On The Road

Practical crossovers

courtesy of Ford
Ford’s top-of-the-line Titanium Edge, with front-wheel drive, sells for just under $45,000.

We’re convinced that for all-around family use, the mid-size crossover SUV may be the best size and type of automobile on the market today – and sales figures certainly support this view. Two 2019 examples we drove recently, the Ford Edge and Mercedes-Benz GLC, are typical of the quality that’s available today.

Each vehicle is right in the middle of the SUVs offered by its company and in price falls within the middle of the range for the type. The Edge we drove – a top-of-the-line Titanium model with front-wheel drive – has a bottom-line price of $44,980 that includes the safety and convenience equipment and Elite cosmetic packages. The GLC – a GLC 350e plug-in hybrid – offers greater luxury in the interior and more horsepower than the Edge, and includes all available options bumped up against the top of its price range at $68,145. Drop options such as leather upholstery and panorama roof, and $5,000 could easily be peeled off that price.

Neither of the examples we drove was exactly what we would likely buy. Although the Mercedes offers a brand-new plug-in hybrid system that will soon be in most large European cities where internal combustion engines won’t be permitted in the central city area, it doesn’t offer enough plug-in range to be useful in American commuting. The extra $7,000 isn’t worth it in the U.S.; if we were buying the GLC for use here, we would drop the hybrid option, reducing the price to approximately $55,000.

Then there’s the Ford, which doesn’t come with a feature we think is essential for our region: all-wheel drive. The example we drove was front-wheel drive, which is simply a nonstarter for Los Altos residents likely to encounter heavy rain and even occasional snow. Opt for all-wheel drive and the price of the Edge rises to approximately $48,000.

Bells and whistles

For those prices, both of these new models include all of the up-to-date safety and convenience features that have been developed in the industry’s long-range effort to build cars that can help drivers react at a more reliable and responsive level than is possible for most of us. Lane-keeping assist, front and rear collision warning and prevention, and intelligent cruise control are the prime examples. Improved stability and handling control are additional benefits.

Both cars also benefit from improvements in engine design and consequently fuel efficiency, with each offering 25 mpg in combined driving.

These vehicles are also exemplary in their driving manner, responding predictably and in a satisfying manner to a variety of traffic conditions. Moving through traffic on a Sunday in San Francisco, Genie called the Ford “perky,” quickly able to find openings in traffic and change lanes in anticipation of turns ahead. Gary liked the Mercedes-Benz, as it stayed level and smooth on curving back roads in the hills.

There were some other aspects that we liked and disliked on each car. In the Mercedes-Benz, for example, the start-stop feature that’s becoming typical of all cars was a problem, obtrusive with a noticeable lurch as it started up in traffic after stops at intersections. In addition, for some reason, it had to be manually put into park when we shut it off, otherwise it would stay in neutral and could easily start rolling, unlike other brands that automatically shift into park as soon the vehicle is shut off.

On the other hand, the user interface with the vehicle’s entertainment and comfort systems was exceptionally easy to use, controllable from the steering wheel or the console, and the Burmester sound system, unique to Mercedes-Benz and an $850 option, offered gorgeous sound befitting the luxury of the cabin interior.

The Ford was almost the opposite: its 8-speed automatic (one more gear than the GLC) was imperceptible in operation, as was the stop-start feature, so the car drove as smoothly and quietly as luxury vehicle. However, even with constant improvements, the Ford user interface, relying to a great extent on touch-screen controls, was awkward to use and the sound system wouldn’t impress even a budding audiophile.

Which is the better choice?

But given the price differential, which car is “better”?

Of course, our answer is the same as always: It depends on what you want in a vehicle.

If this is going to be your primary vehicle, you’ve got a small family, take vacations in the mountains and frequently need to pick up awkward cargo at one of the big-box stores, then the Edge might be your better choice. Even though it’s less expensive than the GLC, it offers an exceptional cargo capacity of nearly 40 cubic feet with four passengers aboard. With the back seats folded flat, nearly 75 feet of cargo space – equal to many full-size SUVs – is available, much better than the GLC with 20 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 56 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

But if your primary need is for a businesslike vehicle, the GLC may be the better choice. If you’re more concerned with the comfort of the rear passengers than cargo capacity, and want to impress them (or yourself, for that matter) with your good taste, then the high quality and style of the Mercedes-Benz interior will more than justify the increment in price.

Recently Mercedes-Benz has been moving toward a goal that all of its models, regardless of size, should be luxurious. The view of its product planners is that just because a person wants a smaller automobile, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t want a luxury vehicle.

Either way, for our money these days, a mid-size SUV crossover can be the owner’s primary vehicle, suitable for a variety of uses. These two models are good examples of the range of prices and product design available on this practical wheelbase.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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