Compact Luxury Machine

The 2020 Mercedes GLC 300 is the company’s most affordable.

AFFORDABLE, UTILITARIAN: The exterior styling and high-quality interior are among the signature traits.

Mercedes-Benz may be the most diverse vehicle manufacturer. It introduced gull-wing race cars and station wagons in the 1950s, about 30 years after the brand debuted. The enduring carmaker’s modern-day sedans still define automotive maturity. The German marque also made a hybrid in 1906 and it customized sedans in the 1930s with bullet-proof windows for the German regime as it approached WWII.

With the 2020 GLC 300, one of its nine sport utility vehicles, Mercedes-Benz is also at the forefront of the luxury people mover market. It’s the carmaker’s youngest segment; SUVs have been part of the brand since 1997.

As a five-passenger compact SUV, the GLC 300 is the carmaker’s most affordable utilitarian vehicle. But it’s well-disguised as another Mercedes-Benz luxury machine. Its exterior styling and well-crafted, high-quality interior are among the brand’s signature traits.

The GLC 300 with rear-wheel drive or 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) is the so-called “base” offering. But unlike other manufacturers’ entry-level models, it’s unfairly categorized. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and nine-speed automatic transmission, the GLC 300 perfectly meshes performance with prestige. The upgraded engine (an additional 14 horsepower) helps launch the SUV from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz has maintained the industry’s furious pace in technological advancement. The GLC 300 includes a complete host of standard features highlighted by LED headlights, a power liftgate and power-adjustable and heated front seats.

The new MBUX infotainment system is anchored by a 10.25-inch touchscreen as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking, a drowsy driver warning system and blind-spot monitoring.

There are also a centerpiece console touchpad and voice control. Tap the button on the steering wheel and use the phrase, “Hey, Mercedes,” and you’re in business. (The voice-command system inadvertently activated a few times when someone in the vehicle said words similar to “Mercedes.”)

An exhaustive list of stand-alone and package options is offered. Highlights include a self-parking system, upgraded leather seating, console wood and aluminum door trim and 64-color ambient lighting. None of it is cheap. The GLC 300’s MSPR is $44,500, but the price jumps to $64,605 with more than three-dozen additions.

Beyond its engineering, Mercedes-Benz is equally renowned for its vehicles’ driving characteristics. The GLC 300 complies. The ride is smooth and powerful, the steering responsive. Maneuverability is keen in traffic, on the open road and if tight circling is needed. The saturated SUV marketplace is rich in similar vehicles. The GLC 300 isn’t like the others. Everything it offers proves it.

James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacramento, Calif., publishes www.theweeklydriver.com and its corresponding free podcast.