Why crossovers are no longer dull

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WHEN CROSSOVERS first emerged they were functional, some might say dull, affairs which hardly whetted the appetite of petrolheads.

Not any more. When BMW, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti and, as tested here, Mercedes-Benz, get involved, then you can be assured the cars will at least be interesting.

That’s what we have here in the GLC. Not the Greater London Council, but Merc’s sports-oriented version of the crossover. Not just a Merc, though. It’s an AMG, from the company’s sports division.

Hence it comes adorned with chrome running boards, menacing alloy wheels. a sharp ride and sprinting performance.

Good car? You bet. But it has to be. As well as the aforementioned manufacturers competing in this sector, this car has to beat Land Rover-Range Rover and the splendid Jaguar F-Pace, not to mention some sparkling offerings from more mainstream manufacturers such as Nissan, Renault, Ford, Jeep and the rest.

Mercedes-Benz benefits, of course, from brand loyalty and even though the brand has undoubtedly been diluted of late with a number of more modest models, it still retains a certain cache which its rivals would love to equal.

It looks - purposefully, I guess - like a pumped-up GLA, which is good. The GLA is one of the most under-rated motors on the road and the GLC takes its sporty-hatch design and makes it bigger, more versatile and a touch more butch.

It isn’t cheap. The standard test car would have cost just under £40,000 but it came laden with extra-cost options that took it to almost £50,000. Does it look like a £50,000 car? Well, no, but few cars in this class do, except maybe the Jaguar F-Pace which is the biggest threat to this car.

The GLC’s extra cost options list on this car is formidable. The biggest cost was £2,995 for a comprehensive Premium Plus package comprising, among other features, keyless go, a 13-speaker premium surround sound system, ‘Comand’ online assistant which includes no end of voice control systems, apps and even a camera which can read road signs in case you miss them. Not unique, but still very impressive.

Mercedes-Benz realised the importance of personalisation long before it became trendy among mass market cars such as MINI and Vauxhall Adam, and the options list of the GLC is huge.

Like most Mercedes-Benzes, this model neatly straddles the line between being exciting and modest. Sporty, but not too sporty. Macho but still classy.

Inside, the Mercedes-Benz is exactly how an upmarket sporty crossover should be: like a boutique hotel on wheels with lashings of comfort and quality.

I’m not a fan of the gearchange lever, though. It’s where you might expect the wiper control to be and it takes some getting used to.

On the road, the car really shows its class. It is quick but refined, sporty yet economical and hard-sprung yet comfortable. The nine-speed gearbox is a belter, too. It is smooth yet can be used in sequential mode, too, if you’re a more demanding driver.

The ride height can be raised or lowered.

It looks like a crossover but drives like a coupe. Just to add to the confusion Mercedes-Benz has added a coupe version to the GLC family.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d 4Matic AMG Line

PRICE: £39,595. But test version costs £49,485

ENGINE: A 2,143cc four cylinder diesel engine generating 204bhp via nine-gear steptronic gear system

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 138mph and 0 to 60mph in 7.6 seconds

COSTS: Town 51.4mpg; country 60.1mpg; combined 56.5mpg

INSURANCE: Group 40

EMISSIONS: 143g/km

WARRANTY: Three years’ unlimited mileage

Summary: A very impressive and highly capable premium sports crossover which beats most rivals

Jaguar F Pace: From £35,020, this highly-desirable motor is probably GLC’s biggest threat. It really boils down to taste. Do you want a Jag or a Merc?

BMW X5 From £44,575: A very good luxury package but the Mercedes-Benz aims - and succeeds - in being sportier and classier. X5 is good; GLC is a cheaper and rarer.

Infiniti QX70: From £44,260. If you want a new brand which will benefit from being a touch less popular, Infiniti is well worth considering. But the Mercedes-Benz badge has more clout.

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