstacles ahead or beneath the car — a perfect pothole spotter for South Africans. (By the way, the optional 360-degree camera system is a prerequisite for “transparent bonnet” to work.) 

Then there’s the Airmatic air suspension for extra ground clearance when you take your GLC off-road or if you want it to climb kerbs. The GLC comes standard in 4Matic all wheel drive on all models. Boot space has been increased and now offers up to 620 litres. The GLC also has a standard Easy-Pack tailgate which opens or closes at the touch of a button. One can either use the button on the ignition key, the switch in the driver’s door or the unlocking handle on the tailgate. There’s a tow bar which can pull up to two tonnes. Both the petrol and diesel variants come with 48V mild hybrid tech as standard.

The GLC’s premium cabin. (Photo: MBSA)

So invigorated was I by the GLC’s offbeat product launch that I jumped into my test unit, the top-of-the-range 300d 4Matic and sped off à la George Russell. (There are three engines in the initial SA lineup: the GLC 220d; the GLC 300d — both diesel engines; and the petrol GLC 300.) 

I was thrilled to be in the 300 diesel derivative, which offers impressive power of 198 kilowatts and 550Nm of superb torque. Acceleration was instant, aided by the 9-speed auto transmission which felt brilliantly calibrated, allowing for a smooth, seamless ride. There was ample power on hand which made overtaking a breeze as we sped along the beautiful Simon’s Town coastline, despite the GLC weighing almost 2 tonnes.  

Boot space has been increased by 70 litres to 620 litres. (Photo: MBSA)

Knowing there was a full suite of safety items on hand, including Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist and Active Lane Keep Assist, made me realise why this Merc has done as well as it has as a preferred premium family vehicle. 

Where Mercedes-Benz has really upped the ante is in all its latest tech. Two new screens dominate the luxury cabins — a tablet-like 11.9-inch infotainment system with clear, crisp graphics as well as a 12.3-inch LCD display screen in front of the driver that has replaced the old-school gauge cluster. There’s wireless charging, heated seats and of course Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a prerequisite for any modern car.  

Fuel consumption on the 300d is claimed at 6.1 litres/100km — on long journeys you’ll probably get pretty close to that. I unfortunately didn’t get to drive the 300 petrol, but will certainly make sure I do.  

Mercedes-Benz describes the GLC as “the most dynamic SUV” that it has yet produced. It shares about 70% engineering commonality with its C-Class sedan stablemate including the chassis, which according to Merc means there’s improved handling and ride comfort.

It’s clearly a hugely important product in their lineup, as it’s been their bestseller for a number of years, outselling competitors like the BMW X3, the Volvo XC60 and the Audi Q5. In fact, more than 2.6 million units have found owners since its launch in 2015. That’s a lot of cars.  

I do know that henceforth, when I see a GLC on the road, it will be hard not to think about crazy Magnus and stress-kitten Rebecca.  

Pricing  

GLC 220d 4Matic — R1,211,220
GLC 300 4Matic — R1,328,50
GLC 300d 4Matic – R1,410,194 

Pricing includes a five-year/100,000km PremiumDrive Platinum service and maintenance plan. DM 

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