Volvo XC90 VS Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
- Stylish inside and out
- Powerful four-cylinder engine
- Spacious cabin
- Cabin storage could be better
- Quiet exhaust note doesn't match brutish looks
- Touchscreen takes getting used to
- Good comfort
- Improved interior
- New engines
- Changes a little sedate
- Not overly involving to drive
- Some drivetrain gremlins on test
Does the Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 have what it takes to match other large seven-seat prestige SUVs... or is it even better?
This Volvo XC90 is where it all began for Volvo way back in 2014. Okay, let me rephrase that, it wasn't the beginning of Volvo – that was in 1927. This second-generation XC90 was a kind of new beginning for Volvo because it brought with it the styling and technology rules for the brand's future models. But how does it hold up now?
See, when the new XC90 arrived in Australia in 2015 it wowed us with its large portrait display, advanced safety equipment and 'Hammer of Thor' headlights. Since then, safety and tech has come along way - has the XC90 been left behind?
And while on the topic of reality checks: what's this large seven-seat SUV like to live with – how did it cope with our nightmare car park test?
We tested the XC90 R-Design T6. What the heck does that mean? Well the T6 refers to the engine – it's a four-cylinder petrol – and R-Design is the highest trim level.
A four cylinder… in a giant SUV? Yep, we'll get to that.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium 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 XC90 may have been the first of Volvo's new breed of cars, but it remains exceptional in its styling, refinement, technology and safety. The R-Design trim level makes it the burger with almost the lot in that it still gives you room to option more and doesn't assume you want, say a sunroof, when you might not.
The T6 engine is excellent – powerful, with plenty of torque. All that's missing is a beefy soundtrack to go with this brute of an SUV. A cool alternative to a large SUV from BMW, Benz and Audi.
Would the XC90 R-Design T6 be on your prestige SUV shopping list? 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.
Can you believe the current Volvo XC90 came into the world in 2014 and still looks this good? Signature elements are the giant grille with its oversized badge, the 'Hammer of Thor' headlights, the unmistakable Volvo tail-lights and the tall profile with enormous windows. Yup, the XC90 is still a futuristic, stylish and elegant-looking brute.
The R-Design trim level enhances the look by adding a gloss-black grille, body-coloured side skirts and bumpers, silver wing mirror caps, aluminium roof rails, a roof-top spoiler, fog lights in the front spoiler, dual tail pipes and the 20-inch alloys you can see in the images.
The modern, minimalist design cabin has also aged well – although the portrait-orientated screen now feels a bit small. I remember writing about how outrageously large it was when it was launched – and then I sat in a Tesla with its mega touchscreen, taking displays to a whole new level.
The R-Design spec makes its presence known in the cabin, too, with the R-Design steering wheel, R-Design Sport pedals and R-Design carpet; it also adds carbon-fibre door inlays and a leather illuminated gearshift knob.
The R-Design trim level also gives buyers two seat trim choices – Nappa leather/Nubuck or Nappa perforated leather. Both are no-cost options and our test car featured the perforated hide.
How big is the XC90? Let's take a look at this seven-seater SUV's dimensions. The XC90 is just less than 5.0m long, more than 2.0m wide (with mirrors) and nearly 1.8m tall.
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.
It's a giant box on wheels, how could be it be impractical? Actually, there are ways it could be more practical, but first the good points.
There's plenty of room. This is one of the few seven-seat SUVs where even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare, and then behind that position in the third row with just enough room for my legs. Headroom in the second row is excellent, but the third row is getting tight although my head still isn't touching the roof.
The doors to the second row are large providing a tall and wide opening for easy entry and exit. The third row is a bit tricky to get into, but I haven't met a single seven-seat SUV where entry into the third-row is a breeze.
Even though the XC90 does well to slide and fold its second row (40/20/40 split) forward, I still ended up crawling in on my hands and knees. Older kids will be able to leap in, so put them back there.
The boot is enormous and with the optional air suspension the XC90 can lower itself like an elephant getting down on its knees to make it easier for you to load stuff into the back. Yup, with all seats up you have 314 litres of boot space; with the third row folded flat you'll have a cargo capacity of 1019 litres, and with all of the seats folded (no not the front ones), there's 1868 litres. Those are measured in ISO litres which are different to the VDA litres used by many other car makers.
Storage throughout the cabin is good but could be better. There are two cupholders in the third row, two in the second and another two up front, and while the storage boxes in the armrests in the third row are an excellent idea, the second row just has small door pockets and seat-back cargo nets. It would be good to see drawers under the seats or even a fold out tray from the centre console.
Storage in the front isn't great either – that long sliding panel next to the shifter (you can see it in the images) houses the cupholders, the glove box is also on the smaller side and so is the storage area under that armrest – but it does contain two USB ports. There's one 12-volt power outlet in the second row, another in the boot and a cigarette lighter (or another 12-volt) in the front.
There's four zone climate control – and directional air vents in all three rows.
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
The Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 lists for $104,900, plus on-road costs. The trim level below, with the T6 engine, is the Inscription which lists for $102,900, and the entry-model is the Momentum for $96,900.
So, while nearly $105K might seem like a lot (especially once you add the on-road costs) you can feel comfortable knowing it's actually mighty fine value for money considering the amount of equipment you're given in return.
Coming standard is the 9.0-inch portrait touchscreen and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display and sat nav, there's a 10-speaker 330W stereo, Bluetooth and internet connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android auto, digital radio, 360-degree parking camera, gear shifting paddles, power and heated front seats, four-zone climate control, a pop-out booster child seat in the second row, bending LED headlights, fog lights and a proximity key.
