Vehicle Comparisons

Mercedes-Benz GLC

Mercedes-Benz GLC

This GLC is a RAV4 or Honda CR-V-sized family Crossover SUV car, but obviously one with a premium badge. In the Mercedes-Benz SUV hierarchy, it slots in just above the smaller GLA but below the brand's really luxurious and pricey 4x4s - the GLE (aimed at BMW's X5), the big 7-seat GLS and the really hard-core go-absolutely-anywhere G model. Yes, the Mercedes GLC is late to the party in this segment, but it's smart, efficient and very desirable.

How the Mercedes GLC gets down the road is heavily dependent on what boxes you tick when you're ordering. In total, there are three distinct suspension options available, with standard cars getting a normal comfort-orientated steel coil spring set-up. If you want something more dynamic, there's a sports suspension option, while for those prioritising an ultimately absorbent ride, air suspension can also be added at extra cost. The latter option is the most desirable in this family SUV. 'AIR BODY CONTROL', as Mercedes call it, promises a cosseting ride when you want luxury or flat, sports car-like handling when you're in a hurry. With an optional 'Off Road Engineering Package', you can even manually adjust ride heights through the infotainment system.

Under the bonnet, the buying focus is on the 2.1-litre diesel units used in the Mercedes GLC 220d and GLC 250d models. The differences between these two variants of SUV are down to engine tune, with the 220d offering 170PS and the 250d churning out 204PS. The 0-62mph times are 8.3 and 7.6 seconds respectively. All models are equipped with 4MATIC 4WD and an AGILITY SELCT vehicle dynamics system that works with variable damping on 'SE' and 'Sport' variants. Whatever your choice of derivatives, drive will be supplied through a standard 9-speed automatic gearbox. At the top of the line-up, there's also a performance-orientated Mercedes-AMG 43 4MATIC variant, powered by a 3.0-litre V6 biturbo petrol engine putting out 367bhp.

First impressions are that the Mercedes GLC is most definitely related to the C-Class compact executive model it's based upon. There's the same long nose and gently sloping roofline we've come to recognise, along with similar contouring down the flanks. Naturally in a family Crossover SUV, the GLC is more upright and comes with subtle plastic wheel arch extensions and skid plate-style detailing around the bumpers to show its off-road credentials. Overall, it's a far cry from the boxy old GLK-Class model this car replaced in Europe - and all the better for it.

Underneath the skin, Mercedes have used more aluminium and high strength steel to help remove weight wherever possible. Those C-Class underpinnings have been lengthened to improve interior space and make sure that entry for rear passengers is easy, something that is welcomed in a family SUV. Once you do climb inside, you're greeted by a dashboard that's smoothly co-ordinated in every way save for the rather unusual positioning of the infotainment screen. As usual with Merc-brand models, that's perched on top of the fascia.

As usual, there's a wide range of options to make your Mercedes GLC look either sporty or very luxurious, both inside and out. Go to town in the cabin and it really will feel luxurious. Boot space is up to 580-litres seats up - nearly 100-litres more than the C-Class - while seats down, this becomes a cavernous 1600-litres, right up there with the best Crossover SUVs.

Image is everything when it comes to premium compact SUVs and on that basis, the GLC is a very desirable package. In terms of styling, technology and efficiency, it borrows hugely from other Mercedes models - to very good effect. Plus, options like air suspension offer the kind of luxury that used to be limited to much larger luxury SUVs rather that the Crossover family SUV segment of the genre, which enables this car to cross ravines one minute and carve through a set of bends at speed the next.

Some may feel that there are still more dynamic choices to make in the family SUV Crossover market: the trendier-looking Range Rover Evoque for example, or the more sharply-handling BMW X3. As an allrounder though, combining many of the qualities you'll find in both those cars, the Mercedes GLC is a tempting package. It's arrived late to the SUV party, but it's come well equipped to make a few waves.

