When car shopping, you’re always going to hear from friends, coworkers, or automotive journalists that going upmarket and spending extra on a luxury compact crossover is a great decision. Yet, you’re rarely given logical or legitimate reasons why, other than subcompacts are cheaply made and not as refined as the more expensive vehicles in the lineup, despite the fact that they offer practicality, an entry level luxury experience, and a relatively affordable price tag that won’t break the bank. However, there is some truth to overlooking these crossovers and going with something bigger, and for Mercedes Benz, purchasing a GLC instead of a GLA is going to make you a happier customer in the long run. So here is a short list of reasons why you should spend the extra $6k and buy a 2021 Mercedes Benz GLC 300.
More Spacious Interior
Starting off with the most obvious is the improved practicality, as the GLC is 9 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the GLA, which is going to have a profound effect on the interior room of the cabin. While you’re not going to feel as claustrophobic in a subcompact crossover as you would in a sedan, for a family of three or four, you’ll quickly outgrow this vehicle and find yourself in need of upgrading rather quickly. With the GLC, all occupants will have plenty of leg and head room, and for the 2nd row, it is possible to fit a third person in the center, which is less likely in the GLA.
For rear cargo space, the GLC will initially have 19.5 cubic ft of room behind the 2nd row seats, but keep in mind this is not class leading by any means. However, there is a bit of deception as there’s plenty of room in terms of width and we believe you could fit multiple bags of luggage if you’re going on a road trip with the family. The GLA on the other hand, will have 15.4 cubic ft of cargo space which is also nowhere close to being the most practical in it’s segment and actually falls short of what most hatchbacks offer. Where the GLA becomes a viable option is if you don’t have a family and live in the city, as it’s perfectly sized and provides enough space for quick trips to the grocery store.
Crossovers have never really been known to offer the most exhilarating driving experiences, especially for non performance models, but where the GLC differs from the GLA isn’t limited to the horsepower and lb ft of torque figures we see on paper, but rather how both vehicles manage that power through different drive modes and whether they provide a plush and comfortable ride during your weekday commutes or weekend road trips.
After recently featuring both, the GLC is far and a way smoother, with a more linear acceleration and meaningful sport plus mode that actually provides great driver feedback, which is something we couldn’t say with the GLA. If you insist on going with the subcompact crossover because a vehicle the size of a GLC isn’t necessary, we recommend upgrading to the GLA35 AMG for better overall performance. Otherwise, when driving on back roads, the highway, or even in urban area, the GLA struggles to really impress in any mode besides comfort and eco, as the 2 liter 4 cylinder engine leaves much more to be desired, even if you don’t intend on accelerating aggressively.
This is where the GLC comes in to steal the show, as no matter what condition or environment you face when traveling, this crossover is going to provide one of the smoothest driving experiences in this segment without question, and we believe there’s better refinement when it comes to the luxury aspect when compared to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. The turbocharged 4 cylinder under the hood pairs very well with the 9 speed automatic transmission, and when shifting through gears it’s seamless and pleasant, reflecting the overall sophisticated stature of this crossover. While sport plus mode effects throttle response and steering input, it’s not so aggressive where drivers looking for something more relaxed and serene won’t be disturbed when desiring to get up to speed in a quicker manner.
However, we can’t overlook the GLA’s driving dynamics, as it’s on par with it’s closest rivals and doesn’t disappoint in the overall grand scheme of things. It meets the expectations of many consumers and is going to offer a superior ride quality to non German competitors, but if you’re looking for a healthy dose of performance to match the entry level luxury feel, that’s where you may want to upgrade to either the GLC or GLA35 AMG.
More Refined and Luxurious
If you were to test drive both the GLC and GLA back to back, before even driving off the lot you’re going to notice the significant difference in terms of interior quality. While Mercedes Benz has made great strides to offering an upscale cabin with their 4 models priced below $40k that we’d argue is currently better than BMW and Audi’s interior layout in this segment, the GLC even in it’s current state and in need of a refresh, is miles ahead when it comes to interior design. You feel as though you’re sitting in a cockpit, with the dashboard and center console wrapping around you to provide a safe and secure feeling, while also having higher quality materials to give you a true sense of luxury and craftsmanship.
Despite not having the same digital gauge cluster and infotainment system layout that we saw in the GLA and GLB, functionality remains the same and in true Mercedes Benz fashion is still going offer an in-depth user interface that’s responsive and high quality. The digital gauge cluster is certainly on par with Audi’s virtual cockpit, and even better it’s fully customizable.
Yet for buyers who are emphatic about purchasing a GLA, Mercedes Benz hasn’t forgotten about you, and in fact is one of the few brands that will go above and beyond it’s rivals when it comes to optional features and packages. This includes contoured leather seats, that are heated and ventilated, 3 position memory for both the driver and passenger, augmented reality for the navigation system, adjustable 2nd row seats, ambient lighting, and a panoramic moonroof. Do keep in mind that as you start adding those features, you’re now entering the same price range as the GLC, which even in base form is a more polished crossover.
At the end of the day, is the GLC worth paying the extra $6000? Absolutely. It’s not just the perception of going upscale with a compact crossover rather than subcompact, which shouldn’t be a primary motivational factor when car shopping, but it’s the extra practicality, better performance, and interior comfort that makes owning the GLC worth it, especially if you have a growing family. The refinement and overall quality is going to ease any buyers remorse after passing on the GLA, and we believe is the better long term buying decision if you are cross shopping both vehicles. Whichever you choose, Mercedes Benz will still impress in both segments when it comes to optional packages, features, and technology and should be at the op of your list of considerations when looking for a subcompact or compact crossover.
2021 Mercedes Benz GLA Review – Start Up, Revs, Walk Around and Test Drive
2020 Mercedes Benz GLB Review – Walk Around and Test Drive
2021 Mercedes Benz GLC Review – Start Up, Revs, Walk Around, and Test Drive