That's along with all the R-Design gear which we covered in the section above and the extensive safety equipment list which we'll cover below.
Our test car was fitted with the $8000 'Premium Package' which brings sunblinds for the rear doors, a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, air suspension, plus tailored dashboard and door trims. The 'Bursting Blue' metallic paint our car wore is a $1900 option.
Worried you're paying too much? Fear not, because relative to most other prestige seven-seat SUVs the XC90 R-Design T6 is at the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum.
Audi's Q7 3.0TDI Quattro lists for $106,900, Mercedes-Benz's GLS 350d is $118,729, while the Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE manages to undercut it at $103,000.
It's interesting to note that while the XC90 T6 has a petrol engine, those rivals are diesels. Audi doesn't make a petrol Q7, Land Rover does make petrol Discoveries but only sell diesel ones in Australia, and as for a Benz GLS petrol there's only one - the GLS 500 and that lists for $165,129, which is $60K higher than our Volvo XC90.
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
You may have noticed in the images that our test car wears a tiny blue square on its tailgate. This is the badge of Volvo's Polestar performance tuning division. All R-Design XC90s come with the 'Polestar Optimisation' package which increases the T6's power output from 235kW to 246kW and its torque from 400Nm to 440Nm.
The Polestar Optimisation package also recalibrates the XC90's throttle response and increases the shifting speed of the eight-speed automatic.
Acceleration from 0-100km/h according to Volvo is 6.4 seconds which is a tenth of a second quicker than an 'un-Polestar-optimised' T6 - say in the Inscription T6 or Momentum T6.
The XC90 R-Design T6 is all-wheel drive and for the five of you out there who will ask, including my father in-law – it's a Haldex 'Generation 5' system.
My bet is the same people will also want to know its braked towing capacity: 2400kg.
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.
Volvo says the T6 four-cylinder turbo- and supercharged petrol engine with its eight-speed auto should use 8.5L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads – this goes for the Polestar Optimised T6, too.
We measured our test car's fuel economy at the petrol pump and calculated that after 246km of mainly suburban and city running we were using 14.3L/100km. The trip computer reported a slightly higher figure of 14.5L/100km.
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.
At 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and nearly 1.8m tall the XC90 R-Design T6 is big, but in comparison to other large SUVs it's one of the easiest to drive.
The images in this review were taken at the top of an eight-storey carpark: it's a good place to take photos of my review cars and at the same time test pilot them through probably the worst-designed car park you'll encounter.
Narrow ramps and tight turns are not really ideal conditions for a large SUV but the great visibility through the XC90's big windows, the excellent field of vision offered by the wing mirrors, the light steering and smooth throttle response made climbing to the summit pretty simple.
The flat, broad bonnet helps with being able to see exactly how much room you have between the concrete pylon and an insurance claim, too. Other large SUVs with curvaceous lines and noses that dip away from sight will have you sitting up like a meerkat trying to see how much room you have.
A four-cylinder petrol engine may seem small for such a large SUV but the T6 is outstanding – it's efficient and impressively powerful. Not once did I feel like it was lacking in grunt, but there were many times I wished the exhaust note sounded beefier.
Our car had the optional air suspension which for the most part turned out a composed and comfortable ride, although being fitted with fairly low profile tyres on large wheels (Continental ContiSport Contact5 275/45 R20) meant when the road surface turned bad the ride suffered.
And these aren't even the largest wheels. The R-Design T6 comes with no-cost option 22-inch wheels – they look good, but you'd be wise to try them before you buy.
The touchscreen will take some getting used to – I kept discovering more hidden 'pages' and functions the more I swiped around it.
A serenely quiet cabin, comfortable seats with uber-stylish surrounds, a commanding driving position and not being in just another German SUV made the experience even more special.
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.
If this was Family Feud and the question was: 'Name a type of car that's safe? I'd bet the answer would be 'Volvo' every time. I'd also wonder if Volvo had paid for the question to be asked on the show.
Anyway, the reputation is justified and the brand continues to pioneer life-saving technology and equip its cars with the latest safety gear.
What's just as noble is how Volvo applies the full range of safety systems to all grades of XC90 – so even the base grade Momentum T6 comes with the same safety features as the R-Design T6.
This includes AEB which Volvo says is active from four km/h and can brake effectively to avoid a collision with a pedestrian at up to 45km/h. At speeds higher than 45km/h but below 70km/h the collision is mitigated.
According to Volvo the system will also detect cyclists and if one swerves into the path of the car, the XC 90 can reduced its speed by up to 50km/h. As for other cars, the XC90 can brake to avoid a collision if the speed difference between the cars is less than 30km/h.
The XC90 is also equipped with adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert with AEB that works while reversing.
A run-off mitigation feature also brakes and uses evasive steering to pull the car back into its lane if the vehicle accidentally starts to veer off the road.
The XC90 is fitted with front airbags, side airbags, driver knee airbag, plus second and third row inflatable curtains.
For child and baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the second row – there aren't any in the third row.
The XC90 R-Design T6 has a space saver spare located under the boot floor.
Chinese company Geely own Volvo, but the XC90s that are sold in Australia are made in Sweden.
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.
The XC90 is covered by Volvo's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12months – whichever comes first.
There are two service programs offered for the XC90. There's the 'SmartCare' plan which costs $2225 for three years/45,000km; $3500 for four years/60,000km and $4230 for five years/75,000km. Then there's the 'SmartCare Plus' plan which costs $3050 for three years/45,000km; $5350 for four years/60,000km and $6540 for five years/75,000km.
It would be good to see Volvo offer capped price servicing, which doesn't need to be purchased as an additional piece of coverage.
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.