BMW X4 VS Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
- Fabulous engine
- M-spec interior/seats
- 4WD Sport setting
- Confusing combination of style and substance
- Not pretty
- New fiercer face
- Cool cabin tech
- Advanced safety equipment
- Ride on standard suspension could be comfier
- Entry-grade not available with all-wheel drive
- Leather standard on upper grades only
Launching new cars must be an endlessly repetitive job, and trying to keep over-fed, overly feted and ostentatious motoring journalists entertained would strain the will to live of any human being, or even a house elf. So it’s easy to see why the people at BMW tried something different when it came time to launch its new X4 M Competition.
They were also dealing with a very strange car; not just an M version, but a Competition variant of a mid-size SUV (or SAV, as they prefer) with a kind of quirky coupe roofline that makes it look like it would prefer not be an SUV (or SAV) at all.
While the idea that someone might use this car for any kind of motorsport “Competition” seems as likely as Clive Palmer running for the bus, what it means is that this X4 gets an absolute rocket of an engine and all kinds of go-faster bits.
So, BMW decided to create a place called M Town - “a place where too much is just right”, as they put it - where we could experience this car in what you would have to call its unnatural environment.
M Town, in this case, was a giant clay pan hidden in the middle of the South Australian outback, with a rally circuit laid out on it, where we would be invited to drive the X4 M Competition as no one intended.
Cue much hilarity, and a highly unconventional non-road test.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I’m the eldest child in my family, and the best. That’s despite not having a degree in international law and working for the United Nations saving lives like my younger sister, or being a high-flying accountant like my other sister, or running a design agency in Germany like my other sister.
But being first and best like me is the exception to the rule because normally first versions of anything aren’t as good as they can be – like the Mercedes-Benz GLC when it made its debut in 2015. Now the updated version has arrived and it’s better, much better... in some ways.
There’s no longer a diesel, but there’s a hybrid instead, although that won’t arrive until 2020 along with the hardcore AMG versions.
Which is why at the Australian launch in October, 2019, I was only given the GLC 200 and 300 to climb all over and drive. So, while neither I nor anybody else piloted all of the types of GLCs you can buy, here’s everything you need to know about them.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Clearly it is hard to give a verdict on what car generally bought to be driven on public roads 99.9 per cent of the time is like to drive when you've only smashed it around a clay pan like a (very) amateur rally drive.
What we can tell you is that the X4 M Competition is a far more serious, exciting version of the (small) family friendly/cool and trendy young couple mid-size SUV, the basic X4. It also has a very exciting engine, and lots of polished gloss black bits on it and, for some reason, seems slightly more fun than the X3 it is closely twinned with.
It is not a car that will attract, or makes sense to, everyone, and its high price will scare a lot of sensible people away. But clearly BMW believes there is a niche market of people who will want one, and will pay top dollar for one. There's no doubt Aussie buyers do love an M badge, and they may well warm to this one.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The updated Mercedes-Benz GLC has improved in many ways. It’s better looking, more powerful, and smarter with the addition of Hey Mercedes and new technology. The loss of the diesel won’t upset many. Benz says its customers are moving away from that fuel and the arrival of the plug-in hybrid is a step in the right, and more environmentally friendly, direction.
The GLC 300 is the sweet spot in the range. It's a bit over $10K more expensive than the 200 but comes with all-wheel drive, proximity unlocking, privacy glass and the awesome safety tech.
It only seems reasonable to give the X4 M one more point out of 10 for deign than its X3 non-identical twin sister, because at least the designers have had a bit of a go at the rear.
The idea of a coupe SUV has always seemed like something a hunchback came up with so that people wouldn’t only stare at him, but it obviously appeals to some people.
And yes, parked next to an X3, this version looks better, with sleeker tail lights and a more stylish rear altogether. The more pronounced swoop of the roofline is also an improvement.
But my argument remains that BMW calls this X4 M Competition “bold and functional”, which tells you all you need to know. When a marketing department can’t come up with a better term than “functional” when talking about design, for a BMW, it’s just not hat exciting to look at.
In fact, it looks like a shopping trolley with bigger wheels and go-faster stripes.
The non-M X4 is not exciting to look at it, either, it’s even more… functional, and this version is delineated as being M special by covering as many things as possible with “black high-gloss bits”, so black mirrors, black side gills, black chrome tail pipes, you get the picture.
BMW might have also used the word “tough” to describe this X4, and they did keep talking about how people might track it, which seems as likely as me entering a rocking horse in the Melbourne Cup, but I think they’re having a lend of themselves.
