Mercedes-Benz GLC 2015 review
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the Mercedes-Benz GLC with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at it's australian launch
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Does the world need a soft-top SUV? The world has gone SUV-mad but are we crazy enough to embrace a soft-top soft-roader?
We’re poised to find out. The new Range Rover Evoque convertible could be a watershed moment in the SUV march towards global domination.
In the past it was pretty easy to define the genre — a tall, wagon-like body with more ground clearance than a regular hatchback or sedan, with heaps of room in the back for people and cargo.
Then BMW came up with the swoopy X6 coupe, a vehicle that was more about sports than utility.
Land Rover challenges convention once more with a convertible version of the Range Rover Evoque that arrives in Australian showrooms in October.
Wriggling up a snow-covered track that would better suit someone skiing in the opposite direction, we can’t help but be impressed with Land Rover’s ability to build vehicles that are as functional as they are fashionable.
Faced with a series of extreme off-road obstacles, the baby Range Rover Evoque is mighty impressive, especially considering its main target market is sun-loving city-types. The brand’s core values remain intact.
Land Rover is well aware that few Evoques see more off-road duty than scaling the kerb while attempting to park at swanky ski villages.
That’s probably why we are at the prestigious Courchevel resort in France for our first taste of this rugged ragtop.
Billed as the world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible, the drop-top inevitably involves some packaging compromises, including two rear seats instead of three, though designers tried to minimise these.
Engineering manager Michelle O’Connor says the team tried to maintain the interior packaging and refinement of the fixed-roof Evoque Coupe.
The compact fabric roof endows a liveable rear seat for average-height adults, with less sidewards skewing than you’ll find in the back of a 2 Series convertible.
The coupe’s swooping roofline has been preserved with the soft-top in place. It will lower via a toggle switch in 18 seconds at up to 50km/h. Raising takes three seconds longer.
At 251L, the convertible’s cargo space is less than half the storage in its three-door roofed version (550L) but the real-world difference is minor — the latter figure is calculated from the roof lining down. Boot depth is unchanged and an optional ski-port compensates in part for the lack of a split-folding rear seat.
Billed as the world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible, the drop-top involves some packaging compromises
Hardtop Evoques scored only a four-star ANCAP rating in 2011. The convertible adds seat-mounted side and head-protecting airbags to compensate for the folding roof, while twin rollover bars also pop up behind the rear headrests within 90 milliseconds if an impending crash is detected.
Land Rover announced in November that the convertible is coming to Australia in SE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic trim, each with the coupe’s diesel and petrol options.
Kicking off at $84,835 for the SE Dynamic Td4 180, the convertible adds more than $10,000 to the base price of the Coupe but arrives with less kit than the hardtop’s base trim.
The $92,015 HSE Dynamic Si4 convertible also adds more than $10K to the top end of the range but at least matches the coupe’s trim level.
As well as the snowy obstacle course, our Evoque Convertible drive included several hundred kilometres of highway, rural and mountain roads of various surface quality.
Spending most of our time with the top down but windows up, we used the optional rear-seat windbreak to keep warm despite the 7 degrees ambient temperature — and could even chat at up to 150km/h.
The interior is aging very well, with beautiful shapes and excellent quality materials everywhere you touch. There are still no bottleholders in the front doors, leaving just the cupholders in the centre console and small cubbies for each rear passenger.
With the roof up, outward vision is much better than anticipated from such a design-focused shape and the fabric is as smooth on the inside as it is on the exterior.
Road noise isn’t quite as well suppressed as we recollect of the fixed-roof Evoques but this could be due to the chunky winter tyres on the test examples.
Extra strengthening and roof mechanisms add 280kg over equivalent Coupe models and this can be felt when accelerating.
Both engines still do well enough but the extra weight also adds 0.6L/100km and 0.8L to the combined fuel figures for the diesel and petrol respectively.
Much vaunted, the Ingenium diesel is quieter than the older petrol engine a lot of the time, delivering its best with less fuss (and at lower revs) than the petrol.
The weight is a lot less obvious when tossing the Convertible around corners, thanks to its stiffer springs and revised damping. It definitely doesn’t feel like a two-tonne SUV in the bends. The ride is still firm but remains comfortable on rural roads, even in the HSE Dynamic shod with 20-inch wheels.
Is the Evoque convertible still an SUV? Not really but it presents a compelling new alternative in a segment ruled by desirability.
Land Rover describes this Evoque as the world’s first luxury compact SUV convertible but it’s not the first sport utility vehicle to go topless. Disregarding the original Jeep, Land Rover and LandCruiser, which all started as open tops for cost and simplicity, Suzuki was the first to experiment with a roofless version of what we’d call an SUV with the X-90. Sold in Australia from 1996-97, the Vitara-based X-90’s two seats and jelly bean-on-stilts looks found few friends despite its decent off-road ability.
Nissan also had a go with the US-only Murano CrossCabriolet (2011-14) but ungainly looks and Mercedes-Benz E-Class pricing — it was only topped by the GT-R on Nissan’s US price chart — meant it flopped spectacularly.
Will an Evoque Convertible succeed where others haven’t? Land Rover Australia spokesman Tim Krieger says the Evoque’s intrinsic design appeal will help it reach a convertible-buying audience.
The Evoque Convertible may seem a simple slice and dice of the fixed-roof Coupe but it involved a comprehensive engineering program.
Strengthened sills with diagonal cross-braces help to maintain the stiffness of the hardtop and beefed-up windscreen pillars assist in meeting Land Rover’s own crush strength standards.
The folding roof uses technology from the Jaguar F-Type convertible stablemate, including the four electric motors that raise and lower it.
The Z-fold design uses five layers of insulating fabric to match the Jag’s noise and weather suppression and the roof will operate in temperatures ranging from -40 to 90 — it went through 6750 test cycles during development.
Weighing in at 68kg, the roof is also the longest and widest fabric roof fitted to any current production vehicle.
Land Rover considered a folding hardtop but the soft-top gives greater design flexibility and weighs 30 per cent less. Given the Evoque is portly enough, best they stuck with the gorgeously shaped fabric option.
|eD4 Pure||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$37,620 – 44,220||2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2016 eD4 Pure Pricing and Specs|
|Si4 HSE||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$56,650 – 65,120||2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2016 Si4 HSE Pricing and Specs|
|Si4 HSE Dynamic||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$59,990 – 84,900||2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2016 Si4 HSE Dynamic Pricing and Specs|
|Si4 SE||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$50,050 – 57,530||2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2016 Si4 SE Pricing and Specs|