Toyota Kluger VS Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
- Quiet and refined
- GX is well-specified
- GXL and Grande are pricey for not much benefit
- Deeply ordinary entertainment system
- Good comfort
- Improved interior
- New engines
- Changes a little sedate
- Not overly involving to drive
- Some drivetrain gremlins on test
Like the statues of Easter Island, the Toyota Kluger casts a huge shadow over the Australian motoring landscape. It's a strong seller for Toyota, having been around for ages and is one of three large SUVs in Toyota's armory next to the evergreen Prado and disappointing Fortuner.
Competition, of course, is growing ever more fierce. Hyundai is about to drop a new Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento gets better every year and more manufacturers are joining the party. Most notably, Mazda's CX-9 is also loaded with safety gear and a potent 2.5-litre turbo engine.
The intensity of the battle became apparent in my esteemed colleague Matt Campbell's recent comparison test where the Kluger came last behind the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9, thanks largely to Toyota's reluctance to fit the same advanced safety features.
They heard Matt (that's what he reckons, anyway) and recently added some important safety tech to the 2018 Kluger. Let's have a look to see if it's enough.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Believe it or not, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is the brand’s best-selling model. It was in 2018, and it will be again in 2019.
That’s not just for Australia - it’s a global trend, with mid-sized SUVs hitting the sweet spot for buyers of all shapes and sizes in different markets all over the planet.
It’s important, then, that the facelifted GLC range brings something more to the table than its predecessor, which went on sale back in 2015. And it does - by way of additional tech and features, and revised powertrains. It competes with the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Volvo XC60, and the Range Rover Velar among others.
Yes, you can still get it in the form of an SUV or a Coupe - the latter of which appeals to one in six buyers enough to buy one. Why? I’ll never know. The Coupe model goes toe to toe with the BMW X4.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC range in a bit more detail. We got to drive it in Germany before it arrives in Australia late in 2019.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The 2018 Kluger is still a very solid car, with tons of room for you and your things. And your family and their things. It remains way out in front (although the new Santa Fe is lurking menacingly) and the boost in safety gear will help ensure it stays there.
The pick of the range is still the GX which is now a much stronger proposition with the extra safety features. There's little of real interest in the higher models, you can't get better headlights (a curious state of affairs) or a better stereo, so it's difficult to understand the appeal.
The Kluger will serve you and your family well in a solid and unspectacular way. Given most of us like that in our cars, it's easy to see why it's a hit.
Does the Kluger's new safety focus do enough to lure you away from the competition? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The facelifted Mercedes-Benz GLC will undoubtedly help keep it at the top of the pack when it comes to sales.
It remains a competitive and competent luxury SUV, and we’re excited to see how the company approaches the model range when it launches in Australia later in 2019 as a 2020 model.
Would you take a GLC over a BMW X3 or Audi Q5? Let us know in the comments.
The Kluger is handsome in a squared-off, what-are-you-looking-at kind of way. That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement because it's pushing two metres wide and 1.73m tall. It's not the longest in its class, though, coming in at 4.89m.
Despite it hailing from the US, it's not too blinged-up, but neither is it CX-9 pretty. Some might find the grille reminiscent of a krill-hoovering whale or Bane from Batman, but it's certainly distinctive.
The cabin is like the exterior - nothing flash, but what you see is what you get. Materials are mostly pretty good and it leans towards thoughtful and practical rather than sexy. Normally I'd say, "just like me", but I'm none of these things.
The interior dimensions of the big bruiser match its eclipse-causing exterior. No matter your size - well, within reason - you'll find plenty of space in the first or second rows. The third row features decent space for kids and very patient adults for short trips.
The redesign of the Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV and Coupe models is modest - this isn’t an exaggerated mid-life cycle change, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the GLC has forged a reputation both on its substance, and its style.
It still looks pretty good to me… well, the SUV does. The Coupe-SUV is a concept I’ve never really grasped, but I can’t deny the popularity of the more expensive, less practical, less attractive versions of the GLC.
Mercedes says the regular SUV models adopt a “sportier” appearance as part of the update, with new LED daytime running lights to frame the new standard full-LED headlights, and there’s a revised grille and bumper, depending on the model. Versions with the AMG trim line will have the “diamond” grille which now has more of an ‘A’ shape rather than a ‘V’ design.
The standard versions get new grille designs and new bumpers too, both front and rear. At the back there are also redesigned LED tail-lights and additional chrome, which you’ll find a common theme on the outside of the revised model.
The GLC Coupe models see similar design changes - a redesigned front bumper (with the diamond look as standard), redesigned headlights and tail-lights and a subtler rear bumper with a new diffuser and exhaust garnish.
