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Avantgarde in Every Way

Mercedes-Benz GLC220d 4Matic Avantgarde

Since its introduction in 2015, the GLC midsize premium SUV has steadily climbed the ranks to become Mercedes-Benz’s global best-seller. Even in entry-level 220d guise, the now sleeker GLC is a sophisticated urban tourer for the upwardly mobile. 

While South Africa ranks among the world’s top markets for hyper-powerful AMGs, Mercedes’ bread-and-butter models have formed the bedrock of the luxury brand in South Africa over the decades. 

In the 1980s, the W123 230E was considered the “middle-management” Merc of choice, to be replaced by cars such as the W124 230E and E220 in later years. When the first-generation C-Class arrived, most of its sales (and subsequent generations) would always come from the middle of the model line-up, where buyers could extract maximum brand cache without breaking the bank.

At a time when SUVs rule the roost, the C-Class-derived Mercedes-Benz GLC consistently occupies the top of the podium for the Stuttgart-based luxury carmaker, with the entry-point new-generation X254 GLC220d 4Matic Avantgarde as its champion.

EVOLVING STYLE

Although the GLC launched here in June 2023 is not an entirely new vehicle, it improves the existing GLC platform, tweaks its exterior looks, and improves on the already refined interior of the previous car. 

Most noticeable on the exterior is that the headlights have been reshaped, while the formidable front grille (on Avantgarde models) features a chrome surround and houses a large AMG-style badge.

Rear light clusters have also been redesigned, and are joined together by a glossy garnish strip that runs the width of the car. Our test car was fitted with optional aluminium-look running boards (an R8,460 option at the time of writing) and 19” light-alloy wheels (R13,500). While a slightly lower profile than the standard 18” wheels, the 19-inchers look great and don’t affect the GLC’s supple ride quality as significantly as 20” alloys (an additional option) likely would.

Inside the cabin, the GLC is elegantly minimalist, and carries over the 12.3” portrait-oriented infotainment screen from its C-Class sedan stablemate. Additional options added to our test car included a R25,560 panoramic sliding sunroof and advanced sound system at R8,522 more.

As you get comfortable in the ARTICO synthetic leather-covered seats, it is easy to understand why the GLC is such a popular star in the Mercedes galaxy. Overall fit and finish is superb, and while the practicality of a high-gloss black centre console is debatable, and the significant application of plastics in the cabin betrays the GLC220d’s entry-level status, the well-balanced mix of textures and surfaces in the cabin adds sophistication to the interior look and feel.

As with all Mercedes products, top-notch safety is baked into the GLC’s DNA, boasting a full complement of six airbags and extensive active safety and driver assistance systems that include Mercedes-Benz’s PRE-SAFE passenger positioning system and PRE-SAFE Impulse Side that uses inflatable seat bolsters that, within milliseconds, pushes occupants away from an imminent side-on collision.

ENHANCED RIDE AND DRIVE

A considerable part of the GLC’s appeal has always been its compliant ride, which has been further improved thanks to the inclusion of a new four-link suspension up front and an independent multi-link arrangement at the rear as part of the GLC’s extensive platform upgrades. Gauteng’s less-than-stellar urban roads proved no match for the GLC220d, and paired with Merc’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, the overall ride experience is both confident and comfortable. 

A significant boost for the new GLC is the inclusion of the same mild-hybrid drive system found in the new-generation C-Class. The 48-volt with integrated starter-generator (ISG) provides additional power when needed, while improving efficiency and overall driveability from the GLC’s 2.0-litre turbodiesel mill. When in use, the hybrid system adds 17 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque to the already substantial 145 kW and 440 Nm produced by the engine. Considering the GLC220d’s hefty 2,550 kg GVM, its claimed zero to 100 km/h acceleration figure of 8.0 seconds is more than satisfying. 

The mild-hybrid system has other benefits, too, most notably improvements in overall fuel consumption. Officially, the GLC220d will achieve a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.2 l/100 km. Although we couldn’t quite achieve such lowly figures, our test drives consisted of primarily urban driving.

LAST WORD

While the GLC may not be as attainable (due to the Rand/Euro exchange rate being in perpetual freefall) to South Africa’s mid-level managers as its pre-millennial ancestors once were, the entry-level 220d offers exciting new tech, improved capability, and the brand value that only a Mercedes-Benz can deliver, something that its premium competitors will find hard to match.

MERCEDES-BENZ GLCENGINEPOWER 
(kW @ r/min)
TORQUE 
(Nm @ r/min)
TOP SPEED
(km/h)
0-100 KM/H
(seconds)
FUEL 
(l/100 km)
PRICE
Mercedes-Benz GLC220d 4Matic AvantgardeIn-line 4-cyl; 1,993 cc turbodiesel145+17 @ 3,600440+200 @ 1,800-2,8002198.05.2R1,227,271
Volvo XC60 B5 AWD Ultimate DarkIn-line 4-cyl; 1,969 cc turbodiesel183 @ 5,400350 @ 1,800-4,8001806.97.6R1,121,000
BMW X3 xDrive20d M SportIn-line 4-cyl; 1,995 cc turbodiesel140 @ 4,000400 @ 1,750-2,5002138.05.6R1,136,894
Range Rover Evoque D200 Dynamic SEIn-line 4-cyl; 1,997 cc turbodiesel146 @ 3,750430 @ 1,750-2,5002138.55.8R1,258,100

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © Mercedes-Benz South Africa

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