Mercedes’ crossover shapes up

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The slinky new coupe shape is going to turn heads, and Mercedes reckons it will push up GLC volume by 20%. Photo: David Thomson

Everything going to plan, the GLC medium crossover would be the top-selling Mercedes- Benz by now.

Everything hasn't gone to plan because, in defiance of the wider consumer abdication from orthodox road cars to soft-roaders, the C-Class passenger sedan (from which the elevated wagon somewhat derives) has continued to rack up slightly more business.

The GLC's day at the top of Mercedes' sales charts will surely come. It is already the star performer among Mercedes' SUVs, whose cumulative sales have been stepping up in leaps and bounds (by 30% in 2015 and a further 31% year to date), and that impact is expected to grow with a coupe landing now, and more engine choices on the way.

The slinky new coupe shape is going to turn heads, and Mercedes reckons it will push up GLC volume by 20%. By the same token, don't think it is simply a sister ship to the wagon. For all the obvious visual and genetic associations, the new model is a different kind of car: Bigger but more compact inside, so much so that it downsizes to four-seater operability and loses about 200 litres of seats-up luggage capacity, it also has its own persona and is targeted at a different buyer.

‘‘The wagon will appeal to a broader audience,'' Mercedes-Benz spokesman Matt Bruce said. ‘‘The coupe is certainly targeted at a younger demographic ... primarily the target is young couples or individuals.''

A $9000 price premium over the GLC wagon doesn't just come down to styling: it has a sportier feel to go with that snappier look. That feel starts with a driving position that's a bit lower than the wagon's. You feel enclosed: front visibility isn't too bad but, as you'd expect, the sloping roof and thick pillars affect rear and side visibility.

Most of the popular sportier styling tweaks optional to the GLC wagon are standard in the coupe, so all types have AMG Line 20-inch wheels and Dynamic Body Control suspension for more driver-focused handling, plus sat nav, Intelligent Light System LED headlights and a black ash interior. The 250 variants get leather upholstery in place of synthetic hide, Keyless-Go, power tailgate and the Driver Assistance Plus pack.

Safety encompasses nine airbags, autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning and assistance, pedestrian-protective active bonnet and a 360-degree camera with parking sensors.

Engines are shared with the GLC wagon; a diesel in two outputs and a petrol. That strategy hasn't quite worked for the GLC wagon, because, against expectation, the petrol is also accounting for 50% of all wagon volume.

That preference should logically be even stronger with the coupe; we only drove the 250 models and though the diesel has lovely torque characteristics and some decent thrift, the petrol is smoother and feels more lively and more in tune with the dynamic characteristic.

Also attractive is the efficiency of the thing. It's true what they say; modern petrol engines are much better at getting more return from every fuel drop these days and, as a brand always at the forefront, Mercedes seems to have elicited particular under-bonnet improvement.

The nine-speed automatic transmission is an impressively smooth operator with either engine, but you tend to use the paddleshifters a lot more with the petrol. Left to its own devices, it's hard to say how often it actually is in the topmost gear. Engage the Sports settings and it seems to default to becoming a seven-speed.

The GLC coupe apes the wagon in offering a comprehensive drive mode suite that allows adjustment and individualised settings for engine/drivetrain and steering tuning, and these do make a difference. The wagon has a slightly ripply coarse chip ride and, since the coupe has been engineered to deliver a sportier feel, it's no panacea for those seeking a pillowy experience.

However, the positive is that it is a more direct and agile car than the wagon. Benz has certainly sought to cover all angles with a wider track, a retuned steering rack for more directness, the low-profile rubber, retuned sports suspension with adaptive dampers and five driving modes and the Dynamic Body Control, but it pays off with keener body control and less roll and pitch that wagon drivers will encounter.

Mercedes’ crossover shapes up
At a Glance
MERCEDES-BENZ GLC COUPE

Price: 220d $98,900, 250 $103,900, 250d $105,900
Engines:1991cc four-cylinder turbo-petrol,
maximum power 155kW@5500rpm,
maximum torque 350Nm@1200-4000rpm;
2143cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel,
maximum power 125kW@3500rpm (220d) and
150kW@3800rpm (250d),
maximum torque 400Nm@1400-2800 and
500Nm@1600-1800rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes,
ABS, EBD, BA, VSC, TRC
Safety rating: Five star Euro NCAP
Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 255/45 R20 front 285/40
R20 rear
Safety rating: Five-star ANCAP
Fuel and economy: 5.8 (220d/250d) 7.4 (250) litres per
100km on ADR combined cycle, capacity 73 litres
Emissions: CO2 151 (220d/250d) 173 (250) g/km
on combined cycle
Dimensions: Length 4656mm, width 1890mm,
height 1639mm