The big question people ask me about the Kluger is "How many seats are in there?" - every Kluger packs seven seats, with two flip-up seats in the boot. Boot space dimensions are obviously dictated by whether they're up or down. With the seats down, you've got a decent 529 litres, leaving you with good luggage capacity and a cargo cover to keep it all hidden away. Lift the seats with the straps and you've got just 195 litres, about the same as a small hatchback.
Put the second and third rows down and Toyota says you'll have 1117 litres, but I reckon that's conservative.
The cabin is well-planned for families. Every row features cupholders - front and middle rows have a pair each, while those banished to the third row score two each, a total of eight across the car.
Back in the front row, the tectonic split in the dashboard is lined with a soft rubbery material, making it a great place to sling phones, keys and odds and ends. Between the seats is a massive 24-litre storage bin that a small grandparent could ride in. On second thoughts, that's probably not a great idea.
The revised cabin of the GLC doesn’t set any new standards, but the updates will help it compete a little better with the plusher, newer BMW X3.
New additions to the GLC interior include MBUX and multimedia system, consisting of two high-resolution digital screens: the first being a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the second a tablet on top of the middle of the dash that manages major controls and media.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system (expected to be standard in Australia) has the "Hey Mercedes" voice control system. The brand has made a big deal about this system, which also has an Artificial Intelligence element to it, meaning it’ll learn your habits, and aim to please you more and more over time.
It’d want to get better the longer you spend with it, because it takes a bit of learning, as there’s a lot of complexity to the way the menus and sub-menus are laid out. Sure, you’re probably supposed to use voice control a lot, but there is some lag time to contend with, not to mention inconsistency.
The screen and controls can also be managed by a central touchpad between the front seats, the screen itself, or the tiny little touchpad on the steering wheel. And yes, it looks a bit classier now - and the displays are crisp - but it feels a bit like new paint applied to an old door.
If you dig practicality as much me (high five!) there are big cup holders up front and in the back, bottle holders in all four doors, and good storage for loose items. You can expect rear vents.
I’m 182cm, or six-feet tall, and in the SUV model I was able to slot behind the driver’s seat with it set in my own position, and I had good headroom, legroom and toeroom. It’s an airy and broad feeling back seat, but there is a large transmission tunnel to contend with, and the door sills themselves are quite intrusive, with a narrow section at the base of the door meaning people with big feet like me (size 12) might feel a bit clumsy getting in and out.
Because of the raked roof line of the Coupe, it is better suited to smaller adults or children, because you need to watch your head getting in and out, and headroom is limited if you’re taller and sitting up straight.
Boot space is cut down for the Coupe at 500 litres, where the regular version has 550L, and the latter is easily enough for a family of four’s luggage for a weekend away.
Price and features
There are three models in the Kluger range and how much you pay will vary depending on your thirst for standard features. Our price list features RRP prices and are a guide only - your dealer might be convinced to reduce the cost.
The GX opens with the lowest price - $44,500 for the 2WD and $48,500 for the 4WD. Specs include six-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys wheels (no 17-inch alloy wheels anymore), front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth, forward and reverse camera, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
The GXL adds an lazy 10 grand in comparison to the GX - $54,950 (2WD) and $58,950 (AWD). The GXL adds a GPS navigation system, DAB digital radio, rear-cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, partial leather seats, and electric tailgate with separate glass hatch.
The Grande - again, for a further 10 grand plus, is available for $65,646 (2WD) or $69,617 (AWD). You'll get the same satellite navigation as the GXL, 19-inch rims, electric sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system with 9.0-inch screen and Blu-Ray and heated and ventilated front seats.
The entertainment system is powered by a 6.1-inch touch screen in the GX and 8.0-inch in the other models, which also include satellite navigation. The software package is distinctly 2006, painfully so in the GX. The system includes AM/FM radio, CD player and USB. There's no DVD option, however.
Colours include 'Crystal Pearl' (white), silver, 'Rustic Brown' (looks better than it sounds), 'Predawn Grey', 'Rainforest Green', 'Merlot Red' (dahling), 'Deep Red', 'Cosmos Blue' and 'Eclipse Black'. All but the black are $550 extras, which is not modest but not extortionate either.
Toyota's accessories list is well-stocked, with items like nudge bar (which is remarkably well integrated), side steps, cargo barrier, roof racks (no roof rails, though) and various plastic shields, driving lights, floor mats, towbar, parking aids and blind spot monitor.
You're out of luck if you want a Toyota-branded seat belt extender or bull bar.
For comparison, the cheapest CX-9 is $700 less (than the GX), but with a higher spec level, while the fully-loaded Azami is also around $800 cheaper (than the Grande) but - again - better-equipped.
The Korean rivals, while older and slightly smaller, are significant cheaper - the Kia Sorento is priced from $42,990 to $46,990 while the Santa Fe starts at $40,990 and finishes at $57,090 (albeit not a petrol V6). All these cars are well-equipped, with more modern features and tech.
