People often accuse me of being a cynic. This might just be because of a mildly jaundiced worldview from this corner which might often be expressed with a little too much enthusiasm, writes Declan Colley.
I always counter that this is a harsh judgement as I maintain nothing could be further from the truth and that I am a realist rather than someone who merely believes that everything and everyone is somehow motivated by self-interest.
When I express a belief that, for example, Mercedes sales in Ireland have shot through the roof in recent times, it is not based on the certainty that the company’s model line-up is currently better than at any time in its illustrious history, even if a solid argument could be made to that end.
Rather, it is based on the fact that the Mercedes franchise, which is privately owned here in Ireland, decided last December to unilaterally cut prices by 10% across the board.
Sales to the start of May this year have seen Mercedes rack up a total of 3,308 units and a very respectable eleventh place in the sales charts. In the same period last year, the venerable Stuttgart concern sold some 2,258 units and was fourteenth in the charts.
Is it cynical of me to suggest that the drop of 10% in retail prices — in what the company describe as a ‘promotional’ exercise — has been responsible for an increase of more than a thousand extra units? I think not.
Is it realistic to suggest that the price reduction might just have something to do with this dramatic increase in performance? I think it might just be.
Enthusiastic Mercedes supporters might argue that the sales performance is entirely warranted on the back of the quality of product the company is currently offering. but even the clichéd blind man in a dark room can see that the dramatic upturn in sales fortunes has something to do with the fact that the company’s Irish distributor has decided that a slightly smaller profit margin per unit might result in a larger return overall.
Personally, I am delighted for Mercedes and thrilled that the light of day has finally penetrated an organisation which previously cared less about the buying public and its loyal customer base than it did about its’ blue-chip bankability.
That it has taken quite an edge off the bottom line on each model in its line-up has made the company’s products considerably more appealing than was ever the case before and people who previously would rather drive a Lada rather than pay the extortionate price being asked by Mercedes in Ireland, are now changing their mind in rather large numbers.
Of course, the fact of the matter is that Mercedes is now making more really good cars than at any time I can remember. The company is also making more models than at any time in the past and its’ recent extraordinary expansion across its’ model offerings has mirrored an increasing ambition in the boardroom in Unterturkheim.
The fact it was a tad late (ie, years) getting on board the SUV bandwagon is now of little concern as sales mount up and punters are attracted not only by what’s on offer from the three-pointed star but by the lesser cost of it.
I am not, it has to be said, a particular fan of the SUV-as-coupe genre as pioneered by BMW (although Mercedes was to the fore with the saloon-as-coupe format which was an entirely different and more attractive kettle of fish, in my view), but while what’s on offer here is not as extreme as some of those options, styling wise, it is still a very attractive looking car.
Indeed, while some of these niche SUVs are God-awful looking, you would have to say that Mercedes has got the look of the GLC 220d Coupe — as tested with AMG Sport trim with a couple of added options thrown in — as close to impressive as is possible.
In its iridium sliver metallic overcoat and with such as the 20” AMG light alloys, this thing really does stand out from the pack without — unlike many others in this market segment — making the driver look like a complete buffoon.
The ‘what sort of a prat would drive that thing’ factor implying very questionable taste on behalf of the owner, does not at all apply here and the striking nature of the look is not a potential blight on the character of anyone who gets behind the wheel.
Its lower stance and slightly longer body does add to this overall visual allure and on the road too this sense of well-being is extrapolated into a very good feeling indeed as the Mercedes demonstrates excellent grip levels, very sharp steering and notably positive handling. The full-time 4Matic AWD system adds go-anywhere potential.
While the mature 2.1 litre turbodiesel (with 170 bhp in this 220d guise) is a decent performer in most regards (8.3 second 0-100 kph; 210 kph top speed; 5.4 l/100 km — 50+ mpg — and 143 g/km) it is still a grumbly old knocker and not the most sophisticated you’ll encounter.
Worth noting too is the excellent nine speed auto ’box which is very easy to live with and does not have the disquieting habit of lurching aimlessly from gear to gear as many similar designs have the habit of doing.
Mercedes has most of the opposition knocked into a cocked hat when it comes to the interior design and the quality of the materials as well as the sense of well-being engendered simply by climbing aboard, is a credit to the design team. This really is a nice place to be in.
I liked this a lot more than I expected I would, although I would have to urge caution to some buyers as the Coupe is not as practical as the regular GLC, so if you want more room without sacrificing the car’s on-road abilities, the ‘normal’ version is cheaper and easier to live with day-to-day.
Nevertheless, Mercedes has bucked a trend with this car. Whereas most of the contenders in this — admittedly — very small segment are for poseurs only, the GLC Coupe has pulled off the trick of being attractive without making potential owners look like someone out of an advert for cool sunglasses.
And, thanks to Mercedes newly inspired value-for-money ‘promotion’ it is considerably more attractive price-wise than it was just a few short months ago.
And it is not the cynic in me that has arrived at this conclusion — it is the realist.
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