The interior feels like a proper M car, though, with the big red, programmable M buttons on the chunky steering wheel particularly eye catching, and a very cool looking gear stick. The M Sport seats also both look and feel fantastic, and the Merino Leather is lovely.
I’ve worked it out: Mercedes-Benz’s designers have just flipped the grille of the previous model upside down. No, they haven’t, but the new face of the GLC looks more resolved, broader and determined than the 2015 car.
Along with the grille and bumper, the headlights have been restyled and now appear more elegant, while the inlays in the tail-lights now have a floating square-shaped design.
Changes to the interior may seem minimal, but only from a material and trim perspective, the upgrade in technology is big. There’s the new display screen, the digital instrument cluster, the steering wheel and touch pad controller, and new upholstery colours.
There are 17 upholstery colours and combinations. Black is standard across the line-up in Artico and leather, while 'Silk Beige' and 'Magma Grey' are no-cost options on GLC 200 and 300 SUVs.
There are 10 paint hues to choose from with 'Polar White' (non-metallic) being a no-cost colour across the range and 'Iridium Silver Metallic' standard on the GLC 63 S SUV and Coupe.
Optional colours include: 'Hyacinth Red', 'Brilliant Blue' and what seems like 50 shades of grey with names like 'Selenite Grey', 'Mojave Silver' and 'Obsidian Black.'
Do the grades differ in their look? Yep, you can tell you’re looking at a GLC 300 and not a 200 by the 20-inch alloy wheels, running boards and rear privacy glass.
The GLC 300 Coupe could be mistaken for a full-blown AMG model thanks to its AMG Line body kit including 20-inch wheels, while the cabin is also outfitted with the AMG Line interior package adding aluminum sports pedals, flat-bottomed steering wheel and AMG floor mats.
As for the AMG grades the GLC 63 S looks more hardcore than its 43 ‘lite’ sibling thanks to the 21-inch rims, ‘jet-wing’ design front apron, flared guards, finned diffuser, spoiler lip and AMG performance exhaust system.
All interiors, regardless of the grade, are stunning. Even the entry-level GLC 200 with its black ash open pore wood trim and chrome air vents feels modern and uber stylish (I’m reclaiming the word uber).
There’s definitely more wow factor here than in the cabins of Audi and BMW rivals, particularly now with the large media screen and virtual instrument cluster.
What are the GLC’s dimensions? Well, it’s not a huge SUV at just 4669mm long, 1890mm wide and 1639mm tall.
In practicality terms, the X4 loses the gains it made on looks against the X3, because you’re obviously getting less headroom in the rear, and slightly less boot space as well.
For a vehicle of its mid-size, the X4 isn’t too badly sorted for interior space, however. The rear seats, in particular, are impressive, in terms of knee room at least, although headroom is not fabulous.
I’m 176cm tall, and I could comfortably sit behind my own seating position without my knees even touching the seat in front, and headroom is also excellent, front and rear.
Those sporty front seats do make things feel slightly squeezed in the front, and the width of the headrests effects forward visibility for those in the rear, but they’re so great to sit in that you’d put up with that.
The rear seat splits 40:20:40, giving you access to the boot, which is 525 litres in the X4 M with the seats up, because you’ve chosen the more practical option (the X3 gets 25 litres more).
Drop the rear seats and you’ve got a useful 1430 litres of loadspace when you’re driving two-up, although you’d have 1600 litres if you’d chosen the cheaper X3 M.
There’s plenty of space for your phone, on its wireless charging pad, and you also get two cupholders for the front chairs, with another two in the rear armrest.
It depends. The SUV is absolutely (and obviously) the more practical of the two body styles, and at 191cm tall I can sit with plenty of head and legroom behind my driving position, while the boot’s cargo capacity is 550 litres.
The Coupe will need you to make a couple of practicality compromises. There weren’t any Coupes at the Australian launch in October, but Matt Campbell tested it in Europe and at 182cm tall he found the raked roofline better suited to smaller adults and children. The boot in the Coupe is smaller, too, at 500 litres capacity.
Cabin storage on board both the SUV and Coupe is good with four gigantic cupholders (two up front and two in the back), big door pockets, a large centre console bin and a decent-sized hidey hole under the trapdoor in front of the media touch pad.
Talking of that touch pad, it’s just one of the ways to access the media system, you can also use the touchscreen and the small black ‘swipe’ button on the left of the steering wheel.
The MBUX media system with its Hey Mercedes personal assistant function works to open the sunblind for example, or adjust the climate control, or locate destinations in the sat nav.