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Audi Q5

Audi Q5

Audi's understated Q5 continues its subtle conquest to become the best family SUV in this premium sector. This second-generation model gets a range of more efficient engines and even more car-like driving dynamics that are great on tarmac and are even pretty effective for light off road use. There's loads of advanced technology and a beautifully practical interior crafted in Audi's own inimitable style. In short, if you can afford it, you'd love to be driving one of the best rated family SUVs.

Most Audi Q5 customers will want the 190PS 2.0 TDI diesel engine, but low mileage owners shouldn't discount the much improved 252PS 2.0 TFSI petrol unit. You can also talk to your Audi Centre about a 286PS 3.0 TDI six-cylinder diesel too. And at the top of the range, the sporting SQ5 variant now switches to petrol power, offering a potent 354PS 3.0 V6 TFSI unit.

The drivetrain of the second-generation Audi Q5 has been redeveloped from the ground up - take the revised six-speed manual transmission and the more efficient seven-speed S tronic auto 'box for example. The standard Quattro 4WD system is improved too, using Audi's 'ultra' technology to always disengage the rear-axle drive whenever it isn't needed: if necessary, the system can then proactively re-engage it, a great additional advantage on this Crossover SUV.

The most powerful variants can be ordered with an optional sport differential at the rear axle which distributes torque between the wheels for sharper handling. And all models get Torque vectoring for extra cornering precision. Dynamically, Audi has tried to make this Q5 Crossover feel sporty yet extremely comfortable. Creating the basis for this are the newly developed five-link suspension set-ups and also the new electromechanical power steering system. Choose an Audi A5 model with adaptive damping and you'll be able to tailor the ride quality via the various settings of the standard 'Audi drive select' vehicle dynamics system. You can do the same thing with the even more sophisticated adaptive air suspension package that's available as an option. Those venturing 'off piste' will be interested in the two new settings added to the 'drive select' set-up - 'lift/offroad' and 'allroad'.

Compared to the previous model, this second-generation Audi Q5 has grown in nearly all of its dimensions and takes a defined and taut stance on the road. A sculpturally flared Singleframe grille with a solid frame dominates its aerodynamically flat front end. This feature is flanked by headlights that use either xenon or full-LED technology - or buyers can order Audi's advanced adaptable Matrix LED system as an option. A distinctively curved and strongly undercut shoulder line gives structure to the side view. The strongly emphasised wheel arches are a reference to the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, and the low greenhouse tapers back down early. Just as at the front, horizontal lines at the rear aim to convey an image of width and presence. The tailgate wraps around the C-pillars - a typical feature of Audi Q models.

At the wheel, a three-dimensional trim strip runs across the entire width of the instrument panel and here's a re-designed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. This remains a five-seat model suitable for a family Crossover SUV, and the rear seat is split into three segments. Longitudinal and seat back angle adjustment are optional. Depending on the rear seat position, the basic volume of the luggage compartment ranges from 550 to 610-litres, 10-litres more than in the previous Q5. When the rear bench is folded down, this volume grows to 1,550-litres, exactly what you want in a family crossover car.

Whether your destination is Sainsbury's or the annual family skiing trip to Crans Montana, you'll feel better about doing it in an Audi Q5. In between, in contrast to larger, plusher and thirstier crossover SUVs and 4x4s, you won't get that nagging feeling of using a sledgehammer to crash a nut when it comes to meeting your real motoring needs. Nor, when you're alone on a twisty B-road, should you need to wish you'd bought something sportier.

Of course, this second-generation Audi A5 model now faces much tougher competition in the best family SUV segment, but the well-considered package of changes made to this smarter, better equipped and higher-tech mid-sized premium SUV should keep it very competitive with cars like Mercedes' GLC and BMW's X3 in the chasing pack. Certainly, it's not cheap - but then neither is anything else in the Crossover SUV segment and at least you'll get a decent part of your money back at resale time. True, it doesn't have the showiness of a Range Rover Evoque or the ultimate handling feedback of a BMW X3, but many will still find this Audi a perfect balance between these two extremes. Resolutely hi-tech and resolutely real world, the Audi Q5 remains resolutely right.

