Wednesday 7 December 2016

It's no beauty, but this Merc SUV is different

The price is stiff for what you get

Published 23/10/2016 | 02:30

Crossover: Mercedes GLC Coupe
Crossover: Mercedes GLC Coupe

This week's car prompted not one, but two clichés: "Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder", and "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

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I can't say I like the 'sawn-off', sloped looks of the Mercedes GLC Coupe crossover/SUV. But many others quite liked it; so that's where the 'beauty' cliché comes from. And there is no doubt Mercedes closely followed the looks of the BMW X4 when they decided to make this coupe. Hence the reference to 'imitation'.

I could argue they have extended that beyond its looks because this costs in and around the same as the X4. That means it's priced around €10,000 more than the 'conventional' GLC (non-coupe) crossover which, to me, is one of the best cars around (and looks well).

In the course of my drives, I searched for the reasons you would buy this car over its 'better-looking' brother.

Well, for a start, quite a few people did like the look of it. And there is a steel sports suspension as standard - which made a noticeable difference to the drive. The steering felt far more direct with this.

And you get more car (it's 76mm longer: split between front and back), as well as All-Wheel-Drive. It is also 37mm lower but there is no change to the wheelbase or underpinnings.

Now, whether all that is enough to sway you to part with €60,000-plus is entirely a matter for you. But I will concede that, regardless of disposition towards it on looks, it is distinctive and it is different.

And in a market where people are craving crossovers, and something different, you have to say it has a few things going for it.

As well as that, rivals such as the Porsche Macan cost a fair bit more.

From where I was sitting - what a great driver's position it has - I enjoyed the drive a lot.

It wasn't madly dynamic, certainly not compared with the X4, but there was a robust assuredness and directness about its handling.

I think the cabins in Mercs these days are second to none; it was impossible to overlook the sense of smart comfort in this.

I'm a fan of the display/instrument layout and the big central console. I found stuff easy to use and straightforward, but some might find them clunky given the accelerated sophistication in the whole area of interface and connectivity.

I had expected rear-seat passengers to complain about restricted head room - because of that sharply-raked roofline - but I didn't hear a word.

So I had to climb in myself, just to check. It wasn't great for me (6ft 1ins) and I would not spend a long journey back there.

But Mercedes insist entrance height, shoulder, elbow and leg-room are the same as the conventional GLC itself. The tailgate slopes over a more-than-decent boot (491 litres - to 1,400l if you fold the rear seats). Lots of room. But rear visibility out the back window is poor.

And here's the thing. While I don't like the profile of the car (because of that sloping roof), I was really taken by the front.

It is totally dominated by the large Mercedes emblem trumpeting from the centre-grille - one of the most eye-catching around. When you see this in your rear-view mirror, you know there's a Merc behind you.

The 2.1-litre diesel engine is the one I've known from so many Mercedes over the years. Without ever being brilliant, it worked well with the 9psd automatic transmission (a lot of my driving was in eighth gear - mad, isn't it?) I've had noisier drives in Mercs that had this engine. That's because they have been able to dampen sound a lot in this as there is more room under the bonnet to pack in noise absorption. Simple really.

One final crib. The side skirts/running board give a great dynamic look to the sides - but beware. If you don't stretch out over them you risk picking up a muddy or wet smear on the lower-leg part of whatever it is you are wearing.

So would I buy it? No, I'd still stick with the conventional GLC. I like it a lot and I voted heavily for it as a jury member of the World Car of the Year awards.

But I have to admit that the coupe version has real attractions.

I'm not convinced it is worth the guts of €10,000 extra just because it looks so different and drives a bit better. Which forces me into a sort-of cliché conclusion: ultimately, it comes down to your taste, your preferences and your ability to pay for something that is most assuredly different.

Facts & figures

Mercedes GLC Coupe 220d 4Matic crossover, (2,143cc, 170bhp, 9spd auto), 5.4/4 litres/100km (depends on model), 143g/km, tax €390.

Equipment includes leather, air con, AMG interior, Park Assist, collision prevention, heated front seats, connectivity/USB, range of passive and active safety elements, 'intelligent' light system.

Options: 20ins AMG alloys, Night Pack, protective side mouldings.

Price: €65,435; with options: €72,304

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