The two SUVs you see here are the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Mercedes-Benz GLC. They are fresh and the newest members of the mid-size luxury SUV segment. Land Rover didn't have a good run in this segment sometime back, but the new Discovery Sport has done very well for JLR ever since the SUV went on sale a few months back. The Discovery Sport in fact is currently one the fastest-selling Land Rovers and has proven to be very successful. Mercedes on the other hand has entered this segment for the first time with the GLC. It's based on the durable C-Class and has proven to be a capable SUV. There are quite a few similarities between the two SUVs too. They both feature 2.2-litre diesels mated to 9-speed automatics and produce similar torque. The two face each other for the first time on Indian soil and it's going to be a close battle.
Both SUVs represent their brands' latest design language. The Sport is the first of the Discovery family of Land Rover vehicles. I like the way it looks as it combines the sport-themed face of the Range Rover Evoque with the understated character of the larger Discovery 4. The GLC is a good-looking SUV too and features the new Mercedes family face like in the more premium GLE. However, the silhouette is more crossover/estate like and less SUV. It definitely looks appealing, thanks to the design and various highlights, but the real SUV lover will be inclined more towards the Discovery Sport.
The GLC features a more car-like and luxurious cabin
Instrument cluster of the Mercedes-Benz GLC features high-resolution screen
It's a similar story inside. The GLC cabin is just like in the C-Class apart from a few additional controls for the 4Matic system. This isn't a downer; the car-like interior feels very premium and features quality materials. The centre console gets a flowing design, and the large centre screen looks like a tablet mounted on the dashboard. The Discovery Sport meanwhile gets an interior design that goes well with its understated exterior but can feel bland especially when compared to the GLC and even to the similarly priced Range Rover Evoque. The cabin, however, feels built to last. The controls are better positioned for the driver, but we wish the infotainment and instrument cluster screens were of a better resolution; they look odd in this age of high definition. Both SUVs get panoramic roofs but the GLC even gets a sunroof.
Rear knee room is good and on par with the Discovery Sport
Paddle shifters are offered standard in the GLC
Discovery Sport offers ample rear knee room and gets more comfortable seats
Smart cabin gets all-black or a dual-tone treatment
Controls are placed well and instrument cluster is clear to read
Paddle shifters are standard here as well
The driving position can be adjusted to drivers of various heights in both SUVs but one sits higher in the Discovery Sport even in the lowest seat setting. It offers a commanding view and feels like being seated in a true SUV. The GLC gets more comfortable front seats and extra thigh support though. It may not look like it in flesh, but the Mercedes is actually longer than the Land Rover. The wheelbase is longer too (by 132mm) but this hasn't resulted in more knee room over the Discovery. It still is impressive. The seats on the latter are larger and offer better support and shoulder room too. Both SUVs don't offer flat floors, but the GLC transmission tunnel is a lot higher making it better suited for two adults in the back. The Land Rover can accommodate a middle passenger comfortably. Rear AC vents are more effective too as they are placed on the pillars unlike the GLC's floor-mounted unit. Since they are five-seater SUVs, there's a large boot on offer, and with the seats folded, cargo volume goes up significantly. Discovery Sport offers 1,698 litres while the GLC is slightly behind at 1,600 litres.
As mentioned earlier, both SUVs here offer sub 2.2-litre diesel motors. To be precise, the Discovery Sport uses a 2,179cc TD4 diesel that produces 150PS at 4,000rpm and 400Nm of torque at 1,750rpm. The GLC features the proven 2,143cc diesel that puts out a higher 170PS from 3,000rpm and a similar 400Nm of torque delivered at a lower 1,400rpm. Both SUVs gets 9-speed automatic transmissions - the Land Rover uses a ZF-developed unit while the GLC gets one that's made in-house. The latter being the first automatic transmission in the world to feature nine ratios.
On the road, the GLC immediately feels more eager to get off the line. Power delivery is stronger, and there's mid range poke too. As we said during the road test last month, the power on tap is sufficient despite Mercedes offering the lower state of tune diesel for India. The Discovery Sport seen here is also the lower power output variant. The more powerful SD4 puts out 190PS and 420Nm, and we are still to test this SUV. The TD4 variant seen here, however, is the variant that goes up against the GLC. It is as refined as the Mercedes and power delivery is a lot more linear. Both SUVs drive well in town, and cruising on the highway is effortless too. Both offer seamless and smooth gearshifts, and it's hard to tell which system offers quicker shifts. Both SUVs get paddle shifters for a more involving experience. The Discovery shifts up well, but the system takes time to give you a downshift on its own as speeds reduce. The Mercedes is quick at this while the manual downshifts are quicker too. This quality comes in handy, especially while overtaking.
When it comes to outright performance, the Discovery Sport loses out to the GLC. The Mercedes does 100kmph from standstill in 8.2s, that's quicker than the Land Rover by 2.5 seconds. Top speed is also better - the GLC maxes out at 210kmph while the Discovery does 183kmph according to our VBOX tests. The Sport badge on the tailgate definitely doesn't refer to the SUV's performance. The GLC despite being more powerful and quicker off the line offers better fuel efficiency. Overall fuel efficiency of 15.7kmpl is 1.2kmpl more than the Discovery.
As you read before, the Discovery Sport sits lower and is longer; this gives it a natural advantage when it comes to dynamics. But the soft suspension set-up does make it roll more than expected. The Discovery Sport surprisingly rolls less for its height and is actually more confident inspiring when pushed hard. This doesn't make it the better handler though. The GLC still comes on top and feels more connected to the driver. The steering is one of the best electric power steering units available today in this segment. It offers perfect weight and is quick to respond too. The Discovery's steering has great feel and is heavier giving it a proper SUV feel, but driving in town and through twisty sections is a lot easier and less tiring in the GLC. The ride is marginally better in the Mercedes; the medium profile tyres and the softer suspension help. The Discovery Sport gets higher profile tyres mounted on smaller 17-inch rims but the suspension is set up firmer.
While most luxury SUV owners don't venture off-road, the Discovery Sport and GLC can both tackle bad roads and mild off-road situations. Both SUVs feature full-time four-wheel drive that sends power to the front or rear wheels based on the situation. There are various off-road programmes too that can be selected by the press of a button. Land Rover is known to make capable off-roaders but the Mercedes-Benz isn't far behind. In terms of ground clearance, the Discovery offers 212mm. That's 11mm more than the GLC. The former also offers a slightly better approach angle and a higher departure angle. A wading depth of 600mm is two times more than the Mercedes. However, when we ventured off-road, the GLC followed the Discovery everywhere without complaint. While it wasn't serious off-roading, it was still a tricky course in the wet.
The Land Rover is bit more hardcore than the Mercedes-Benz and a true SUV when it comes to styling and feel. But this is where its advantages end. If these are important attributes and you don't mind losing out on performance, fuel efficiency and a few features, then this is the SUV for you. The Mercedes-Benz GLC may look more crossover and feel more car like. But it's the better vehicle when it comes to every other parameters, including performance, fuel efficiency and handling. It's surprisingly even as impressive off-road, and it's nice to see Mercedes-Benz offering the off-road package as standard. The Mercedes even offers a few more comfort features like an electric tailgate and steering adjust as well as an extra airbag. The Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d is priced about Rs 2 lakh more than the Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE. So the question really is whether the Merc is worth the extra money. Considering all the things the GLC does better than the Discovery Sport, I think it is.