Updating a big-selling vehicle is a tricky business. Do it right, and the cash continues to flow; screw it up, and heads will roll. That's likely why Mercedes-Benz took such a light touch with its freshening of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 compact luxury SUV, initially introduced for 2015.
We detailed the makeover of the 2020 GLC when it debuted at the 2019 Geneva auto show. Here's a brief recap: Mild tweaks to the front and rear facias and fresh head- and taillamps spruce up the exterior, while the integration of the optional MBUX infotainment system addresses the modern consumer's insatiable hunger for screens and tech. Speaking of which, the resolution and image quality of the central 10.3-inch screen are fantastic, and the navigation animations that overlay directional arrows on the camera image of the road are both neat and helpful. An updated steering wheel with the latest touch controls is another pleasant upgrade, particularly since the traditional console mounted clickwheel controller has been banished and replaced by a reasonably intuitive touchpad interface. Along with the touchpad, MBUX also can be controlled via the touchscreen, the steering wheel control pads, or the gesture- and voice-recognition systems.
The interior follows the familiar wood, metal, faux leather, and real leather formula from the previous GLC, although we did notice that the material on the doorsills and dash did seem to be of a slightly lower grade than those of nicer Mercedes models such as the E-class. If you're thinking it sounds like business as usual with a few additional color and material combos, you're right.
Moving the Metal
The real news can be found under the hood in the form of the new engine, the M264 turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. It makes 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, a 14-hp improvement over the turbocharged M274 engine it replaces. While fuel-economy numbers haven't been released, Mercedes is billing the new powerplant as a fuel-efficiency and reduced-emissions play, albeit one without any deficit in performance. It utilizes a twin-scroll turbo and a flow-optimized exhaust manifold to help it achieve its peak torque at a low 1800 rpm. Mercedes's nine-speed automatic is the only transmission option in both rear- and all-wheel-drive (4Matic) versions, with the latter adding $2000 to the window sticker.
On the autobahn outside of Frankfurt, Germany, it's tricky to tell the difference between the new GLC and the outgoing model. Throttle tip-in is familiarly smooth and progressive, and the new engine digs in when called upon around town. That said, abrupt mid-throttle applications at higher speeds were occasionally met with a pregnant pause before any forward motion happened. Casual drivers will rarely notice, but folks who actually enjoy driving might find it distracting. Once up to speed, however, the GLC300 is a true highway star, knocking off miles with little effort while keeping occupants coddled in quiet comfort. That includes rear passengers, as the GLC300 offers reasonable foot and hip room for two, as well as for three for short periods.
Once we were fully schooled in its on-road behavior, we had the opportunity to venture off-road at the ADAC Off-Road Center near Rüsselsheim, Germany. Although GLC300s bound for the United States will not be available with the Dynamic Body Control system of the cars we sampled, stateside models do get adaptive dampers and a chassis capable of raising the ride height by roughly three-quarters of an inch. Given that the off-road course was scouted by Mercedes-Benz in advance, we didn't expect to encounter any obstacles that would stop the GLC in its tracks. Still, in an era when the pseudo-rugged appearance of many crossovers belies their true capabilities, there's a certain satisfaction in knowing the GLC300 isn't shy about getting dirty. Navigating ankle-deep mud and ascending steep inclines with aplomb, the GLC rarely spun a wheel in desperation.
Lacking any major advancements save for its new engine, which we'll reserve further comment on until we subject the GLC to our in-house testing procedures, the latest iteration of Mercedes's popular GLC300 offers just enough styling and tech updates to keep things interesting without rocking the boat. If you liked the old one, you'll love the new one.
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