It was thought that Brexit could sink the UK economy, send the Euro zone into recession, and even send the global economy into free-fall. But there’s one area of the automotive industry that’s likely to remain unscathed – and that’s the luxury SUV space. They’re seemingly untouchable! Manufacturers can’t make enough. So, which is best for you?
Brexit sent shivers down the spine of the global economy. But more than the economy, it sends more worrying signals of isolationism and xenophobia. But let’s leave race and lineage out of this comparison, shall we?
Let’s not concern ourselves with whether the Germans will get along with the Swede, or whether they’re even prepared to acknowledge the Brit in their midst. The Land Rover, by the way, has perhaps the most to lose – since Europe is the biggest market for Jaguar Land Rover at present. But let’s leave the political and economic ramifications for later on. What we’re here to do is decide which one of these Europeans (the Indian-owned British Land Rover included) is best. Arup is batting for the GLC, Abhishek has chosen to back the Discovery Sport, Rahul is smitten by the BMW, and Shivank prefers the sensible Swede. So, let’s see who makes the most convincing argument.
Words: Arup Das
I’m not going to harp on about the GLC’s gorgeous looks. Take a moment, and look at it. If you don’t find it stunning, then I’m compelled to say that you lack taste. It’s all about the finer details. So, even in foggy and snowy conditions, the beautiful rear LED lamps are bright enough to dazzle you.
As I unlocked the GLC and climbed into the driver’s seat, I realised that the Mercedes’ interiors are at least a generation, or maybe even two, ahead of the other three SUVs. The exquisite aluminium knobs on the centre console, as well as the power windows and seat adjustment switches on the doors add a touch of class to the sporty all-black cabin. Unfortunately, what stood out like a sore thumb was the shiny wooden trim in the cabin. The beautifully crafted seats are as comfortable as a second skin, and have supportive backrests and seat squabs. And if you love listening to music, the Burmester surround-sound system takes things to the next level. Frankly, I don’t think anyone here will rebuke my statement if I were to say that the GLC’s cabin is luxurious and makes the other SUVs look plain and dated. Well, I guess I said it!
I turned the key – yes it is the only SUV here that doesn’t come with a Start-Stop button. Does that make a difference? Not really, but we would have preferred an ignition start button regardless. Anyway, we fired up the 2,143cc diesel heart, and to my surprise – unlike the C-Class, which the GLC is based on – we couldn’t hear any engine clatter. And I, for one, loved the sound of silence in the cabin. A slight push on the accelerator and the GLC responded alertly. If you’re looking for something to throw you back in your seat, then you’re simply looking at the wrong segment. The power delivery is smooth and refined. A slightly coarse note from the engine tends to sneak in once the rev needle goes past 3,500rpm, but below that the cabin remains as quiet as the Sistine Chapel. The low and mid range is pretty good, but when you really try and cane it the GLC tends to run out of stream. The 168 ponies might not be of the racehorse variety, but they certainly let you cruise quite easily at three-digit speeds. This urban SUV, after all, has been designed to excel in city and highway driving conditions.
A lot has been said about the 9-speed transmission, and our first impression of this gearbox was that it felt a bit busy in Sport mode. But, after spending some quality time with the GLC, I have to say that it works very well on a daily basis. Sure, it may not upshift quite as quickly as the ‘other’ German in our test, but, honestly, in the real world the difference is virtually imperceptible.
And the GLC’s not just a pretty face. Thanks to its 4Matic all-wheel drive system it won’t shy away from a little of off-roading if that’s what you so desire. After all, the driving modes include Off-road, Incline and Slippery.
The Downhill Speed Regulation feature, meanwhile, ensures that the GLC is in full control while descending steep hills. Of course, we don’t expect too many GLC owners to take to the trail too often but you can be rest assured that your three-pointed star will be happy to lead the way if and when you chose the road less travelled.
On the whole, though, this is very much an urban SUV – one that looks glamorous, is luxurious, and isn’t too shabby from the driver’s seat either. What more could you ask for?
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Real Deal
Words: Abhishek Chaliha
As far as I’m concerned, the Land Rover Discovery Sport feels like the only ‘real’ SUV here. While the others are all tailored to behave like cars on the road, with their crossover like stance, the Discovery Sport has the most butch profile. It almost looks like it could be an old-school body-on-frame SUV, despite the fact that it has a monocoque chassis – like every other machine here, of course. Nevertheless, it rides the most like an SUV. Thanks to greater suspension articulation than any other machine here, it tends to roll and pitch more than the other machines in this group. But, you know what, I like that! Call me a traditionalist, but I like it when I can tell I’m driving an SUV. I’m only too happy to correct the steering every time you go over an undulation – not that you need to that the Discovery Sport however.