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Range Rover Evoque Review

Range Rover Evoque Review

The Range Rover Evoque Family Crossover SUV has been given a thorough once-over. It still looks much as before with only a few nips and tucks, but almost all the money has been spent under that very pretty skin. Efficiency improves with a new family of diesel engines and there's some exciting equipment choices also on offer. It's still the one the rest are aiming at.

It's a brave new world at Land Rover right now. The Freelander's gone and the Discovery Sport has appeared, but the big news might well be the development of the Ingenium engines that look to put the company on a similar efficiency footing as the best of the Germans and Japanese. The Range Rover Evoque gets the aluminium Ingenium diesel engine, built at the company's shiny new £500m Engine Manufacturing Centre in the West Midlands. This TD4 unit is 20-30kg lighter than its predecessor and delivers low levels of vibration and noise intrusion. It's offered to Evoque customers in two states of tune: 150PS in the economy-oriented eD4 front-wheel drive model, and 180PS if you prefer a bit more poke and can't do without all-wheel drive.

Should you want to go faster still, you can buy the Range Rover Evoque with the punchy 240PS Si4 petrol engine. This propels a three-door car through 62mph in just 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 135mph. The nine-speed ZF transmission is available and it's an option you really need to tick in this family SUV. It shifts between gears so quickly that ZF reckons it's "below the threshold of perception". An adaptive shift programme quickly matches the driving style and includes a memory function. A Torque Vectoring by Braking feature further enhances agility and safety by redirecting torque to counteract understeer. Off-road ability is enhanced with the fitment of All-Terrain Progress Control. This function maintains a pre-determined speed - selected using the cruise control function - in forward or reverse gears between 1.1mph and 19mph, allowing the driver to concentrate on negotiating tricky terrain. A very welcome feature for a vehicle aiming to be one of the best family SUVs.

Land Rover needed to keep the Evoque looking contemporary without diluting its inherent appeal. Evoque's highly desirable design is a hallmark of this luxurious compact SUV. The latest design tweaks help it look even wider and lower thanks to slimline LED fog lamps and enlarged air intakes at the front, along with two revised grille designs. Full LED headlights are available as an option and the bonnet vents previously seen only on the three-door models are introduced on five-door HSE Dynamic and Autobiography specifications. A tailgate spoiler now includes a wider, slimmer high-level LED rear brake light. The alloy wheel selection has been revised, as has the palette of exterior colours.

The changes in this family Crossover continue inside with updated seats and higher-quality soft-touch materials used for the door casings. The instrument binnacle has also been redesigned. Buyers still choose between three and five-door models, the key difference between which is the amount of room in the back of the car. Go for the five-door and the roofline is subtly re-profiled such that there's 30mm of additional headroom. The rear row of seats, with seat belts and head restraints for three passengers, have 60/40 folding squabs and are equipped with ISOFIX child seat mounts. When required, luggage capacity can be expanded to a healthy1,445-litres. The three-door has a boot that is a little smaller, measuring 550-litres with the seats in place and 1,350 with them folded, a size that suits a family Crossover SUV.

Land Rover has spent its money wisely with this Evoque. Not a lot really needed doing to the styling and the interior finish and there's only been a bit of tidying up there; mere nips, tucks and tweaks. The engine range has come in for the lion's share of the budget and it's an investment that ought to keep the Range Rover Evoque at the top of the best family Crossover SUV class for some time to come. Rather depressingly for the Evoque's competitors, it's only the start of the roll-out of the Ingenium engine family. It's just going to get better and better.

That's wonderful news for Evoque customers. This SUV Crossover has just become significantly more economical and capable, both on road and off. Just about the only thing that can really sink this model is for it to go horribly out of fashion. That doesn't look like happening any time soon, but just in case, Land Rover has concentrated on substance over style with this revision. In doing so, the brand has future-proofed its biggest money-spinner.

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