Mercedes-Benz GLC wins Best Luxury SUV under $150K

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Car Of The Year

With more space, more technology, more efficiency and more style, the 2024 Drive Car of the Year Best Luxury SUV under $150K is a perfect solution for buyers wanting just a little bit ‘more’


At the luxurious end of the Drive Car of the Year 2024 cohort, we’ve updated our Best Medium Luxury SUV award to discount size and instead placed a price cap. This means that luxury SUVs of all sizes compete for the top honours in 2024, ready to topple the reigning champion – the Jaguar F-Pace.

When car shopping is at the top end of town, buyer expectations are exacting. Everything from ride quality, powertrain refinement, materials quality, technology, and more are placed under the microscope. Value, while still important, becomes a secondary consideration as an outright wow factor is placed right at the forefront for prestige buyers.

Last year’s champion, the Jaguar F-Pace, beat out the Lexus NX and BMW X3 for the prestige crown thanks to its segment-defining cabin presentation, dynamic heritage, and stand-out performance powertrain.

As such, it has earned its way back into the running for 2024 – but it faces some tough, new competition in the way of the new Mercedes-Benz GLC and facelifted Porsche Cayenne. All three are polished prestige vehicles in their own right, but an interesting wildcard entry from the Kia EV9 initially had judges at odds.

Kia is not typically a luxury nameplate in the Australian new-car market. But there’s no doubt its ground-breaking seven-seat EV9 made waves throughout the latter half of 2023 for bringing an electric powertrain to a large-sized SUV, complete with luxurious trimmings inside the cabin.

But as much of a category shake-up it was to include a Kia, it’s not like it didn’t have its work cut out for it. Mercedes-Benz notched up a category win last year with the C-Class sedan, and it’s a formula the brand has applied to the GLC SUV (arguably to better effect).

As well, Porsche is touting one of the most comprehensive updates it has ever made to a Cayenne SUV this year. We know the Cayenne stocks enviable dynamics for such a big SUV, but the German marque has also introduced the tech and comforts of its cutting-edge Taycan.

Each of these vehicles are hugely impressive execution of a luxurious SUV, but only one of them could hold a candle to Drive’s rigorous demands expected of the Best Luxury SUV Under $150,000.

Winner: Mercedes-Benz GLC

Drive’s pick: Mercedes-Benz GLC300 from $104,900 MSRP

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Mercedes-Benz GLC key facts:

  • Priced from $104,900 to $113,900 (range)
  • 5-year warranty
  • 7.7L/100km consumption (claimed)

Why the Mercedes-Benz GLC won:

  • Cabin wows with technology and luxuriousness
  • Powerful but refined engine and transmission
  • Customisability and connectivity of infotainment software

Our judges were blown away last year when we awarded the then-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but the new GLC has won even more convincingly over its peers and takes out the Drive Car of the Year Best Luxury SUV Under $150,000.

The model was issued with a new generation mid-way through the year which brought new styling (and associated technologies), a multitude of technology updates, and more space in just about every dimension.

As is tradition with lower-down-the-ladder Mercedes-Benz models, the new GLC reissues hallmark additions first presented on the S-Class limousine flagship of a few years ago. There’s a well-presented MBUX infotainment system with integrated augmented reality, sumptuous materials covering just about every interior surface, and a high-tech engine with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology for fuel-saving benefits.

Interestingly, the new-generation GLC only comes in a single variant – the GLC300. The car maker made the call based on buyer preferences of the previous iteration, where only a scant few deliveries were of the entry-level GLC200. It leaves less choice for buyers in the GLC line-up, though there are option packs buyers can choose from to up-spec their vehicle.

Regardless, the GLC300 comes packed with equipment as standard and its impressive array of features, comfort, and technology will leave no buyer wanting for more.

It’s difficult to keep a straight face after sliding inside the sumptuous cabin for the first time – it’s so well presented no matter where you look, while the dominating 11.9-inch infotainment touchscreen really sets the technological pace for the cabin.  

Operation of the big touchscreen is intuitive and quick, plus its functionality contains all manner of features and tricks to impress passengers. Step up to the additional Plus Package to unlock an augmented-reality navigation system that displays a live view of the road ahead and overlays directional information.

Meanwhile, a full-suite of active and passive safety systems ensures the car received a five-star ANCAP crash result mid-way through 2023.

The basics aren’t forgotten – there’s still copious storage around the front row and every controllable aspect falls ergonomically to hand – and there’s plenty of space to get comfortable in too (markedly more so than the C-Class sedan).

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The high-end experience extends to the second row of seats. The leg room is sizeable and head room is unimpeded by the sunroof. There is no diminishment in the quality of materials in the second row which is not always a given, even at this premium level.

Mercedes-Benz was one of the first German prestige brands to issue a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty on its products which was a big step for the brand at the time. Servicing is notably expensive, which is a shame, but at least the capped-price programs detail exactly what you’ll pay each year.

But arguably, the way the Mercedes-Benz GLC300 drives is its greatest asset. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 190kW and 400Nm. That’s a punchy set of outputs coming from a 2.0-litre powertrain, and it certainly feels as such in practice.

The all-wheel-drive system puts power down to the ground faithfully and allows a nimble feeling through corners, while the car remains easy to manoeuvre in town.

Ride quality is buttery smooth despite pockmarked and potholed roads – the way the suspension is able to shield passengers inside from too much upset is commendable.

At the end of the day, the new Mercedes-Benz GLC exudes every aspect that buyers demand from a prestige car purchase – cabin technology, sophisticated looks, high-end materials, and a cracking powertrain – the GLC300 has it all and that’s why it’s won this year’s Drive Car of the Year Best Luxury SUV Under $150,000.

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Drive Car of the Year – Every category, every winner

Find out everything you need to know about all the Drive Car of the Year 2024 category winners at our DCOTY content hub.

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Drive Car of the Year 2024

All the categories, all the winners – Drive Car of the Year 2024

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned journalists got the better end of the deal. With tenures at CarAdvice, Wheels Media, and now Drive, Tom’s breadth of experience and industry knowledge informs a strong opinion on all things automotive. At Drive, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories.

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