Americans buy more GLC-Class SUVs than any other Mercedes-Benz model. Now, a midcycle refresh delivers lightly massaged styling and upgraded tech to the popular platform, in addition to the widely expected addition of a mild hybrid powertrain option.
Benz wants to push the GLC’s slightly more off-roady aspect with a new drive mode and nifty “transparent hood” camera angle. But, a road trip up California’s Central Coast seems like the only way to truly experience real-world Mercedes luxury in the modern era.
In short: With daily driveable EVs still a way off for most SUV buyers, the GLC 300 4Matic adds impressive hybrid efficiency to the dependable luxury and versatility of Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level GLC. Family haulers, grocery getters, and road-trippers alike will find all their needs met, less so the AMG speed freaks and off-roading adventurers that M-B caters to in marketing materials.
- Engine 2.0L I-4 w/ 48V hybrid
- Transmission 9-speed automatic
- Horsepower/Torque 255 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft.
- Mileage 23 mpg city /31 highway / 26 combined
- Excellent fuel economy for an SUV
- Perfectly respectable driving dynamics
- Clean styling inside and out
- Classic Mercedes-Benz luxury at entry-level price
- “Route-based Speed Adaptation” system sometimes seems iffy
- Hints of disappointing engine noise and hybrid assist
- Lurching when engine turns on after all-electric “sailing”
2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic Hybrid Review
When the GLC 300 4Matic hybrid arrived on my block, only a few details reminded me of the AMG 63S variant I drove about a month prior. A bold grille, smooth lines, and eminently comfortable seats stand out. But, where the AMG absolutely nails an epic combo of luxury and unbelievable performance, the entry-level version clearly prioritizes daily driving and capability in a practical package.
I took delivery and immediately packed up the rear cargo floor with a duffel bag and golf clubs, planning to road-trip up California’s Central Coast and spend a few days by the beach. A faster car might be more fun, but in reality, this kind of adventure falls directly in the staid GLC 300’s wheelhouse.
Power & Efficiency
Still, that’s not to say the new hybrid drivetrain can’t get up and go when required. Adding the electric motor, which can contribute up to 23 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, makes this five-seater surprisingly peppy, even while falling far short of the brutal acceleration of a twin-turbo AMG V8 — not to mention that grumbling exhaust note.
An AMG also starts at $84,000 and up, though, while that V8 earns a combined EPA rating of only 17 mpg. The hybrid with a turbo-four, meanwhile, stickers for just over half that much and manages up to 31 mpg on the highway. Even comparing the two trims sounds silly, but the two ends of the spectrum reveal the versatile nature of the GLC lineup.
After a week with the cheaper car, you might be surprised which one I’d choose for a daily driver.
Midcycle Refresh: Mercedes GLC
The midcycle refresh for the entire GLC lineup includes updates to tech and styling alongside the addition of a hybrid powertrain. Even cleaner lines contribute to improved aerodynamics and continue to differentiate Benz from Audi’s angular futurism, not to mention whatever BMW is up to. The next-gen user interface inside continues the theme with capacitive touch controls on the steering wheel and the sunroof.
And, a stretched overall length allows for additional cargo capacity, up 2.5 cubic feet to 21.9 cubic feet total. This is perfect for golf clubs, in classic Mercedes-Benz fashion. It is also perfect for climbing gear, cycling gear, and your favorite car camping setup.
But the highlight of the refresh is, of course, the hybrid powertrain option. Punching the go pedal puts every last ounce of 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet to the ground through all four wheels when equipped with 4Matic. The low-end grunt combined with a nine-speed automatic certainly helps off the line and while overtaking on the highway.
GLC 300 Hybrid Sips Fuel
Far more importantly, though, the 48V hybrid assist allows for fuel economy of 23 mpg city and 31 on the highway, for a combined rating of 26 mpg. Mercedes dropped off my GLC with a full tank of gas, but any more will come out of my pocket. With a 500-plus-mile road trip planned, I want to eke out every last mile possible.
Pulling out of town, I notice a bit of turbo spool and EV whine under hard acceleration, though only when keeping an ear on the drivetrain. Perhaps that noise filters through precisely because the rest of the cabin is so quiet and comfortable.
Mercedes Interior Calm
I’ve got ventilated seats blasting and the Burmester Surround System at mid-volume playing the greatest hits of relaxing songs via wireless Apple CarPlay to keep me calm amid freeway traffic. The serene environment gives me time to soak up the interior design, which continues the exterior theme with simple flowing lines.
