2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

The 2020 GLC gets a power bump in base versions but still relies on turbo-4 propulsion and a 9-speed automatic in most models.

We give the crossover a 7 based on the GLC300 with all-wheel drive, which is likely to be the best seller. If we rated performance solely based on GLC63 models, we’d need a new scale. It’s a 7 for now, thanks to good power and a better ride.

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 received a modest power bump over last year’s crossover, up 14 hp to 255 hp, but it’s not immediately noticeable. A 9-speed automatic handles shifting duties well, albeit not as well as 8-speed automatics found in competitors from BMW. (To be fair, that ZF-sourced transmission found in the BMW may be a good candidate for the next in line at Mount Rushmore.) There’s some hesitation from the transmission to find the right gear, especially at constant speeds where its indecision can exacerbate the engine’s coarse nature.  

Base GLC crossovers are rear-drivers, but most crossovers will be fitted with optional all-wheel drive that costs $2,000—and all coupes will get AWD as standard equipment.

That all-wheel-drive system normally shifts 55 percent of available torque toward the rear wheels but can shuttle around for better performance or efficiency as needed. The GLC doesn’t offer a low-range gearbox or locking differential, but it probably won’t need it—most buyers won’t traverse much more than a muddy concert parking lot in the GLC.

If they do, Mercedes offers off-road candy this year that adds skid plating, traction control programs to help in snow or bumpy terrain, and when equipped with the optional air suspension, can raise up for more ground clearance.

We drove the 2020 GLC in an off-road course that included 60-percent inclines (a pitch steeper than many rooftops), 28-percent banked turns (enough that the seatbelts help hold you in place), and wheel articulation that lifted each tire several feet above ground without losing grip. Yes, it can; but no, many won’t.

The GLC is hashtag-blessed with a luxury ride thanks to good dampers and compliant springs, and an optional air suspension and adaptive dampers only make it better.

Some markets get a 48-volt system that’s not bound for the U.S. yet, and we’re left with a coarse start/stop system that can shake the GLC a little.

AMG GLC43 Performance

The AMG GLC43 drills a twin-turbo V-6 into the GLC’s svelte shoulders and extracts 385 hp that’s sent to all four wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission.

Mercedes estimates that the GLC43 takes just 4.7 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph in either coupe or regular configuration. It rides on adaptive dampers as standard equipment and shuttles between comfort and sporty settings via a toggle in the center console.

It’s less “AMG-lite” and more “AMG-right” from behind the wheel. The GLC43 accelerates quickly and doesn’t let up, all the way to its 130-mph top speed (which can be raised to 155 mph with 21-inch wheels and summer tires). The GLC43 is never short of breath, although its V-6 soundtrack can be a little brappy with the active exhausts engaged.

AMG GLC63 Performance

Good news: The AMG GLC63’s start/stop system is much better, and it’s hooked to a fire-breathing V-8. (Eds note: If you need a reason to buy a performance vehicle, you can have that one for free.)

The GLC63 is available in two tunes: GLC 63 or GLC 63 S with 469 or 503 horsepower, respectively. The GLC63 S is only available in the coupe, and all require all-wheel drive.

Its power is intoxicating, imbibed through steady burbles from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine and deep stabs at the throttle.

The GLC63’s performance is unquestionable: 0-60 mph takes less than 4 seconds in either model, and its top speed of 155 mph (174 mph in GLC63 S) is effortless.

The AMG GLC63 is gifted with new performance programs that complement the drive modes already available: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race, and Individual. The performance programs—Basic, Advanced, Pro, and Master—control everything from shift patterns to throttle response, steering behavior to engine mounts.

The GLC63 commands at least $74,000 to get its attention but based on our drives in a 503-hp 2020 GLC63 S Coupe that likely cost well north of $90,000, it’s worth listening to.

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