Atlanta, Georgia – The answer was simple: “Because that’s where our new headquarters are located!” The question? Why Atlanta for the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz GLC? That’s right, Atlanta, Georgia is where the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz USA has been relocated to. Apparently more tax friendly and less expensive than their previous home in New Jersey.

Once our curiosity was satisfied at why the seeming odd location for a first drive, business was directed at the all-new-for-2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. This is Mercedes-Benz’s new compact crossover model replacing the previously popular and distinct GLK model. The naming convention is easier to understand: the GLC is equivalent to the C-Class in terms of product placement in the Mercedes-Benz lineup.

What might make less sense though is the design of the vehicle, especially for those that admired the GLK as a vehicle that was different in a segment of sameness. The GLK was bold, upright and boxy. The huge pointed star on the grille ensured that everyone knew what brand of vehicle you were driving as you arrived on the scene – the new GLC moves in a different direction.

Rounded out on all corners, the GLC looks very similar to its closest competitor in the market, the Audi Q5. Remove the badging, put these vehicles side-by-side and pick a hundred luxury car shoppers at random and it would be anybody’s guess at which vehicle is the Mercedes-Benz and which is the Audi. That is unfortunate from where I stand.

The utility and size of the GLK was always called into question and this is where Mercedes-Benz has greatly improved the GLC. The GLC has grown in every dimension both inside and out, offering a larger cargo capacity, more passenger volume and a more airy feel on the inside.

The GLK was offered with two engines, a 3.0L V6 and a four-cylinder diesel – surprisingly the diesel engine was less expensive than the V6 and of course offered better fuel economy. The base price for a GLK 250 4MATIC was $48,600 and in terms of sales the Bluetec diesel–equipped GLK represented 80 percent of GLK sales in Canada.

For 2016 the GLC is offered only with a new direct injection turbo 2.0L four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Its base price is actually lower than that of the outgoing GLK with a starting price of just $44,950. Many, including myself, were a little confused at the loss of the diesel engine in the lineup, especially when that engine represented 80 percent of sales. But when you sit back and look at the numbers the omission is not as bad as it looks.

Battle of the Diesels: 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28d vs Mercedes-Benz GLK 250 Bluetec Diesel

This new 2.0L gas engine offers more power than the diesel, is nearly four thousand dollars less expensive than the diesel was and it is estimated it will be very close to the diesel in efficiency – much more efficient than the outgoing V6 gas engine. We were assured that the Bluetec engine will be offered next model year and that most likely pricing will be held in line. Based on this information I’d venture to guess the 2017 GLC 250 (BlueTEC Diesel) will have a starting price of around $49,000.

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