Party gets rough

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter: @PaulWard­Gover

THE side­line is the safest place when car com­pa­nies start a spat. This week, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are play­ing the serve-and-vol­ley game.

The world’s old­est car com­pany is happy be­cause it has a new-model rush, start­ing with the im­mi­nent May­bach S600 flag­ship and lead­ing to a to­tal over­haul of its small cars —A, B, CLA-Class and more by the end of 2017.

Most im­por­tantly, the GLC — its SUV to sit in the sweet spot for fam­i­lies — is com­ing next year. It took a wrong turn when the orig­i­nal GLC, called the GLK, was built only in left­hand drive but the new­comer will make amends.

Which brings us to the SUV con­flict with BMW, a long-term win­ner with its X5. The fam­ily now runs from the new front­drive X1 to the hulk­ing high­per­for­mance X6M.

Benz’s just-in­tro­duced SUV coupe, the GLE, is vir­tu­ally a clone of the X6. That’s not lost on BMW Aus­tralia boss Marc Werner.

When Benz makes its tongue-in-cheek claim on the GLE coupe — “It’s fine to ar­rive late at a party if you bring a spe­cial gift” — Werner can’t hold back.

“They are late to the party but it’s our party, it’s al­ways been our party, and we in­tend to keep it that way,” Werner says. “Yes, they are our col­leagues, but this is busi­ness.”

He is bullish about the im­pact of the X mod­els, which ac­count for nearly half of all BMW de­liv­er­ies in Aus­tralia, and par­tic­u­larly the X1 which fi­nally has the boot space that the orig­i­nal lacked.

“Yes, it’s our party. And, with ve­hi­cles like the X1, we are con­fi­dent we can keep it that way.”

New BMW X1: Front-driver with, fi­nally, rear space

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