Textures stand out, the Macchiato Beige MB-Tex against the dash’s natural grain walnut wood trim. A bit of piano black plastic melds with the central 11.9-inch touchscreen, but not too much elsewhere.
The upright seating position in a tall cabin provides excellent visibility, so often lacking in the increasingly popular sportback-coupe SUV roofline from Audi, BMW, and yes, the AMG 63S version of the GLC-Class.
Traffic thins out a bit heading west, so I turn on the adaptive cruise with lane-keep assist. The system caroms a bit off lines in the road but generally keeps my speed in check with the ebb and flow of meandering drivers. It allows 10 seconds max with my hands off the wheel — just enough to develop a bit of trust, but I can’t recommend sending long texts to Mom.
And I’m already keeping an eye on my fuel economy, averaging well over 30 mpg on the flats before I turn up the San Marcos Pass and decide to have a little fun.
Sailing Down the Road
Winding roads uphill from Santa Barbara always attract sports cars amid the commuters and fellow road-trippers. But, the midday lull means I can unleash the GLC 300 4Matic just a bit.
I flip over to Sport mode and feel the throttle sensitivity surge upward. Through a series of long sweepers and the occasional tighter turn, the GLC’s supple chassis prevents just enough body roll to feel sporty. Plenty of power is available with each pop of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
At the top of the pass, I switch back into Eco mode, hoping to coast as much as possible down the long grades ahead. All of a sudden, the gasoline engine drops to zero rpm. Enter Benz’s “sailing” feature for the hybrid system, intended to save fuel and allow for steady cruising while using only electric power. Sailing works well until the engine needs to fire back to life, which can create a bit of a lurch with the wrong application of throttle.
Cruising past Los Olivos, I do notice a few strange applications of a new “Route-based Speed Adaptation” system that drops the GLC’s speed by as much as 20 mph without warning, sometimes at the worst moments with drivers directly on my tail. At best, a surprising sensation; at worst, a little bit dangerous.
Time to Putt
I arrive at my destination north of Morro Bay, having averaged 31.8 mpg for 3:48 of drive time. Not bad for one of the most comfortable road trips of my life, swaddled in a five-seater capable of hauling around the whole family.
Tooling around the coastline for the next couple of days with friends — including to the links to put those golf clubs through a sorry session — the average mpg levels start to drop a bit.
(To be clear, I don’t even really like golf, but the Mercedes spirit and a bit of peer pressure overcame my rational processes.)
Into the Hills
The evening before heading home, I couldn’t pass up a trip into the hills. The hills were splattered in super-blooming flowers, and the greener-than-green grass from California’s recent atmospheric river storms was too good to pass up.
A quick jaunt up graded gravel roads for a photoshoot also gives me a chance to try out the GLC’s new Off-Road drive mode and the transparent hood camera system. On obviously eco-focused tires — Michelin Primacy All-Seasons, to be precise — I spend most of the time worried about flats.
Luckily, Off-Road mode won’t let me fully turn off the traction control and get too sideways, even while keeping my revs high with the paddle shifters. And serious four-wheeling in this unibody SUV isn’t really the point, I know, but the 4Matic all-wheel-drive systems stays planted despite my shenanigans. Perfect, I’d say, for confidence through bad weather on the way up to the ski slopes — again, the Mercedes spirit shining through.
Driving back home, I keep an eye on fuel economy again, nearly tempted to hypermile behind semi-trucks in the hopes of not exceeding a single tank of gas for the entire trip. And I almost made it, logging 10:02 of driving at an average of 28.9 mpg on highways, in town, and on the aforementioned dirt roads. Again, not bad for an upright SUV equipped with all-wheel drive and a 17.4-gallon gas tank.
2023 GLC 300 4Matic Hybrid Review: Conclusions
At the end of my week with the Mercedes GLC 300 4Matic hybrid, I can’t help but look back at the AMG. Sure, we all love brutal launches off the line, hardcore handling, and unbelievable stopping power from massive brakes. But EVs largely rendered internal-combustion acceleration irrelevant and for half the price, I surprised even myself with the realization that I’d prefer the daily driveability of this entry-level Benz any day.
The GLC 300 manages to somehow combine efficiency, long-trip comfort, all-season confidence, clean looks, and a level of refined luxury that far outstrips the average car sold in the USA — all at about the same price as the average car sold domestically.
Only the next logical step of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version — to keep up with Audi’s new Q5 PHEV — would set the GLC lineup over the top in an increasingly competitive crossover-SUV market.