What's in a name? Obviously a lot when it comes to the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class compact crossover SUV for the new designation given to this GLK successor represents both a change in marketing and mechanicals, all to the better. The GLC bridges the gap between the entry-level GLA and mid-size GLE in the SUV lineup and aligns this trio with their sedan analogs, the CLA-, C- and E-Class models.

The all-new 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC uses some of that platform technology from both the C- and E-Class to produce a stylish crossover that is larger and more handsome than the boxier GLK it replaces. The new design brings a 4.7-inch gain in wheelbase and overall length plus a slightly taller (0.3 inch) and 2.0-inch wider (74.4 inches) body that collectively provide a roomier cabin and more closely aligns the vehicle with its chief rivals, the Lexus NX, Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

Clean, modern exterior

The smooth sculpting of the GLC's sheetmetal gives it the same contours as the larger GLE. There's a bold front grille with a large 3-pointed star and its modern crossover styling reflects a nice blend of both station wagon and SUV cues. The standard vehicle is fitted with 18-inch wheels and tires that fill the arches, while bright-finish pseudo skid-plates, rocker extensions and a rear diffuser add sport-ute muscularity to the design.

Inside, the cabin is handsomely appointed with standard MB-Tex faux leather, Linden wood accents and a flowing design to the dash. The only bit of controversy is the iPad-inspired center screen that appears to be tacked on instead of integrated into the whole. Upper trim level GLC models can be had with a variety of leather and accent packages that include black ash open-pore wood and burl walnut.

New powertrain

When the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 and GLC300 4Matic arrive in November, both will offer one drivetrain, a 241-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder producing 273 lb-ft of torque. The U.S. version of this model offers 30 more horsepower than its European counterpart. The engine is backed by a new 9-speed automatic transmission and delivers power to the rear axle in standard trim and all four wheels in 4Matic variants.

A 204-horsepower 2.1-liter diesel 4-cylinder is available in Europe and may eventually be added to the lineup a year or so later. A hybrid model, the GLC350 e 4Matic, which will offer a combined 320 horsepower between the 211-horsepower gas engine and 114-horsepower electric motor, is expected to bow in 2017 as a 2018 model. This version will be both a top performance and fuel economy model in the range thanks to its plug-in capability which will offer about 21 miles of pure EV range.

What we won't see in the U.S. is Mercedes' simply amazing off-road package that allows the GLC to climb, traverse and generally tackle with aplomb hard-core terrain. Buyers desiring that level of off-road capability will be gently guided up the product range to the GLE.

Also: The Class of 2016 -- New Cars Ready to Roll

Enhanced visibility

The popularity of crossover SUVs is due in large part to the slightly elevated seating position. The GLC's comfortable buckets inspire confidence with excellent visibility. Instruments and the center screen are within the driver's field of vision and the controls are fairly intuitive to use. Mercedes continues to upgrade the rotary controller in its Comand telematics system to make it easy to engage functions ranging from navigation to infotainment. Alongside the primary knob is a switch that allows the driver to select various modes operating modes from economy to performance. The vehicle is also equipped with a stop/start feature to reduce unnecessary idling in traffic -- a mode that can be disabled at the touch of a button.

The GLC's solid, substantial feel is enhanced greatly by its precise and communicative steering, confident linear braking and brisk acceleration. We can expect the latter to be even better as a result of the more powerful 4-cylinder engine slated for the North American market. The 9-speed automatic is seamless in operation and should deliver excellent highway mpg numbers thanks to the top three overdrive gears.

Competitively priced

When the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC goes on sale, it will be priced at $38,950 for the rear drive GLC300 and $40,950 for the all-wheel drive GLC300 4Matic. Among the key option packages will be the $1,850 Premium Package that includes Keyless Go, heated front seats and blind spot assist. A $2,500 interior package adds leather, ventilated seats, MB-Tex covered dash and upper door panels with contrast stitching. The Comand system with navigation is a $2,330 step up, while the AMG Exterior Sport package, which includes 19-inch alloy wheels is $2,950. Also available are a $1,540 advanced parking package that includes parking assist with surround view camera, hands-free parking and Parktronic with active parking assist. Finally the $2,800 Driver Assist package include Distronic Plus cruise control with Pre-Safe braking, active blind spot and lane-keeping assist as well as cross-traffic warning.  

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC is more than just a name change, it is one of the most important models in the German automaker's product lineup, providing a formidable competitor in one of the fastest growing segments in the auto industry. The GLC has the style and performance it needs to succeed.

More Mercedes-Benz GLC News...

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