The Discovery Sport and GLC 300 are both new, yet familiar.
Introduced this year year, the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and Land Rover Discovery Sport may not be household names yet, but the concept behind both compact luxury crossovers is familiar. That’s because they aren’t really all new models, but rather new-generation replacements for each brands’ existing compact crossovers.
Taking over for the long-in-the-tooth LR2 is a familiar name with a new twist. The Discovery Sport is a smaller vehicle than the Discovery, but still promises to deliver impressive off-road capabilities. With 8.3-inches of ground clearance, it can crawl over taller objects than pretty much every compact luxury crossover on the market, including the GLC. And, yes, the GLC is the new moniker given to C-Class based, compact Mercedes-Benz crossover, replacing the GLK.
Similar Powertrains, Different Executions
Power for both vehicles comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired up to a nine-speed automatic transmission that can send power to all four wheels. The Discovery Sport pumps out 240 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, while the GLC 300 raises the stakes, offering 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.
As similar as these setups may sound, the Land Rover is a front-wheel-drive based, with a transversely mounted engine setup while the Mercedes-Benz utilizes a rear-wheel-drive longitudinal engine layout. This may not mean much to a lot of people, but in execution, it makes all the difference.
As I’ve found in a lot of transversely mounted engines paired to nine-speed automatics, the transmission in the Discovery Sport isn’t great. It jerks hard into gear, transitions between gears can be less than smooth and sometimes, it takes a few moments to find the proper gear.
In contrast, the nine-speed in the GLC is one of the best nine-speeds on the market. It’s well suited for the vehicle and transitions between gears smoothly and near seamlessly.
Power and Efficiency
And it’s more than just being a smooth operator where the GLC’s transmission pays dividends. Despite the Mercedes weighing about 50 pounds more, it’s still quicker to 60 mph, needing just 6.4 seconds, compared to the Discovery Sport’s 7.8 second acceleration time.
The Mercedes-Benz also delivers better real world fuel economy. During our testing, the GLC 300 averaged 22.8 mpg while the Discovery Sport could only muster 19.1 mpg. As a final tour de force, the GLC offers the quieter, more isolated cabin of the two.
Two Different Approaches to Ride and Handling
The two approaches to how the Discovery Sport and GLC 300 behave on and off-road directly reflect each manufacturer’s legacy and reputation. The Land Rover handles, rides and drives more like a traditional SUV even if it is a modern crossover. It’s set up to handle moderate off-road duties and features the usual multiple drive modes.
The downside to this go-anywhere ability is that the Discovery Sport’s ride is a bit choppy and missing some of the smooth refinement found in the GLC 300. The Mercedes-Benz’s ride is more comfortable and all the controls operate in a fluid, refined way. Handling is decent for a compact luxury crossover as well. The GLC may be missing the Discovery Sport’s selectable off-road modes, but it does offer customizable drive modes to balance sport and comfort to the driver’s liking.
Anyone who has been inside the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class will instantly recognize the GLC 300’s interior. Finished in high quality materials with a cohesive design, it has a higher feeling of luxury compared to the Discovery Sport.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic Review
The interior in the Disco does feature style of its own, but it doesn’t look as modern as the GLC’s and some of the switch gear looks tired and randomly placed. The infotainment system is also a bit laggy, although it may hold a usability edge over the Mercedes.
The Cargo and Passenger Edge
Despite the GLC 300 being over two and a half inches longer in overall length, the Discovery Sport trumps it by offering a third row of seats. The two seats in the back are very tight and only meant for children, but they’re nice to have in an emergency.
Passengers in the traditional rear seats will probably prefer the Discovery Sport as well. Legroom may be identical, but the headroom in the Discovery is more ample and the one piece panoramic sunroof makes it feel more airy. The arm rests are also better placed in the Land Rover.
Cargo capacity with the third row seat folded favors the Discovery Sport once more, but the advantage isn’t as big as the numbers suggest.
The Verdict: Land Rover Discovery Sport vs Mercedes-Benz GLC 300
As tested, both of these vehicles become a bit pricey. The Discovery Sport HSE Lux clocks in at $53,508 as tested while the GLC 300 4Matic came in at $58,230.
The Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 is a more substantial, higher quality, better bolted together vehicle as a whole. But is it worth its $5,000 premium? In the world of compact luxury crossovers, the answer is yes.
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