“Most of those purchased will become city dwellers, destined to hunt in shopping malls, but the drive proved the GLC is more than capable in the wild…”

Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d 4MATIC, CITRINBRAUN MAGNO, Offroad Line Exterieur Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC, CITRINE BROWN MAGNO, Offroad Line, exterior
Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC (X 253) 2015, CITRINBRAUN MAGNO, Artico/Stoff Espresso, Offroad Line Exterieur
Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC (X 253) 2015, CITRINBRAUN MAGNO, Artico/Stoff Espresso, Offroad Line Exterieur
Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d 4MATIC, CITRINBRAUN MAGNO, Offroad Line Exterieur Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC, CITRINE BROWN MAGNO, Offroad Line, exterior
Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d 4MATIC, CITRINBRAUN MAGNO, Offroad Line Exterieur Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC, CITRINE BROWN MAGNO, Offroad Line, exterior
Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d 4MATIC, CITRINBRAUN MAGNO, Offroad Line Exterieur Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4MATIC, CITRINE BROWN MAGNO, Offroad Line, exterior

Alsace, France.

The route taken for the launch of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV was cruel and unusual punishment for some of us.

The navigation system guided us through a spectacular drive of more than 500 kilometres, which started and concluded in Basel, the Swiss city straddling the Swiss, French and German borders. First, we motored to Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, and then returned the next day via the Vosges Mountains and the Munster Valley.

Cruel? – Well, for the oenophiles among the participating media group having to pass without tasting at the many historic Alsace vineyards along the way made one weep. It was just as bad for the beer-swillers who whiffed the smell of hops as they dreamed about sinking a chilled Kronenbourg.

Those, for whom food excites, had their taste buds tickled. They wolfed down amazing soft cheeses and cold cuts at the roadside. A curious donkey and a family of storks observed our feeding frenzy from a nest on high.

The mental torture was eased by an extremely pleasurable drive in this premium mid-range, second generation SUV from Mercedes-Benz, which replaces the GLK moniker with GLC reflecting its mechanical similarities to the C-Class sedan.

I won’t wax lyrical about the shape and looks, the pictures here tell that story. It’s a little longer and wider, meaning those aboard get more space in which to lounge and enjoy the luxury this top German brand typically offers. And, of course, more space for groceries and golf clubs.

A tablet-like 7-inch screen sits above three large air vents, mounted at the top of the centre stack, which features a well-placed controls touch pad in the lower console.

Back to the drive. Firstly, the test cars were pre-production Euro-spec 250s but we did get to take to the winding, often mountainous roads in a version that will more closely resemble the Canadian 300 4Matic. The same 2.0 turbo-four gas engine we get, though light of around 33 horses, powered it.

The GLK-spec 3.5-litre V6 is gone but worry not, if I might be crude, the four banger, coupled with the new 9G-tronic transmission, is more than adequate on the freeway – zero to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds – and up those hills. And it was quiet in that cabin.

Incidentally, the GLC will use four-cylinder power in all versions – gas, diesel and plug-in gas/electric hybrid. Economy ratings are expected to be in the low 8s L/100kms in the city, low 6s on the highway.

Dynamic Select is standard fare, allowing the driver to switch between Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes. The tester was also equipped with the optional Air Body Control, which improves on its predecessor’s Airmatic system ability to smooth out the ride.

Mercedes boasts that the GLC is at home on any terrain. Most of those purchased will become city dwellers, destined to hunt in shopping malls, but the drive proved the GLC is more than capable in the wild.

Sadly, the Off-Road Engineering package will not be offered in Canada. An off-road course included a 38-degree incline, which my drive partner Regina Chan expertly scaled, tilted about 25 degrees at one point!

The standard safety package is extensive and notably includes Collision Prevention Assist, which warns of an imminent crash and helps to apply the brakes, and the self-explanatory Passive Blind Spot Assist.

I’m a sucker for M-B’s Intelligent Drive concept. The various systems take data from the various sensors to boost comfort and safety. Systems that think and act somewhat quicker than your average driver!

The first Canadian models will be gas-powered, a turbo-diesel comes in the 2017 model year and a plug-in hybrid is scheduled for 2018. A Coupe version is on the way but no date yet.

The base sticker price is $44,950 but take it up to the premium package, with COMAND navigation and a superb panoramic roof, and you are nudging 50 grand. Load in those extra tricky active safety technologies and you soon hit the mid-50s.

VIDEO: Mercedes-Benz TV: The new GLC – Trailer

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