2023 Mercedes GLC 300 4Matic Review: A Luxurious, Competent Crossover

But don't get us started about the augmented reality navigation...

2023 mercedes glc 300 4matic
Tyler Duffy

Car enthusiasts don't thirst for the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. But the compact crossover is Mercedes's best-selling car, and for 2023, we're getting the first "all-new" version since the GLC debuted in 2015. Of course, "all-new" can encompass a broad range of car updates; let's call this second-generation GLC a full-throated nip-and-tuck.

Of course, Mercedes-Benz is going all-electric by 2030: development bandwidth is limited for combustion cars; new platforms and engines aren't in the cards. And — if you aren't well versed in Mercedes grille treatments — it will be hard to tell the second-gen GLC apart from its predecessor. But the GLC is too business-critical to half-ass it. So Mercedes did bring some significant updates — even if many are of the evolutionary, "response to what people complained about last time" variety.

So what's the 2023 Mercedes GLC like to live with? Mercedes loaned me a GLC 300 4Matic version for a few days to find out. I took it on a multiple-hour trek through rural Southeast Michigan and used it for routine errands and kid shuttling. Here's what I found.

The GLC 300 4Matic: What We Think

Mercedes-Benz rarely builds a bad car. They can't afford for the base GLC — an entry point to the brand for many — not to be good. And with a competent driving presence and multi-sensory luxury, the GLC 300 4Matic won't disappoint. That said, I question how much utility the showpiece MBUX tech upgrades, such as augmented reality navigation, really add for actual drivers.

2023 mercedes glc 300 4matic
Buyers want AWD compact crossovers. And the GLC 300 4Matic is exactly that.
Tyler Duffy

Mercedes balanced the drive experience well

Critics wished the last generation GLC was sportier. Mercedes listened, but not to an obsessive extent. You get well-weighted steering and a decent amount of road feedback. Body control is excellent in hard(ish) public road cornering. The damping felt firm, but not overly stiff. Even rolling on 20-inch wheels, Michigan-grade road bumps were intercepted by the suspension and not entering the cabin.

The powertrain feels tuned for efficiency. The GLC is decently quick for a 255-horsepower SUV, and the nine-speed transmission will hold gears for a bit if you at it from a stop. But even in Sport mode, the transmission tries to place you into as high of a cruising gear as it can. That felt great on the highway; not as much when hustling the GLC on curvy backroads.

The EPA rates the GLC 300 4Matic for 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. That seemed about right, if not a little conservative. I was averaging about 24-25 mpg city and in the low 30s on highway roads.

The GLC 300 4Matic is damn quiet

Mercedes designed the GLC to be aerodynamic, with a 0.29 drag coefficient; that's super-low for a combustion SUV, for the record. The slippery mirrors and side sills reduce drag. Mercedes also ramped up the sound insulation. My tester also had the optional acoustic glass. The result — refreshing to a father of two kids under six — was little noise entering the cabin.

Indeed, the GLC may be a tad too quiet. When you combine the reduced wind noise with the transmission keeping you cruising at sub-2,000 rpm, you lose the auditory indicators of how fast you're going. I repeatedly caught myself exceeding the posted speed limit by a wide margin.

The GLC interior chooses form over function

The GLC's interior is meant to be a showpiece. There are oodles of trims, upholstery and ambient lighting options. Every GLC 300 I've seen has looked markedly different. The central feature is a giant touchscreen that slopes down with a clean expanse to the armrest. It looks cool...nut I had some issues with it.

HVAC controls have been moved to the screen, which isn't ideal. There's no knob for the volume, just a section on a sheet of plasticky-feeling buttons (not as bad as VW's, but not particularly premium-feeling, either). The clean look required Mercedes to cram the wireless charger, USB-C outlets and cupholders into the same tight compartment. That became a jumble when my wife was in the car, and we both wanted to charge and drink coffee.

2023 mercedes glc 300 4matic
The GLC’s new look interior offers a clean, digital-forward center console.
Tyler Duffy
2023 mercedes glc 300 4matic
But a tight center console cubby means your tech and cups will be fighting for space.
Tyler Duffy

The augmented reality navigation stinks

I'm not a Luddite. I appreciate technology in cars. But technology should meet a basic threshold for inclusion: it needs to make a driver's task easier. Augmented reality navigation does the opposite.

What is augmented reality navigation? Well, when you approach an intersection, a video feed from the front camera takes over the infotainment screen. An arrow overlaid on the video feed shows you where to go. Sounds good, in theory; but in practice, the arrow can be hard to follow, and the street names are hard to read. And that's presuming you're staring at the screen, rather than trying to operate the vehicle. The video feed also obscures the map — right when you want to look at it. It led to a couple of wrong turns...on roads I've been driving on for decades.

Mercedes's navigation system also felt a bit befuddled by real-time traffic situations and construction. I freelanced after receiving a 17-minute route to my son's baseball game during rush hour and got there in 10 minutes.

What are some Mercedes GLC 300 4Matic alternatives?

There are a bunch. Our top choice in the luxury compact crossover segment is the Genesis GV70. The GLC 300 4Matic, while a solid competitor, won't have us rethinking that pick. Other credible cross-shopping options include the BMW X3, the Audi Q5, the new Lexus RX and the Volvo XC60.

genesis gv70 suv
We enjoy the Mercedes GLC. But even with the updates, the Genesis GV70 remains the luxury compact crossover to beat.

2023 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic

  • Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four; 9-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 255
  • Torque: 295 lb-ft
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
  • Price (as tested): $49,100 ($64,750)


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