It has upper hand ... for now
THE QUESTION 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 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. 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. 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 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.