Mercedes-Benz Australia hasn’t yet announced full pricing and spec details for the updated GLC range, and we won’t know what is included, what is optional and what we miss out on until later this year.
But we can offer up some estimates of where the models might sit when they arrive, based on the existing models, and how they’ll be equipped when they get here, too.
If Australia gets the line-up that CarsGuide believes is likely, the entry-level model will be the GLC 200, listing at about $65,000 for the SUV model. All prices here are estimates only - educated guesses, you might say.
The next model up could be the GLC 300, in both SUV ($72,000) and Coupe ($77,000) guises.
And the diesel version - the GLC 300d - is expected to be offered in the SUV ($79,000) and Coupe ($85,000)
Standard gear on all models will include LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, 19-inch wheels, leather steering wheel, leather seat trim (300 and 300d - 200 likely to get fake leather), electric front seat adjustment, the new MBUX screens (12.3-inch instrument cluster, 10.1-inch media), sat nav, cruise control, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and more.
It is expected that the new model will be available with optional adaptive dampers at about $1500 or the choice of air suspension ($2500).
Engine & trans
Across the range, Kluger buyers are treated to the same engine specifications - a 3.5-litre V6 petrol. The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner.
As to whether the V6 features a timing belt or chain, it's the latter. The engine uses standard (OW-30) oil and 0-100km/h acceleration times are around nine seconds.
Towing capacity is the same for each model, coming in at 700kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked. We haven't yet carried out a towing review.
The GLC range includes a range of petrol and diesel engines, but for Australia, there are a few models that are likely to be offered.
The first is the GLC 200, which has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-turbo engine with 145kW of power and 280Nm of torque. The figures are close to the existing GLC200 RWD base model (135kW/300Nm), but there's an electric boost system for the new engine.
The GLC 200 (and GLC 300 above it) feature the brand’s new 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which gives it the ability to cut the engine when coasting, while also adding up to 150Nm of extra torque at times.
The same 2.0-litre petrol engine has a beefier tune in the GLC 300 model, which pushes out a strong 190kW of power and 370Nm of torque.
And the diesel version we’re likely to get is the 300d, which has 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque. Diesel sales are down dramatically since 2015 - back then diesel accounted for 50 per cent of sales in Australia, but now that figure is closer to 20 per cent. That leads us to believe the range will be rationalised from two oil-burners in the current line-up (250d and 350d) to one.
To begin with, all models sold in Australia will be offered with 4Matic all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission. The current range includes an entry-level rear-wheel drive (GLC 200), but no replacement version has been announced as yet.
Want more performance? There’s the range-topping AMG 63 model, while an AMG 43 replacement is also expected, though not yet revealed.
For its engine size and overall weight, fuel economy is always going to be marginal and continues to be the Kluger's weak spot. For the front-wheel drive, Toyota claims 9.lL/100km on the combined cycle. The heavier 4x4 version recorded an official combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5L/100km.
These mileage figures would be a stretch - in a week of gentle suburban running around in a GX AWD, we copped a figure of 13.7L/100km.
The fuel tank capacity is a handy 72 litres, meaning a decent run between fills, especially when you're out on the open road.
Obviously, without a diesel engine, there are no diesel fuel consumption figures.
Claimed fuel consumption is set to be between 7.1 and 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres for the petrol models, and that’s measured at the new WLTP standard. We didn’t get a chance to monitor fuel use on the launch drive.
The diesel version we’ll likely get has claimed fuel use of 5.8L/100km.
The fuel use figures are the same across SUV and Coupe body styles.
You never really forget that the Kluger is a big unit. Ground clearance is a not-inconsiderable 200mm and the turning circle a fairly lazy 11.8 metres. People don't seem to mind that it feels big, and is one of the few in the segment that I feel like I'm climbing up into with my 183cm (six-foot) frame rather than stepping in.
From behind the wheel you can practically see the curvature of the Earth you sit so high. Fire up the near-silent V6 and you're struck by how incredibly smooth it is. Also smooth is the ride - the long travel suspension is probably exactly the same as it is for our American cousins vs, say, Hyundai's habit of setting up its cars for Australia.
Everything is soft and squidgy but in a reassuring way, even the warning beeps aren't too shrill or irritating. The steering is light and with the occasional moment of vagueness but again, it's all very predictable. The brakes, though a bit spongy at the top of the pedal, are more than up to the task of washing off speed in the unlikely event you've overcooked things.
The engine continues unchanged. There's enough horsepower to get you going and hold a decent clip, it will keep you out of trouble and do what Toyotas generally do - look after you. Performance is hardly the key point of the Kluger - it weighs in at a fairly unapologetic 2005kg in AWD form - but, as I say, there's ample power to keep you moving.