While the tech is still a bit clunky it represents the primitive stages of cars that’ll probably be more like companions in years to come. That’s possibly a bit creepy, but damned convenient and practical, nonetheless.
The digital instrument cluster is configurable to align with each driver’s personal preferences.
All GLCs come equipped with two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet, while grades from the 300 up also have smartphone wireless charging.
Three-zone climate control is only standard on the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, but all grades come with directional air vents for the rear seats.
Price and features
It’s a tricky thing to evaluate such a weird beard of a car as this in terms of value, because normally when you’re being asked to spend $164,900 for a BMW you’re getting something that’s all sports car, wrapped in sexiness.
To be fair, the X4 M has a more coupe-shaped roofline than the X3 version it shares its M Competition badging with, but this is a case of being less unattractive rather than better looking.
And, on the downside, you’re paying $7000 more than you would for the ever-so-slightly more practical X3 version, which would be hard to justify even if the X3 M wasn’t already very expensive.
What you are getting for the money is an engine that will blow you away, so that’s worth a bit.
The car only comes with the Standard Competition Package in Australia (it’s the top option elsewhere), due to the popularity of that kind of thing in our market, apparently.
That gets you the amazing engine plus a standard M Sport Exhaust, connected to four, black-tipped tailpipes, an eight-speed sports automatic, xDrive with 4WD and 4WD Sport modes, and an Active M Differential.
You’ll also score “Professional” satellite navigation, Comfort Access, a Panorama sunroof, M Head Up Display, Driving Assistant Plus with semi-autonomous functionality including Active Cruise Control and Parking Assistant Plus, plus Hill Descent Control.
And don’t forget 21-inch light alloy wheels, Adaptive LED headlights, ambient interior lighting with six colour options, and alarm system, very sexy M Sport seats (the M logo on the headrests even glows at night when you open the door) with Extended Leather Merino trim, a 16-speaker harman/kardon stereo system, tyre-pressure monitoring, lane-keeping assistant, wireless charging, individual roof rails, rear roller sunblinds and BMW Connected Drive.
Are there any options you could even want on top of all that? Have you ever seen a BMW offered without them?
Strangely and uniquely, BMW asks you to pay for Apple CarPlay, which everyone will, at $623, and you can have your seats ($700), or steering wheel ($500) heated for winter mornings. Active seat ventilation is $1600 more, and metallic paint will sock you $2000, or $2350 for Individual Metallic (you can have Alpine White, non-metallic, for free).
There are eight members in the GLC family. Most affordable is the GLC 200 with its list price of $66,100, then the 300 at $77,700 and a 300e plug-in petrol-electric hybrid for $80,400.
Want the Coupe body style and AMG-look without the price tag? Well, there’s a GLC 300 coupe, too, for $87,700.
Standard features on the GLC 200 include 'Artico' upholstery (think leather but not leather), black ash open pore wood trim, leather-clad steering wheel and dual-zone climate control.
There’s also a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 'Hey Mercedes' MBUX assistant function, sat nav and a five-speaker sound system.
Then there are the 19-inch alloy wheels, roof racks, agility control suspension (see driving section), power tailgate and LED headlights.
The GLC 300 adds wireless charging for your smartphone, 20-inch alloys, privacy rear glass, proximity unlocking, multi-beam LED headlights with adaptive high beams and the 'Driver Assistance' package (see the safety section).
The GLC 300e has the same features as its petrol-only twin but adds air suspension, and pre-entry climate control, while the 300 Coupe come standard with the 'AMG Line' interior and exterior packages.
The Mercedes-AMG 43 SUV and Coupe are seriously loaded up with equipment. Standard is leather upholstery, Burmester sound system, a head-up display, heated front seats, Artico dashboard, panoramic sunroof (in the SUV and a glass sunroof in the Coupe), AMG 'Night Package', AMG 20-inch alloys, sports brakes, AMG grille and black roof rails.
The full-fat Mercedes-AMG 63 S SUV and Coupe step up another level with 21-inch AMG alloy wheels and an AMG body kit complete with front apron, spoiler lip and rear apron.
There’s an AMG performance exhaust system, plus heat and noise insulating glass. Coming standard inside is the AMG performance steering wheel, nappa leather upholstery and three-zone climate control.
Is it good value? Better value than the previous model, that’s for sure, what with the increase in cabin tech, but the sweet spot of the range is the GLC 300.
If you’re contemplating a Porsche Macan then $81,800 is the start-price there.
Engine & trans
No matter what you think of the X4 M Competition - its looks, its very existence - there’s no denying that its engine is something to be very excited about.