At any rate, what’s the point in having an SUV – or a crossover – if you don’t have the ability to cross a river, or climb a mountain – or two. And that’s exactly what the Disco Sport offers. While Arup’s shiny new GLC looks like the perfect car in which to hit the nightclub, out here in the wild its chrome garnished front bumpers doesn’t exactly make it the most rugged tool.
I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff fortunately with my Land Rover, as this thing comes with decades of hard-core off-road lineage – which makes it one of the most potent vehicles in which to traverse unchartered territory. After all, our first drive of this machine was through Iceland – in winter! And despite not having the highest ground clearance in this lot, there’s no denying that the Discovery Sport has the most capable four-wheel drive system in this company. The way the wheels hunt for grip, and the way in which the four-wheel drive system transmits just the right amount of power to whichever wheel has grip, is pretty uncanny.
But it’s not all about going off-road in the Disco Sport. It looks pretty sharp on the road too – although these alloys aren’t exactly doing it any favours. The flip side is that it rides exceptionally well. Sure, it’s not as sharp as the BMW on smooth tarmac – but it’ll eat it for breakfast when the going gets rough. And, sure again, it may not have the refinement of the Merc – but it’ll give you serious street cred with your favourite off-road club.
My point is this – while my colleagues can roll up to a night club with their snazzy luxury SUVs, I’ll show up in the tallest and widest vehicle of the lot, heavily coated in mud. Trust me, that’ll get more attention than anything else. So, if you’re going to buy a luxury SUV – buy one that truly lives up to the Sport Utility Vehicle name. Needless to say, the Land Rover name carries a lot of weight on the dirt trail.
Oh, and I almost forgot to pull out my trump card – the Discovery Sport is the only vehicle here available with a seven-seat option.
BMW X3 xDrive20d
Made for the Road
Words: Rahul Kapoor
Currently in the NCR, sadly, this is the only luxury compact SUV in this group that you can order from a dealer. The Supreme Court ban on cars with diesel engines over 2,000cc is expected to be overturned in the near future, but for the moment it still stands. But, thanks to a small 1,995cc, 4-cylinder, TwinPower turbo, diesel engine, this BMW can still be yours. But, don’t let the relative displacement fool you, this BMW produces plenty of power.
BMW has always made driver focused machines. Typically, they come with slightly stiffer chassis, great steering racks, and brilliant handling. And this one is no different. With the Merc, you get the sense that the owner would be flamboyant, the Disco Sport owner will probably never quit talking about his off road adventures, while the Volvo driver is probably a lawyer! The BMW, on the other hand, is understated and purposeful. It doesn’t pretend to be an off-roader any more than the Discovery Sport pretends to be a sports car. It simply focuses on going down the road in the best way possible – which is to say quite brilliantly.
The 190bhp engine feels alive, and the shifts from the gearbox are seamless. Despite the X3 being the only one amongst this quartet that doesn’t have paddle shifters, it clearly feels the most sporty of the lot. On twisty roads, the X3 will annihilate the others with its perfectly balanced chassis. Even on the dirt, as long as it stays flat, it’ll have the others trailing in a cloud of dust. Just don’t attempt to follow the Discovery Sport up that steep slope, that’s all!
This car is all about staying on the tarmac. And if you do that it makes a great deal of sense. On our roads especially, since you need the added ground clearance of an SUV to clear the many obstacles in your path, the X3 offers the best of both worlds. But, truth be told, the X3 is getting a little long in the tooth. Where it loses out to the Disco Sport off-road, it trails behind the GLC when it comes to road presence and refinement. The build quality is just as good, but it simply doesn’t look as exciting. Having said that, the iDrive infotainment system remains the easiest and most logical to use. The ergonomics in the cabin – something BMW has always done so very well – are still spot on, even when compared with some of the more modern competition.
Driving these cars back-to-back only reinforces the fact that the BMW is the driver’s car of this lot – which is probably why BMW markets it as an SAV (a Sports Activity Vehicle). It may not be the one you’d choose to cross the Sahara, but is that really where you’re headed anyway?
Swede & Sensible
Words: Shivank Bhatt
Driving the Volvo XC60 alongside its fresher competitors makes you feel slightly old-fashioned, and a bit elderly. So, advocating the XC60 from this pack of luxury SUVs might seem like a VERY foolish idea at the moment. You see, while the XC60 is perfectly suited for someone who’s forty something, it’s certainly not the SUV that tickles the fancy of budding entrepreneurs or the nouveau riche of this start-up age – simply owing to the fact that it’s the oldest car here.