We're yet to perform an exhaustive off-road review, but our experience is that the Kluger has reasonable off road ability.
We only got the chance to spent time on the road in the new GLC 300 model, which is likely to replace the popular GLC 250 in Australia.
The road loop we sampled the car on consisted mainly of flowing freeway/autobahn sections, a little bit of urban driving, and a short stint in some corners that included surfaces that put most Australian race tracks to shame. They were that smooth.
And every GLC 300 we drove had the air suspension system fitted, so we can’t really say how it will handle Aussie-standard bumps and lumps. In this specification, the car was really quite pleasant - not too floaty, but soft enough to live up to the Comfort mode designation chosen. In Sport things were a little firmer, but still with a touch of body roll noticeable in corners. If you want a corner carving horsepower hero, it’s worth considering the GLC 63 AMG model... provided the budget allows.
The steering in the GLC 300 was light and predictable, if lacking much in the way of enjoyment - but for a family SUV that deals more with car parks and parallel manoeuvres, it will likely be a competent and confident option.
The engine itself was quiet and refined for the most part, building pace with ease and stepping away from a halt with enough eagerness to please the vast majority of customers.
While the addition of the new 48-volt system is clearly advantageous to initial pull-away power, it wasn’t necessarily seamless. On a few occasions we noticed some confusion from the powertrain, including hesitance from coasting to on-throttle. We even noted some shunting from the nine-speed auto transmission, which was quite un-Mercedes-like.
For those who want an off road review, we got a chance to put the 300d model through its paces under the instruction of advisors at the ADAC off-road park outside Frankfurt. The purpose-built course incorporated 36-degree side-angle driving, a deep rutted slalom course with plenty of articulation, a muddy creek crossing, and a log bridge crossing (where the optional 360-degree camera with active steering guidance lines was the difference between lining it up right or ending up on the roof 2.5 metres below).
The GLC 300d was surprisingly adept at each instance. Even up a 60-degree climb the AWD system was measured and managed the acceleration input I gave it very well.
The cool thing about the versions we drove off-road was the Off Road Package, which included more advanced telemetry, optional air suspension, an optional off road body kit to improve the off road specs of the GLC, and a pair of off-road modes (one for general unsealed driving, the other for more serious stuff with a speed limit of 45km/h, re-calibrated acceleration and gearing, and even headlights that offer a wider, shorter spread for low-speed driving in dark surrounds).
If you’re wondering about the off-road specs, the ground clearance (mm) is up to 245mm with the air suspension raised, while the approach angle is rated at 30.8 degrees and the departure angle at 24.9deg.
The Kluger arrives from the US with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 Kluger is really about the battery of new safety features in the lower models. Added to the GX and GXL are pre-collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning, active cruise and auto high beam. GXLs also pick up a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. As you can imagine, the Grande has the lot.
There are three top-tether anchors for the middle row as well as two ISOFIX points.
As before, the ANCAP safety rating stands at a maximum five stars, awarded in November 2016.
The GLC range was awarded the highest possible five-star ANCAP crash test rating in 2015. Since then the standards have moved on, and it won’t be retested. However, that is unlikely to be a large deterrent because the range comes loaded with safety equipment and technology.
There’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane departure warning, active lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Every GLC comes with nine airbags fitted (dual front, front side, rear side, curtain and driver’s knee) and of course there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top-tether points, too.
Toyota's three year/100,000km warranty also comes with a fixed price servicing plan. It seems the Japanese company can get away with the short warranty because of the long-held reputation for reliability and few problems or faults.
I've certainly never heard complaints from Kluger owners, or Toyota owners generally for that matter. Having said that, Hyundai and Kia both smack Toyota out of the park for warranty length and in Hyundai's case, lifetime fixed price servicing.
Service costs are fixed via Toyota's 'Service Advantage' pricing. For the Kluger you'll pay $180 per service for the first 36 months or 60,000km. You'll have to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km for the stamp in your owners manual, which is always good for resale value.
Few owners report any genuine issues, such as engine problems or tranmission problems.
Mercedes-Benz models are sold with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which includes the same duration of roadside assist. No-one is doing much better than that in the luxury segment… apart from Tesla, which offers an eight-year/160,000km warranty.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first - very generous - and the brand offers pre-pay or pay-as-you-go servicing across its model range, and pricing varies between the two. Upfront cover for three years is $2150, while PAYG is $2700. If you want to prepay for four years or five, you can - the costs are $2950 / $4650 respectively.
These costs cover the regular scheduled servicing (including brake fluid, air, cabin and fuel filters, spark plugs and coolant) but consumables like brake pads and discs and wiper blades will incur additional fees.