The 3.0-litre in-line six with M TwinPower Turbo technology is 90 per cent new, according to BMW, and will soon see action in the new BMW M3 and M4, and it is a rip snorter. The folks at M have thrown everything at it, using 3D printing to make the cylinder head, a forged crankshaft, and two new mono-scroll turbochargers, which are obviously different from the twin-scroll versions in the M5, and lift direct fuel-injection pressure from 200 bar to 350 bar. Apparently they’re even better. It also gets an electrically controlled wastegate for maximum efficiency.
The goal was an impressive 500 horsepower, or 375kW in our lingo, and they’ve achieved it. They’ve also made magic by combining both traditional BMW free-revvingness and savage turbo torque. With all of its maximum 600Nm available from 2600rpm to 5950rpm, it has the highest torque bandwidth of any BMW engine.
The screaming six can rev all the way to 7200rpm, at which point it sounds truly Wagnerian in its magnificence, and that 375kW peak point arrives at a dizzying 6250rpm.
This really is an engine that wants you to belt the hell out of it, and when you choose its most aggressive modes, and turn the adjustable M exhaust to its noisiest setting, it’s a joyful experience.
It’s also a weird one, because there’s just something so out of place about an engine like this in a car like this - it’s like finding out that your mum has secretly been cage fighting - but still, in pure engine terms, it’s a cracker.
The ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission is also silky smooth and seamless, as you’d expect.
There are four petrol engines and a plug-in hybrid on offer in the Australian GLC line-up.
The GLC 200 is rear-wheel drive (RWD) only and has been given a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine making 145kW of power and 320Nm of torque (up 10kW/20Nm), while the GLC 300 is all-wheel drive (AWD) using the same engine tuned to produce 190kW/370Nm (up 35kW/20Nm).
Both have a nine-speed automatic transmission and use a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system which can cut the engine during coasting and add up to 150Nm of torque.
The GLC 300e is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid and is also AWD with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 155kW/350Nm, plus a 90kW/440Nm electric motor.
The Mercedes-AMG GLCs are both AWD and use a nine-speed sports automatic transmission but have different engines. The Mercedes-AMG 43 has a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 making 287kW/520Nm, while the 63 S has a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 producing 375kW/700Nm.
This update marks the disappearance of the GLC 300 d diesel from the line-up. Mercedes-Benz told us why in our news story here.
There’s no official Australian figure as yet, and we certainly didn’t do any testing that would be helpful, so all we can tell you is that the claimed figure is 10.6 litres per 100km. Which would be good, if you could actually achieve it. Good luck with all this temptation on board.
Mercedes-Benz says the GLC 200’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine should use premium unleaded at a rate of 7.8L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. The combined fuel consumption of the GLC 300 according to Mercedes is 8.1L/100km.
More fun but less economical are the AMGs with the GLC 43’s V6 using 10.4L/100km over a combination of open and urban driving, while the GLC 63 S is even thirstier with the official fuel economy being 12.2L/100km.
Mileage figures have yet to be given for the 300e plug-in petrol-electric hybrid.
In theory, the X4 M Competition shouldn’t be very different to drive at all from the X3 M Competition with which it shares an engine, and just about everything else. At the same time, it would be nice if was more fun to drive, because that would help to justify the fact that it costs $7000 more than the (slightly more practical) X3 version.
The differences are mainly about looks, of course, but those aesthetic changes also make the X4 ever so lightly longer, wider and lower than the X3.
That really shouldn’t make a difference you can feel, yet somehow, every time I switched into the X4 and began another wild, hooting, dusty circuit of the rally course set out for us be foolish on at M Town, I found myself having slightly more fun than I’d been in the X3.
An actual rally driver who was in attendance, mainly to laugh at our ineptitude and because their diet consists largely of dust particles, told me he’d also found the X4 ever so slightly more chuckable, and stable, also.
So perhaps there are two reasons for choosing to spend $7K more on an X4 - the rear end, and the fun, but then again, this is probably only a factor if you attend to take your new BMW on some kind of mad motorsport adventure.
Certainly, in the unreal environment in which we tested these cars, they were hugely fun - overly powerful, playful, sporty in terms of steering feel and cabin ambience - but we will have to wait and see what they’re like in the real world.
Reports from overseas have hinted at overly firm ride quality, even in Comfort mode, and other foibles for the new X3 M Competition - like the fact that it doesn't actually feel all that fast, thanks to the 1970kg it's carrying.
What we do know is that the engine is a crackerjack, the (adjustable) steering gives fabulous feedback, and, if you happen to be on a clay pan, it’s just the vehicle you need to plaster a huge smile across your face.
