THE SUV (sports utility vehicle) rivalry is just as clearly seen in the premium sector to reflect the changing tastes in general.
Mercedes-Benz is certainly not sitting still with its SUV range and customers are spoilt for choice between the ICE (internal combustion engine) and BEV (battery electric vehicle) model variants.
To keep customers wanting more, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia launched two exclusive fully imported variants in the ICE range, these being the GLC 300 4MATIC Coupe and AMG GLE 53 4MATIC+ Coupe.
Right after the launch, the media were allowed to check out what the Mercedes-Benz SUV models had to offer in a drive from the Klang Valley to Penang and back over two days.
Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC SUV
We started with the EQS 580 4MATIC SUV, the flagship of the BEV range and the equivalent model to the GLE with sizeable body dimensions to reflect the ‘S-Class’ status.
This model has a dual-motor arrangement that delivers 544PS and 858Nm; it is said to accelerate from 0 to 100kph in 4.6 seconds and has a 210kph top speed, very impressive for an SUV weighing some 2.8 tonnes.
The EQS 580 SUV, which was launched in October, came with 94% battery power that was good for 474km and a maximum range of 498km; when fully charged, its maximum range is 615km.
Given that the distance to Penang was about 330km, we figured that the mileage range available should take us comfortably to our destination without range anxiety.
Well, our assumption was not entirely spot on as we failed to realise that like a petrol engine vehicle, road mileage or range in a BEV is also very much dependent on how one uses the accelerator pedal.
For the 200km-plus drive from the Klang Valley to Gopeng, just before Ipoh, the EQS 580 range was more than halved to 214km and less 50% battery power.
That was due to some robust driving when the highway was clear and although we tried to keep the electric power use to less than 20% as guided by the power use meter that occupied the space of the tachometer in ICE vehicles, the range was reduced much quicker than we had expected.
Apparently, we didn’t quite learn from our range anxiety lesson during the Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 drive from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan earlier in the year.
Although we tried to use the accelerator pedal more prudently after Ipoh, the vehicle’s range was down to less than 40km (battery power was about 12%) when we arrived at Juru.
We had another 20km to go to our final destination but it was peak hour traffic then at 5pm.
We weren’t sure if the remaining range would suffice with us crawling along in heavy traffic and decided to stop for a quick charge at the Petronas Juru Layby.
Travel comfort, from the driver and front passenger’s perspective, was good as expected given the Airmatic air suspension system with continuously adjustable damping and 22-inch wheels and tyres.
The EQS 580 SUV has three dashboard screens; a 12.4-inch digital instrument panel for the driver, a 17-7-inch central display and a 12.4-inch panel for the front passenger.
A head-up display comes standard but the big high-definition MBUX Hyperscreen instrument panel could be pretty distracting as we drove along.
As the flagship of the EQS range, the seven-seater EQS 580 goes for RM699,888 on the road without insurance.
Mercedes-Benz GLC 300
The return drive for the following day was done in a Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 that was locally assembled from September onwards.
This is the second-generation model that is 60mm longer than the previous model and sits on a longer wheelbase of 2,888mm.
It is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that delivers 258PS and 400Nm of torque between 2,000 and 3,200rpm.
It is a mild hybrid with an integrated starter-generator (ISG) that provides a boost of 23PS and 200Nm of torque.
The transmission is a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission and a 4Matic all-wheel drive system is standard.
The GLC 300 accelerates to 100kph in 6.2 seconds while its top speed is better than the EQS 580 SUV at 240kph.
Although the GLC 300 is one segment lower, the comparison is more on the power system than the vehicle itself.
With a full tank, the GLC 300 could provide a mileage of above 550km which we believe would take us back to Klang Valley comfortably.
Its acceleration might lack slightly against the EQS 580 SUV that had 858Nm kicking in strongly each time we hit the accelerator pedal.
But once the GLC 300’s turbo kicked in along with the mild hybrid input, we could get going quickly too for a robust drive.
Moreover, we enjoyed a dry run; there was no rain along the way unlike the day earlier with the EQS 580 when the Ipoh-Penang section was soaking wet most of the way.
We did have our fair share of traffic snarls both ways as well as clear roads to open up as and when possible.
With the GLC 300, we were impressed with its reasonably frugal ways despite the robust runs as the engine speed was usually below 2,500rpm, even at a gallop, due to the nine-speed automatic transmission.
We ended our drive with the level at half tank, good for more than 200km.
Sure, the level of ride comfort and noise level was not as refined nor as cushy as the EQS 580 SUV but few would have a bone to pick with the GLC 300 in these areas.
At RM378,888 on the road without insurance, the GLC 300 would easily hold its own as a Mercedes-Benz mid-range SUV or you could pay almost half a million ringgit for the Coupe variant.
A brief ride in the GLC 300 Coupe in Penang revealed little differences with the GLC 300, except that the rear passengers’ heads almost touched the roof (we are 165cm tall, so taller passengers might just find the sharply sloping coupe roof towards the rear to be a tad too low for comfort).