It has up­per hand ... for now

Herald Sun - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? -

THE QUES­TION

What are your thoughts on the Mercedes-Benz GLC? I’m look­ing for some­thing around that size and the GLC was rec­om­mended to me. There are two diesels and a petrol en­gine op­tion and the fin­ish looks good. Peter Rau, email The GLC is the new­est ar­rival in the mid-size SUV segment and is priced and spec­i­fied to out­per­form the es­tab­lished play­ers. Go for the petrol un­less you’re do­ing se­ri­ous high­way kilo­me­tres: it is more re­spon­sive than the diesel duo and uses only marginally more fuel. The cars are built in Ger­many and the fit and fin­ish is ac­cord­ingly as good as you’ll find in this class. As with most play­ers in this segment, the all-wheel drive is more for keep­ing own­ers on the bi­tu­men rather than adding any real off-road prow­ess.

CHOICES

Mercedes GLC250 $68,705 The Benz’s price is in­flated by the high level of stan­dard gear, from leather up­hol­stery to in­fo­tain­ment with sat­nav, 360de­gree cam­era and dig­i­tal au­dio. The de­fault driver as­sis­tance pack cov­ers adap­tive cruise con­trol, ac­tive blindspot and lane-keep­ing as­sist and rear cross-traf­fic as­sis­tance. Ride qual­ity in the GLC is the best com­pro­mise be­tween com­pli­ance and cor­ner­ing tenac­ity and the nine-speed au­to­matic is quick to shift in both di­rec­tions with­out slosh­ing the cap­puc­cino. Rear seat space is bet­ter than av­er­age and the view from the front seats is rel­a­tively un­clut­tered com­pared to its ri­vals, re­flect­ing the re­cent trend to ditch phys­i­cal but­tons for software-op­er­ated vir­tual switchgear. The Benz SUV of­fi­cially uses 7.2L/100km against 7.3L for the BMW and the Audi’s 7.5L.

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI $63,966

Pack­ag­ing isn’t far off the op­po­si­tion but the pre­sen­ta­tion, usu­ally Audi’s strong suit, can’t match the oth­ers. Put that down to the Q5 (launched in 2008 and up­dated in late 2012) start­ing to show its age, which in part is why the Audi doesn’t have the lat­est tech. Ac­tive cruise con­trol, a $1300 op­tion, adds blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing and au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing. How­ever, the new ver­sion due next year (to be re­vealed at next month’s Paris show) will ad­dress the tech is­sues. The Audi also costs just be­low the lux­ury car tax thresh­old, so buy­ers aren’t do­nat­ing any ex­tra to the gov­ern­ment cof­fers.

BMW X3 xDrive 28i $74,315

The 28i is the sporti­est of this group but you pay a pre­mium for it. It is the quick­est in a straight line and has dy­nam­ics to match. That comes at some trade-off to the around-town drive but isn’t, by it­self, a deal-breaker. Not match­ing the Benz’s stan­dard gear is. The Beemer misses out on adap­tive LED head­lamps, 20inch rims and ac­tive driv­ing aids. Op­tion them up and the price blows out by nearly $10,000. The $62,200 20i is worth con­sid­er­ing if you don’t want the per­for­mance but it too will need an ex­ten­sive pe­rusal of the op­tions list to match the Mercedes’ spec. The cabin is func­tional and fash­ion­able and the iDrive in­fo­tain­ment con­troller is as in­tu­itive as ever.

WILD­CARD

Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport $59,900 A petrol-pow­ered Disco Sport can only be had in the base SE guise, so it misses out on many of the fea­tures found in its ri­vals. Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and lane-de­par­ture warn­ing are stan­dard, with 360de­gree cam­era and blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing on the op­tions list. As part of the Disco’s re­mit, it has to han­dle off-road du­ties and it is the stand­out of the bunch in that re­gard. The ex­tra ar­tic­u­la­tion doesn’t give it an edge on-road, where the ride is more un­set­tled and the steer­ing not quite as pre­cise. Se­condrow space is a stand­out and the Land Rover can be op­tioned with a third-row, though this is strictly for chil­dren.

VER­DICT

The Benz scores a solid win here sim­ply by hav­ing much more gear for not much more cost and be­ing close to the pointy end in ev­ery ob­jec­tive and sub­jec­tive assess­ment. That edge should change with the ar­rival of a new Q5 but for now the GLC is rid­ing high.

MERCEDES-BENZ GLC250

AUDI Q5 BMW X3

LAND ROVER DIS­COV­ERY SPORT

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