Review: 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e is a plugged-in luxury crossover
Mercedes redesigned the GLC-Class crossovers in 2016 and has made a few changes for the 2019 model year. We drove the GLC 350e plug-in hybrid Merc and found it to be a fun drive, thanks to efficiency not being its focus. It's enjoyable and luxurious, with a couple of quirks to keep it interesting.
The standard Mercedes-Benz GLC is the 300 model with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a lot of standard luxury items. Heated front seats, a 115-volt outlet, simulated leather upholstery, keyless entry and ignition, and a 7-inch infotainment display are standard in the base model GLC. So are forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and a lot of other things.
The infotainment interface is not the latest from Mercedes, we'll point out, and is thus a little clunky as the interface requires control knob- or touchpad-centric use (depending on upgrade options). It is functional, however, and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as options makes it better. Sadly, neither of those work with the navigation updates in the Multimedia (which adds the touchpad) or Driver Assistance package upgrades, which nullifies that point. That seems odd, but it's worth pointing out that most of the luxury automotive brands are not very good at user-friendly infotainment.
The GLC 350e uses the 2.0-liter turbo four from the 300 and combines it with an electric motor and small battery pack to produce 320 horsepower (239 kW). That's a boost of about 79 horses (59 kW) over the base model's output. The 8.7-kWh battery pack is good for about 10 miles (16 km) of all-electric driving. Efficiency doesn't seem to have been Mercedes' goal here, though, as the extra horsepower and lower-end gain for that feels more relevant – at least to the audience most likely to be interested in the plug-in version of this crossover.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is a small, but not quite compact crossover with a lot of luxury and a sporty appeal to its drive dynamic. It's pretty to look at, feels classy in its interior, and maneuvers very well in tight parking garages and narrow streets. Adding the electrics to the drivetrain boosts power output from a standstill, such as when pulling from a red light or stop sign, and gives the GLC a lot of confidence in urban environs. Those looking at this size of vehicle are probably wanting to right-size for tighter urban spaces without resorting to a compact option.
The efficiency gain from the 350e's plug-in components is fairly minimal. It takes around two and a half hours to charge the GLC 350e from empty to full and for that, only about 10 miles (16 km) of full-EV driving is gained. After that, fuel efficiency is only rated at 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km). That's about average for a small crossover without a plug. In the real world, however, we noted that heavy urban (low-speed) use resulted in far better returns than that government efficiency test indicates. Our average for a week with the GLC 350e was 31 mpg (7.6 l/100km) overall. Our drive mix was heavy on city (sub-45 mph / 72.4 km/h). That seems to be the GLC's sweet spot as a PHEV.
Oddly, though, the plugging-in aspect of the 350e is made complicated by the fact that the plug is located in the rear bumper. On the passenger's side. That being the toughest spot for a driver to easily navigate towards a point makes it seem like a very odd placement.
The 360-degree cameras help with the backing in, of course, but putting the plug there seems to force back-in parking. Not a thing luxury drivers do much of in the real world. And it all but precludes any non-perpendicular option for plug-in parking, such as offset spaces, and requires a cord stretch for parallel spaces. That's less an ideal. There's a reason front-end, usually driver's-side, plugs have become the near-standard for plug-in vehicles.
Once the parking situation is sorted, however, plugging in and charging the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e is easy and quick. A level 2 charger can fully load the battery in well under three hours, and a household plug (120-volt, included with the car) can recharge the Mercedes in under eight hours.
The price tag for the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e also calls into question its efficiency. The base model GLC 300 starts at US$42,700 with all-wheel drive ("4Matic" in Merc-speak) included. The GLC 350e starts at about $8,000 more. That puts the plug-in directly between the base model and the six-cylinder turbocharged AMG variants of the GLC in price. From there, getting the aforementioned surround-view camera system for parking (a near-essential in the 350e) and driver-assistance must-haves like adaptive cruise control are package upgrades for the plug-in GLC. Those were $1,200 and $2,250 respectively. Other upgrades to make our test model 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e premium lux put the total price tag at just over $68,000, delivered.
For that price, though, the buyer is getting a luxurious little crossover that's right-sized for urban use without becoming too tiny to be comfortable or useful. The Mercedes-Benz GLC is large enough to make it feel safe on the road and premium enough to justify its price point. It's got a great look to it and the 2019 GLC 350e promises good balance on the road for long or short drives.
Product Page: 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e