It has been a couple of weeks since my last blog post and a couple of biggish things have occurred in my life, but before I write another post focusing on them I feel the need to follow up on said last post regarding big motor show debuts.
Now although I had already seen pictures of most of the vehicles launched at the NYC and Beijing Auto Shows, there are always manufacturers who wait until the actual event to fully show off their concept cars. One such manufacturer is Mercedes, who seem to be on something of a roll in launching new models to a warm reception. Long regarded as the king of niche models, recent years have seen rivals such as BMW snatch away some of the limelight through (admittedly controversial) models like the 5 Series GT and X6. Now whilst the former has been a sales disappointment to the boys from Munich, the X6’s controversial macho styling and sense of exclusivity has given it a pretty unique place in the market; yes Acura did attempt a rival in the form of the ZDX, but it’s failure seemed to compound the BMW’s success.
It had been rumoured for quite some time that Mercedes Benz were planning a rival for the X6 based upon their own ML model. Given the relative simplicity of adding a slightly sportier body onto this already well established platform, this was little surprise to those familiar with the German’s copycat niche techniques, but given that the current ML is now 3 years old I still found myself a little surprised that they had waited quite this long to launch what will be known as the ‘MLC’.
Now despite it’s relative success, the BMW X6 has never been a popular vehicle amongst enthusiasts or indeed many casual observers. Whilst the X5 it is based on has a decent helping of practicality and off-roading potential, the X6 is a purely road biased machine that barely seats 4 in comfort and has much less luggage space either, plus the styling is best described as controversial and aggressive. So by the looks of it when designing the MLC, Mercedes decided to take a more elegant approach; flowing lines mixed with their new styling direction a la CLA mean that it is a lot more palatable than the brash X6. Admittedly there is a new X6 launching at the end of this year, but I suspect that BMW will try to keep it’s more aggressive image intact compared to Mercedes’ more refined reputation.
I would also assume that this would apply to the driving experience, as the ML/GL have generally been more sedate cars to drive than the more focused BMW (and even Audi) rivals. This is not a bad thing really as the vast majority of drivers looking for a £60k high-riding vehicle are probably going to prioritize comfort and ease of use over how flat it takes corners. If you look at the direction that the latest BMW X5 has taken then it’s clear that BMW have also cottoned onto this (for better or for worse) and although it may be a little more sporting than it’s more practical brothers, I doubt that the MLC will rock the boat in this respect. The same goes for engines, as the usual mix of V6 and V8 engines should be available across the world, with a V6 diesel in European markets likely to be the best seller – the 4 cylinder diesel in the ML250 is unlikely to be included in a more performance orientated vehicle.
Inside I would bet money that the cabin won’t sway far from that of the ML and GL, or at least the facelifted versions of those cars which are due out around the same time as the MLC (next year sometime) which is no bad thing, but maybe a little more design sparkle wouldn’t go amiss. Neither would some more cabin space, although judging by the less rakish roofline I would expect the MLC to have more head and luggage room than the BMW X6.
From the looks of it the Mercedes MLC has the ingredients to be a rather good vehicle, but with sales of the BMW X6 starting to slide and buyers turning towards smaller premium crossovers it remains to see whether their efforts may have been better focused on a new GLK (and even a GLKC?!)