Alsace, France – As a replacement for the GLK mid-size SUV, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC has some big shoes to fill. That’s if you equate hoof size with sales success. Worldwide, Mercedes has moved over 650,000 GLKs since 2008, and it is the automaker’s best-selling SUV. In Canada, the GLK is Mercedes second most popular model (the majority being diesel), behind the C-Class sedan.

Yes, it’s an important vehicle, and one they don’t want to cock up.

But before we delve into this newcomer, it’s time for some housekeeping: New Mercedes-Benz SUV Nomenclature 101. Pay attention and no talking in the back row.

From now on, all Mercedes SUVs start with the letter G, coming down from the granddaddy of them all, the ancient, cubist, indestructible G Wagon. Any SUV below that is a three letter affair commencing with GL, with third letter relating to the corresponding class of Mercedes-Benz sedan. Thus, the upcoming new full-size SUV (né GL) will be the GLS. Below that, the Mercedes-Benz GLE (formerly ML). The entry-level GLA crossover is related to the CLA sedan. Makes sense?

Now class, who can tell me what this reimagined mid-sizer is called? Clue: it lines up with the C-Class sedan.

You in the back row wearing the beer helmet. Yes, Jacob… and stop bothering Johnny.

No, “bugger off” is not the right answer. Johnny? Thank you. It’s the GLC.

And back to the task at hand.

In a nutshell, Mercedes-Benz has not messed this one up. As per the preordained script, this new generation SUV/crossover trumps the outgoing one by being a bit bigger, roomier, lighter, and more refined. It also comes with more standard kit, has a nicer interior, burns less fuel and is available with Benz’s latest safety and driver’s aid technologies.

The only possible point of contention from fans of the outgoing model could be the GLC’s appearance – it’s a tad nondescript when compared to the chunky GLK that stood out from the crowd, loud and proud.

That said, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC is clean, handsome and cuts through the air with a class-leading 0.31 drag coefficient. The fact that it looks a bit like the Porsche Macan from the back is not such a bad thing.

From the front there’s no mistaking the GLC as anything but a Benz – the tri-star emblem on the grill is the size of a salad plate. The standard “Chrome Package” that some of these testers flaunted adds a touch of bling in the form of shiny front and rear scuff plates, chrome belt and shoulder accents, anodized aluminum grill inserts and roof rails, and twin stainless steel exhaust tips. Nineteen-inch alloys are standard with available 20-inch AMG wheels.

Unlike the GLK that had a 3.5L V6 as its only gas engine, the GLC will have four-cylinder power right across the board, be it gasoline, diesel or plug-in gas/electric hybrid.

More on Preview: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

First to arrive in Canada will be the GLC 300 4Matic powered by Benz’s familiar 2.0L turbo four that makes 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. An all-new nine-speed 9G-Tronic sends power to all four corners. It also brags standard adaptive damping that the GLK could not.

We will see this gasoline model in the fourth quarter of 2015. Diesel fans will have to wait until the third quarter of 2016 for the GLC 250d 4Matic.

A plug-in hybrid version, the 350e 4Matic, gets released in Europe late this year but it is at least two years away for us.

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