REVIEW | Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d makes a strong case for diesel

The Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d's wagon-esque rear profile is easy on the eye.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d's wagon-esque rear profile is easy on the eye.
Image: Supplied

In its outlook report for 2024, Mercedes-Benz seemed to have taken a less bullish approach regarding electric vehicles than one might have previously inferred. Yes, the transition towards full electrification will happen, but the timeline is not cast in stone.

"The company plans to be in a position to cater to different customer needs, whether it is an all-electric drivetrain or an electrified combustion engine, until well into the 2030s," it said.

There are many markets around the world that are not yet fully geared-up for a completely electrified portfolio of products.

We should also remember Mercedes-Benz has a formidable commercial vehicles business that relies heavily on diesel internal combustion engines powering trucks and vans.

In passenger vehicle applications, Mercedes-Benz has long employed diesel powertrains. Icons from yesteryear such as the W123 300D and forebears set the agenda for diesel in premium products, eventually prompting fellow Germans to follow suit. Today that tradition lives on, where almost every model line in the Mercedes-Benz range has a diesel option to offer.

We recently tested the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300d. The GLC range is in its second generation, competing against the likes of the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan. There are left-field alternatives from other regions, such as the Italian Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Japanese Lexus NX and Volvo XC60 from Sweden.

In AMG Line, the GLC attracts reverential stares.
In AMG Line, the GLC attracts reverential stares.
Image: Supplied

Equipped with 4MATIC all-wheel drive, the four-cylinder GLC 300d starts at R1,469,875 in Avantgarde trim.

There is also a coupé-esque body style on offer, with a sloping roofline, but we tested the more conventional, regular variant in AMG Line guise. This costs R1,552,468. The warranty is two years with no cap on mileage. The maintenance plan is of a five-year/100,000km duration.

It is priced higher than the comparative model from BMW. The BMW X3 xDrive 30d M Sport comes in at R1,336,840. This rival offers more in terms of displacement and cylinders, packing a potent six-pot.

Quoted 0-100km/h is an expedient 6.3 seconds. Operation is hushed and clearly the engineers were liberal with the insulation material

Audi has no six-cylinder unit in the Q5 line-up. Its Quattro 40 TDI S-Line version, powered by a 2.0-litre, carries a starting price of R1,043,100.

Stylistically you have to concede the Mercedes-Benz has a certain presence its direct rivals struggle to match. Replete with AMG Line garb, the model looks aggressive yet suitably tasteful.

On the inside, the GLC mirrors the execution seen in the W206 C-Class. Which is a good and bad thing. Good because the layout is wonderfully sophisticated, with a bang-on modern feel, high degree of digitisation and tricks such as mood lighting which creates quite an ambience especially at night.

But not so good because the impression of quality is surface level. Certain materials deployed in the cabin will raise your eyebrows, not befitting the cachet of a vehicle with the highest asking price in its class.

While the large central screen of the MBUX infotainment system boasts high clarity and is generally easy to use, some other controls of the GLC prove frustrating. The capacitive panels on the steering wheel can be finicky. Opening the sunroof using the slide-touch panel is tricky while on the move.

Front occupants ensconced in cockpit-like ambience.
Front occupants ensconced in cockpit-like ambience.
Image: Supplied

The three-spoke steering wheel, part of the AMG Line package, has a chunky grip. The front seats have a supportive design, bolstered on the firm side. Firm is also a good descriptor for ride quality. The AMG Line means fitment of standard mixed 19-inch wheels wheels: 235/55 at the front, 255/50 at the rear. Our car had optional 20-inch wheels fitted.

A solid on-road feel is delivered by the GLC 300d, with assured traction courtesy of the 4MATIC system. Switching through the driving modes, from Comfort to Sport, brings notable changes in the characters of power delivery, suspension damping and steering feedback.

Under the hood is a 1,993cc unit, the same used in the lesser GLC 220d. But whereas that model offers a maximum output of 162kW/440Nm, the 300d brings 215kW and 550Nm with its mild hybrid system in effect.

Quoted 0-100km/h is an expedient 6.3 seconds. Operation is hushed and clearly the engineers were liberal with the insulation material. Good things to be said about the nine-speed automatic, which is buttery smooth in how it goes about its business.

Consumption averaged 8.4l/100km for the duration of our test, spanning nearly 420km, including a lengthier trip to Delmas.

While there is gap between the GLC 220d and 300d in terms of performance, most shoppers may not care, mindful of the saving represented by the former.

For reference, the 220d has a claimed 0-100km/h time of eight seconds flat. Economy-wise, it is expectedly superior, as we achieved a 7.3l/100km average during a 460km test period in 2023.

You can get the GLC 220d AMG Line for R1,347,584. That would be the sensible choice.


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