Friday 20 April 2018

Snob rules: GLC gives Merc the perks of SUV

Space, luxury but average handling

Merc GLC - luxury but average handling.
Merc GLC - luxury but average handling.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

You will have to take my word for this, but one day recently while I was waiting at red lights in south County Dublin, I counted eight SUV/Crossovers in a row availing of the green. If I had someone with me, I'd have asked them to use their mobile to take a picture.

I've never seen that before on a public road. And most of them had 141 to 161 registrations.

From memory (and it's a little patchy) there was a Nissan Qashqai, a KIA Sportage, a Skoda Yeti, a BMW X5, a Lexus RX, an Audi Q5, a Volvo XC60 and an old Land Rover Discovery.

I tried to keep the sequence in mind but heavy beeping from the vehicle behind (a large van) prompted a quick departure when the lights changed.

I just thought it was one of those random moments, you know, when you visualise as well as realise how massive the change has been in what we want to drive.

You may notice there was no Mercedes mentioned in my random SUV-watch but I'd expect there would be on another day. They are beefing up their ranks at a rate of knots.

They haven't had what we call a mid-size SUV in right-hand drive before but with this new GLC version they certainly have. It is based on the C-Class saloon (hence the 'C' ) but it is much, much bigger inside.

I'll start on a couple of negatives, if I may; not for the sake of doing so but to illustrate a point.

This is not the greatest driving machine they have; the ride and handing are short of the best around and it looks plain enough from the side and rear, though I particularly like the front. I ramped it up to Sport+ on the drive modes settings to get the feel of a bit more 'muscle' into it.

But I am convinced such considerations are of relatively minor concern to most buyers because two far more important factors come into play.

The first is the cabin; and in the GLC it is such a parallel to the excellent C-Class saloon that it is uncanny. Only for the different shape - and vastly expanded space thanks to an enhanced wheelbase - of the interior, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. You can't over estimate how important that is for anyone thinking of buying this. The rear seats split 40/20/40; drop them and you have a luggage area with 1,600-litres. Impressive.

The second is a simple, obvious fact: this is a Mercedes SUV which, whether we like to admit it or not, bestows an enormous amount of snob value.

I found it most comfortable; I'd be a fan of the seats too; strong and study.

And while I didn't go off-road driving once, I appreciated the grip and the traction I was afforded by the all-wheel-drive (4Matic). Like Crossovers, AWD is becoming increasingly popular as it gives you such a secure footing.

I won't say the 2.2-litre diesel in my GLC had me purring with delight or excitement either. It hadn't. It was only fair, to be honest. Much better engines - a whole new generation of them - are coming down the line. Not before time.

But I did marvel at the nine-speed automatic transmission. Nine speeds. On one of my longer motorway journeys I don't think I dipped below eighth-gear after I'd got to cruising speed. That must save a lot on fuel; the engine was barely ticking over at 100kmh. My only quibble was I'd have preferred a quicker, more dynamic kick-down when I wanted to accelerate.

Among those I named-checked at the south-Dublin lights were the Audi Q5, which is a keen rival of the GLC's and a better drive, and the Volvo XC60, among the best-looking on the market. Other competitors you'll see on the road include the BMW X3 and Lexus NX. It is an intensely crowded market but I don't see anyone's sales falling off - simply because demand is rising everywhere for these motors.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if I'm back here in the not-too-distant future telling you I spotted 10 SUV/crossovers in a row.

And whose to bet there won't be a Mercedes GLC among them?

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