Mercedes-Benz has turned itself into a truck brand with the sort of commitment Tom Brady has made to football excellence and Justin Bieber has made to total insolence. The latest Mercedes SUV (sport-utility vehicle), the GLC, is a perfect example.

The GLC, the replacement for the former GLK, is the middle child in a lineup of SUVs that includes the GLA mini-crossover, the G-Class, the GLE-Class, not to mention all the AMG-branded derivatives.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 2015.  Die DYNAMIC SELECT-Programme und die Offroad-Animationen werden auf dem zentralen Media-Display inszeniert. In Echtzeit werden hier verschiedene Parameter wie Steigung, Seitenneigung, Lenkeinschlag, Kompasskurs oder die AIR BODY CONTROL-Einstellungen dynamisch dargestellt. Mercedes-Benz GLC 2015. The DYNAMIC SELECT modes and off-road animations are shown on the central media display. Various parameters such as gradient, tilt angle, steering angle, compass course or the AIR BODY CONTROL settings are shown here dynamically in real time.

The  iPad-like tablet display is an essential feature of the new GLC.

My GLC tester (base price $44,950) was loaded with options, bringing the final sticker price to a whopping $60,380. This is a very car-like wagon, with all-wheel drive (AWD) and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

A very modern cabin.

A very modern cabin.

The steering is light and the handling is nimble. Most important of all, though, the GLC is equipped like a car and designed like one, too – right down to the mouse-activated, armrest-located interface that gives you access to all the car’s systems and features.

Welcome to the future, says Mercedes’ innovator-in-chief, Thomas Weber, the head of research and development. Pointing to the iPad-like colour display screen at the top of the centre stack, above the three round vents, he notes that “more and more for the younger the customer, the focus will be on these topics.”

On paved roads the GLC feel quick and nimble.

On paved roads the GLC feel quick and nimble.

Topics? Infotainment and connectivity. That screen unlocks almost all the new GLC’s many fancy standard features, from adjustable driving dynamics (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual) to the multimedia system, navigation, and more – all in a mid-size crossover that itself delivers semi-autonomous driving.

The classics of car making – ride, handling, steering, cornering, braking, crash test scores and such – are still important, but the buyers of tomorrow want to stay connected at all times in vehicles that can drive themselves while spewing out zero or very low emissions. Not surprisingly, the interface is easy to use, intuitive and functional without the aid of an owner’s manual.

All-wheel drive is standard.

All-wheel drive is standard.

For those who do care about the driving, the signature feature is the Advanced Driving Assistance Package with all its semi-autonomous interventions that turn the GLC into a partially self-driving car ($00.00 in the pricing sheet). Weber, though, argues that the air suspension ($1,800) truly sets the GLC apart.

“It’s exclusive to the segment,” he says of something that allows drivers to punch up one of five modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ & Individual.

Compared to the old GLK, the GLC is roomer, the wheelbase and track are wider, ride comfort and quietness are much improved and the list of gizmos is long. The list of available options is also very long and my tester was loaded with many of them – Sport package ($1,500), LED lighting ($1,700), Intelligent Drive ($2,700) and two premium packages (worth $7,800) that added a panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, a power tailgate and more.

The GLC has a roomy cargo area in the rear. Be wary of inflating the price by ticking too many items on the long options list.

The GLC has a roomy cargo area in the rear. Be wary of inflating the price by ticking too many items on the long options list.

In the past, a $60,000 SUV would by definition be powered by an excellent V-6 or even a V-8 engine. No more. For now, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo (shared with the C 300 4MATIC) is standard. A new diesel will come for 2017, with a hybrid coming in 2018.

The old GLK was a tight fit with a noisy ride. Not the GLC.

“Now it’s really a vehicle for five adults, with all the luggage they need for a holiday. So now it’s not a small car, but a full-size SUV. Even though we lowered the height by 5 mm,” says Weber.

The exterior design, he adds, now fits into the Merc lineup; the design language is consistent with the rest of what you see in a Mercedes dealership.
The GLC is a good SUV with lots of technology and it’s priced competitively, too. And not just against rivals like the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. Case in point: a loaded version of the 2016 Ford Edge climbs into the mid-$50,000s.

A Ford or a Mercedes? For most brand-sensitive SUV buyers, the choice is obvious. Mercedes the truck company has become an SUV force to rival not just the Germans, but American car companies who have long dominated the truck market.

THE LOOK: The design is clean and uncluttered, with few of the distracting bulges and creases of many recent Mercedes-Benz vehicle.

THE DRIVE: The little turbo four-banger is rated at 241 horsepower. It delivers enough oomph, but it feels busy and there is a little turbo lag. The ride is smooth, the brakes strong and the steering light.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS: What’s under that skin is the basic platform of the C-Class sedan.

THE CABIN/STORAGE: There is space for adults and plenty of cargo room.

THE BRAND: The Mercedes brand is powerful, steeped in history and noteworthy for innovation.

WHY BUYS? Canadians are snapping up SUVs at a record pace. This one if for shoppers who want a premium rig with lots of technology.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder (241 horsepower/273 lb-ft torque).

Transmission: nine-speed manual automatic.

Drive: all-wheel.

Warranty: four years or 80,000 km.

Price: $44,950 base; $60,380 as tested.

Comparables: Audi Q5, BMW X3 and X4, Cadillac SRX, Acura RDX, Porsche Macan, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKX, Infiniti QX50.

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