Actually, the last statement is a bit of a hoax. If you scratch below the suave bodywork of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, you’ll see that it shares its underpinnings with the Volvo XC60. This, of course, dates back to the days (around 2006) when Ford held ownership of both these brands. As a consequence, both these vehicles are based on Ford’s age-old EUCD platform. In Land Rover’s defence, its engineers have modified the platform extensively over all these years. In comparison, Volvo hasn’t put the XC60 under the knife since its debut in 2009. It was only in 2014 when it was given a nip-and-tuck job to make it look a little upmarket.
Unless you’ve already made up your mind about the way it looks, allow me to offer my opinion – which is to say that I think it’s still a classy and elegant design. I only wish I could say the same about the interior. You see, the incredible XC90 has spoiled us completely – and we look at every car (especially its sibling) with that little bit more of a critical eye, since the latest Volvo has demonstrated just how impressive an automotive interior can actually be. This looks quite dull and dated in comparison. The floating centre console, in particular, feels complicated to operate since it is riddled with one too many buttons. On the flip side, the quality and fit-and-finish of the materials remains top notch even by today’s standards. The whole cabin is swathed in leather, and the seats are utterly comfortable and supportive – a Volvo trademark.
Powering the XC60 in this spec – D5 Inscription – is a 2.4-litre, in-line five cylinder, turbo-diesel engine developing 212bhp and 440Nm of torque. Power is channelled to all-four wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifts. Now, under normal driving, the engine and gearbox are very well behaved. Give it the beans though, and the 6-speed tranny struggles to catch up with the engine revs. Also, at higher revs there’s a lot of engine noise that filters into the cabin.
Nevertheless, on-road manners of the XC60 are hugely impressive – the ride is stellar, and it handles pretty well too. Of course, you can argue that the X3 will pip it around a corner. However, most people buy these cars for the space and comfort that they offer – and that’s where the XC60 shines. Off the tarmac, it’s really not too bad at all – but, frankly, I’m not too inclined to push a 50-lakh car around in the rough stuff. It’s got all-wheel drive and great ground clearance, so it’ll get the job done – even if it won’t exactly match the Discovery Sport for athleticism in the dirt.
Now the GLC, being the newest product here, is definitely superior to the XC60 – I agree. But, frankly, I just can’t get over that gaudy chrome trim on the Merc – so I’m more than happy to stick with the Volvo thank you very much. And, by the way, as we speak, the all-new 2018 XC60, which will be heavily inspired from its bigger brother, the XC90, is taking shape. Now, if the current-gen model is so competitive after so many years, one can only imagine how good the next one will be...
Let’s be honest, not many owners of these luxury SUVs will venture too far out of their comfort zones and push their prized possessions in the sand. But, even if you don’t, you can be secure in the knowledge that any of these four will be more than happy to indulge.
The BMW, of course, is the most focussed on the road. It’s, quite simply, the most fun to drive – so, if that’s your benchmark, the choice is simple really. If being understated, responsible and secure is what you’re after, again the choice is simple – the XC60 fits the bill perfectly. If you’re one of the few who intends to actually satisfy your adventurous streak, then the only one that’ll cater to your needs is the Land Rover Discovery Sport. It’ll take you to Leh, and back, without even flinching. But it’s the newest member of this quartet that gets top honours in this case. The Mercedes-Benz GLC is simply the most refined and modern car here. It’ll handle the odd off-road trail if you ask it to, but most of the time it’ll just go about its business of ferrying you from business meeting to power lunch to elite social gathering with utter and sheer ease – and it’ll look good while doing it too!
- Mercedes-Benz GLC 220 d
- Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury
- BMW X3 xDrive20d
- Volvo XC60 T6 AWD
Engine: 2,143cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 9G-Tronic Automatic / 4Matic All-Wheel Drive
Power: 168bhp @ 3,000-4,200rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,400-2,800rpm
Price: Rs. 55.7 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-FACTOR: The GLC has been a long-time coming from Mercedes, and it certainly appears to be worth the wait. It clearly looks the most modern and refined of this lot.
Engine: 2,179cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 188bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,750rpm
Price: Rs. 62.99 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-FACTOR: What’s the point of an SUV that can’t go off-road? Well, you’ll never have that problem with the Land Rover. The Discovery Sport certainly lives up to its legendary badge.
Engine: 1,995cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 190bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Price: Rs. 53.90 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-FACTOR: The X3 remains the one you’d choose to carve corners. It’s actually very practical on our roads, courtesy of its great driving dynamics despite the increased ride height.
Engine: 2,400cc / 5-Cylinders / 20 Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 212bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 440Nm @ 1,500-3,000rpm
Price: Rs. 51.71 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-FACTOR: Practical, luxurious, decent off-road, feels vault-like as you’d expect, and offers great value for money. Who said that the XC60 would fall by the wayside?