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
- 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
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.
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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.
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.