I recommend the video footage highly.
One touch of genius that was beautifully highlighted, though, was the combination of the properly sports-car spec M Differential with an M version of xDrive, which allows you to choose between two 4WD modes, normal and 4WD Sport, which “pretty much does become rear-wheel drive”, as BMW admitted to us.
This is such an M move it’s hilarious. Force us to make an all-wheel-drive car will you? Ha, we’ll put a button on it that turns it back into a proper BMW M car.
On a clay pan, where you can drive almost entirely sideways, sawing at the wheel and using that gorgeous engine to carve beautiful arcs in the Earth via the throttle,4WD Sport is a work of genius.
In the real world, in this car, it’s… still a bit weird.
The chassis feels super stiff as well, and the big strut braces under the bonnet show you how seriously they’ve taken that.
There’s no denying the how, or the know-how on display here, it’s just the why that’s hard to get your head around.
The GLC 300e and AMG versions hadn’t arrived in Australia at the time of launch in October 2019, but I did have the opportunity to put hundreds of kilometres on the GLC 200 and 300, on our less than perfect local roads.
I should point out here that the SUVs we drove had the standard 'Agility Control' suspension, which is Benz-speak for regular shock absorbers and coil springs.
That was good news to me when I arrived ready to drive, given the GLCs we tested in Europe earlier in 2019 were fitted with air suspension and driven on incredibly smooth roads.
Both the GLCs I tested were also fitted with the AMG Line pack and while this doesn’t affect the output or change the suspension it did increase the 200’s wheel size from 19- to 20-inch rims.
Starting in the GLC 200 I was impressed by how easy the SUV was to drive with accurate and light steering, great visibility and while acceleration from 0-100km/h in 7.8sec is nothing to brag about I was won over by the balanced feel of the RWD SUV.
I didn’t get that same balanced feel in the AWD GLC 300 but there was the superb traction and much swifter acceleration (0-100km/h in 6.2s).
The GLC 300 and 200 struggled, however, to remain composed and maintain a comfortable ride on the extremely shoddy, but typically Aussie roads I tested them on.
There also seemed to be a lack of travel in the suspension causing both cars I tested to ‘bottom-out’ at regular speeds in fairly small dips. If you’re planning to spend money on optioning yours up, I’d seriously consider ticking the 'Air Body Control' air suspension box.
That said, the driving experience was a tranquil, easy and enjoyable one – the way a C-Class SUV should be.
I know there are readers out there keen to know about the off-road capability of the GLC but there was no chance to test this out on the Australian launch.
Matt Campbell did have the opportunity to get the GLC muddy in Europe and found that with the 'Off Road Pack' it’s capable of handling tougher terrain than many would think. Unfortunately, that off-road pack won’t be available in Australia.
And while we’re yet to sample the updated version of the Mercedes-AMG 43 and 63 S the previous models were outstanding, and going by our impression of the vehicles in Europe, will slap a smile on your face. We’ll know for sure when those SUVs arrive later in 2020.
The X4 M Competition has not been crash tested yet but the standard X4 previously received a five-star ANCAP rating. It comes with six airbags - driver, front passenger, head airbags for both rows, side airbags with seat occupancy detection for driver and passenger and side-impact protection for the front seats.
You also get DSC, ABS and DTC and driver-assistance systems including Driving Assistant Plus, Parking Assistant Plus, tyre-pressure monitoring and a speed limiter.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015.
Coming standard from the entry-grade GLC 200 are nine airbags, a 360-degree camera, auto parking, plus advanced safety technology such as adaptive cruise control, AEB, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.
Grades from the GLC 300 upwards pick up the 'Driver Assistance Package' which adds active steering, cross traffic function, active blind spot and lane keeping assistance, evasive steering and lane changing assistant.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
As is typical for BMW, the maintenance requirements for the X3 M Competition are controlled by a Condition Based Servicing system, which constantly monitors the car, and the way it’s being driven, to determine when annual inspections or oil changes are required.
BMW is offering two service-inclusive packages, a five-year/80,000km Basic level for $3685, or the Plus, for $8173, which you should choose “if you drive spiritedly and you go through brakes a fair bit”, because it includes brake pads and discs over five years.
BMW seriously seems to think people are going to track this thing. Go figure.
That said, we’d encourage the luxury brands to follow the lead of mainstream manufacturers and move to five-year warranties.
Servicing is recommended annually or every 25,000km, whichever comes first. Owners are able to prepay for the servicing which amounts to $2150 for three years or $2700 if you pay as you go.