Perhaps this is why the Discovery Sport continues to lure me in. Objectively, it is the most staid of the three, its perceived quality innately hamstrung by an in-house requirement to feel less special than the Range Rover-badged Evoque. But I find its dusting of utilitarianism, even in HSE spec, very endearing.
The Disco still wants to be the Leatherman multi-tool of SUVs: expensive, solid, useful and reassuring. The quirk of its positioning, which has left it straddling both a premium and mainstream customer base, ought to have limited it – some think it has – but I needed to variously wear muddy wellies and later a tux during our time together and felt right at home in both.
In terms of space in the rear, all three cars qualify as effective family cars (hardly surprising, given their provenance). The X3 has a fair bit more head room than the GLC, but leg room is similarly generous in both.
The Land Rover has a shorter wheelbase but doesn’t feel any less accommodating. Filling its two jump seats – even with small children –
obviously eats into that space, although the Sport is packaged cleverly enough for it all to still
seem like a neat idea.
Boot volume is similarly admirable across the board. The fact that you reportedly get 60 litres more capacity in the GLC than you would in a C-Class wagon gives some indication of the increased practicality (and therefore added value) that is had from choosing the SUV.
Also thrown into the usability bargain is Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system. In the case of the 250d driven here, it’s powered by the 201bhp version of the omnipresent 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which makes it moderately more powerful than both the Discovery’s 178bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium and BMW’s 188bhp four-pot oil-burner. Away from the mark, that difference shows.
The GLC proves a genuine sub-8.0sec to 60mph prospect, with a standing-start eagerness that not even the famously brisk X3 replicates. The Land Rover lags even further back, the gearing of its own nine-speed auto and a fair bit more kerb weight only contributing to the Ingenium engine’s power deficit. The unit’s refinement issues are hardly downplayed in this company, either.
Mercedes has successfully wrapped its own strident motor in an apparently thicker blanket than normal, its curiously chirpy thrum now consigned to moments of hard acceleration only. The engines in the Discovery Sport and the X3 are noticeably more vocal than that of the GLC, while the British car adds a dose of vibration into the mix.
The GLC’s pace is a useful ally in modern SUVs, and initially the car seems well primed to exploit it. Compared with its competitors, you sit low in the cabin – so low, in fact, that the model seems a more likely contender for something of the Audi A4 Allroad’s ilk than a Land Rover. The pedals and steering wheel are presented in car-like fashion, too. In the X3, the steering wheel has the girth of a George RR Martin paperback and is tuned for the kind of incisiveness that can be wrung from the front end.