From £63,3607
Plug-in hybrid offers transformative electric range, but at a price that may be hard to swallow for private buyers

Mercedes-Benz is aiming squarely at fleet success with its second-generation version of the Mercedes GLC mid-sized family SUV, which has just arrived on UK roads - and, as is typical of it, is firing at its rivals with both barrels. It’s continuing to offer both diesel- and petrol-electric plug-in hybrid models, and both are now on sale with advertised lab-test fuel economy of greater than 500mpg. There are mild-hybrid petrol- and diesel models in the revised line-up too, while the Mercedes-AMG performance models are likely to follow along later.

A giant-sized drive battery is behind the claimed efficiency of the PHEVs. The new car’s platform having been designed especially for ‘plug-in hybridisation’, it has more than twice as much energy storage as its predecessor: 31.2kWh. That’s a healthy dose more than the closely related Mercedes C-Class PHEV, the Mercedes C300e, and more than double what one of the firm's compact PHEVs, such as the A250e version of the Mercedes A-Class, offers (it's close to the battery capacity of a £130k Range Rover PHEV, in fact). And it translates into two things of note: a claimed electric range of some 80 miles (which is more than enough to make this the only plug-in hybrid SUV currently on the market to qualify for a 5% benefit-in-kind rating, even in fully loaded trim) - and a kerb weight of almost 2.3 tonnes.

The new GLC 300e’s tax efficiency is the kind for which fleet buyers will expect to pay a premium but, in this case, it’s a big one. While prices for other GLC models start at little more than £50k, it takes £62k to get into the cheapest PHEV, and nearly £75k for a full-house GLC 300de diesel. The outgoing GLC 300e equivalent of our test car was nearly £15,000 cheaper: – a hike that it’ll take more than ‘Trussonomics’ to explain to some.

Mercedes glc 300e 2023 05 front cornering

If you’re a private buyer, £70,000 will get you into markedly more expensive-feeling SUVs than this, needless to say. The GLC’s interior has adult-appropriate accommodation in both rows of seats, and a boot that’s pretty big and almost entirely unpenalised by any battery pack intrusion (although under-floor cable storage space is notable by its absence). 

Up front, the instrumentation layout and design theme will be instantly recognisable to C-Class owners. With its totem-like central MBUX infotainment system, crisp digital instruments, large head-up display and multi-coloured ambient lighting, our test car was yet more evidence of Mercedes recasting itself as a modern tech company whose wares just happen to come in large boxes with wheels on them. 

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The GLC’s interior ambience could be the perfect match for the look of the high-end consumer electronics in your lounge or kitchen, but it was a little monotone and clinical for this tester’s tastes. Material quality has that ritzy top-level impact on the eye, although there are places where it doesn’t appeal so much to the touch, as is becoming a Mercedes theme.

Mercedes glc 300e 2023 14 dashboard

To drive, the GLC 300e has plenty of instant, smooth, electric pick-up from low speed and remains impressively quiet and slick even when the engine’s running. The car’s weight doesn’t impact much on its cornering manners, its outright performance or its general manoeuvrability, and it has more than enough electric-only power to keep easy pace with everyday traffic even around the national speed limit. 

On a chilly test day, that claimed 80-mile electric range turned into a real-world EV range of about 60. But even at that, the GLC could be worth its high price - not just for what it could do to save you company car tax, but in fuel savings as well, although the car's high list price may make that a closer-run thing than it might at first seem.

While other GLCs get steel coil suspension all round as standard (height-adjustable air springs and four-wheel steering are optional in other markets but aren’t offered in the UK), the PHEVs adopt self-levelling air suspension at the rear to keep better control of the weight of that battery. 

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The plug-in versions also miss out on the sportier suspension tuning of other AMG Line models and our test car did feel a little more softly sprung and heavy on rising and falling country roads than the class norm, riding bumps with notable fidget and heave. Ride isolation isn’t brilliant over sharper edges, either, but smoother surfaces seem to agree with the car’s axles far better, and much of the rest of the time, the car has a refined character and easy drivability.

That apart, it isn’t in any way special to drive, and with ownership qualifications like it has, perhaps it needn’t be in order to find buyers in just the right quarters.

Mercedes glc 300e 2023 25 side static


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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xxxx 8 December 2022

565mpg when will phev's be called in. A proper BEV like a Leaf doesn't even get close to that figure. Opposite to earlierly comment in that it's not electric gate as they can make a case for themselves it's Plug-In Gate, looking forward to when these tax dodgers get caught out. 

gagaga 7 December 2022

"But even at that, the GLC could be worth its high price - not just for what it could do to save you company car tax, but in fuel savings as well, "

You clearly don't seem to understand that electricity costs money too.  And a range of 60 rather than 80 miles means it's costing you a third more again, just because it's cold.

This thing will also be like the hybrid Cayenne I had for a few days - it you're making short journeys on the battery, most of the charge in the battery is used to keep heating up the engine and fluids so it can start clean. Pointless if you're going a couple of miles down the road.

In reality for the mums on the school run who use this, that 60 is actually 20 miles range.  Or 1.5kwh/mile.  Please tell me how that makes 500mpg or 'green'.

Once upon a time this was a great magazine, it's now staffed by people who quote efficiency of 500mpg without even batting an eyelid.  The reality is 18-20mpg something you could have shown in a couple of hours driving this lump around.   And 75 grand for a C class?  Lol.

Just Saying 7 December 2022
Well said gagaga
First there was diesel gate.
And next they'll be electric gate.
Boris9119 7 December 2022

Its startling how journalists, magazines and manufacturers drool over mpg numbers like they matter in most parts of the world. Hello, they don't! Never remember talking with a 911 owner and discussing their decision to purchase based on mpg? Don't remember the S class owner lamenting their decision to purchase after visiting the petrol station? Don't remember the Type R owner wishing they had bought the diesel Civic, and on and on. In the UK petrol is expensive, I get that, but globally most people buy the car they aspire to and care little about the mpg. Not saying it's right, not saying its good. But tell me who on these forums would turn down the keys to a GT3 on the basis it doesn't get 40mpg?

catnip 7 December 2022

"...our test car was yet more evidence of Mercedes recasting itself as a modern tech company whose wares just happen to come in large boxes with wheels on them."

A very astute, and accurate comment by Mr Saunders. To be fair, that seems to be the principle of many manufacturers nowadays, rather than producing vehicles for those of us who are really into our driving.