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Driving in the Real World

While sportscars and Autobahn-capable sedans and coupes may make our pulses quicken, they may not be ideal for driving in our NY metro world.

We live in a four-season climate — sometimes we get all four in one day — so having a reliable, safe and capable vehicle is wisest, no matter what the weather gods throw at us. Plus, we have shopping to do and kids to take to camp and after school sporting activities. Of course, we take our families on long weekend vacations too — luggage, bikes, skis and all. So, while we love our luxury sports cars, sedans and coupes, we need another option.

Enter the modern solution to the 1950s station wagon: the SUV and crossover.


Mercedes-Benz and Audi make wonderful sports cars, sedans and coupes that are as comfortable on the highway as they are on the racetrack. However, if you have a large family to transport, are a driver in a carpool or carry your golf buddies and their gear to the country club, your particular vehicle needs have to be addressed. Of course, you also need a sure-footed, higher-ground clearance vehicle to go camping or skiing or to a beach cookout.

It so happens that Audi and MercedesBenz have an SUV or crossover that will get the job done in style and comfort — safely. Here are a few worth considering the next time you’re looking for something to match your lifestyle.


The sportiest and most compact offerings are Audi’s Q3 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLA.

Audi’s Q3 uses “compact crossover” to describe its versatile SUV. Available in front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive, the Q3 boasts carlike handling and agility combined with the best SUV features such as nearly 50 cubic feet of cargo space, power tailgate and seating for five. Because it has an aerodynamic shape, six-speed automatic transmission and gas-sipping turbocharged engine, the Q3 gets an EPA combined 23 MPG. Pricing for the Q3 is $31,800 for the FWD and $33,900 for the Quattro. Audi, through the Audi Sport line, also has an RS Q3 in the works. It will combine all of the compact utility of the Q3 with racetrack-tested performance. Stay tuned!

Mercedes-Benz’s closest competitor to the Q3 is its GLA line. Redesigned for the 2018 model year, it’s available in three models: the GLA 250, GLA 250 4MATIC and AMG GLA 45. These compact SUVs possess all of the qualities that define Mercedes-Benz vehicles in a safe, comfortable and versatile package. Five-passenger seating is standard, and cargo space with the backseat folded is nearly identical to the Q3’s. Standard features also compare with the power tailgate and panoramic sunroof that are standard on the GLA and the Q3. Horsepower for both GLA 250 models is comparable to the Q3’s, but thanks to sleeker aerodynamics and a seven-speed transmission, acceleration is a tick faster and EPA estimated fuel mileage a few MPG thriftier. Prices start at $33,400 for the GLA 250 and $35,400 for the GLA 250 4Matic excluding destination charges, options and tax. The AMG GLA 45 is similar in performance and desirability to the planned Audi RS Q3 and, like all AMG vehicles, is fast and exciting.

So if you want or need a compact, luxurious and safe SUV (AKA, crossover), make an appointment to test both a GLA and a Q3. Both are aimed at the heart of the market with subtle differences that will become apparent once you’re behind the wheel.


Moving up in size and value, Audi and Mercedes-Benz go head to head in the midsize crossover/SUV category. The Audi Q5 is the brand’s strongest-selling vehicle, and when you go to the dealer and test-drive one, you’ll quickly find out why. Redesigned for the 2018 model year, it has room, luxury and comfort to go along with strong interior and exterior styling and an impressive list of standard features.

Power from the 252-hp turbocharged engine propels it a second faster in the From top to bottom: the Q3 features an MMI® navigation system, so you can arrive on time and in style; the GLA 250’s Dynamic Select’s four modes allow for smooth riding; the Q5 offers plenty of cargo space, as the backseats fold down, optimal for any road trip. FALL 2017 5 0-60 benchmark than the model it replaces. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard and the rigid chassis rides on a redesigned front five-link suspension that provides a comfortable yet agile ride. Optional on the 2018 Q5 is the comfort adaptive damping suspension. This wheel-selective suspension system uses continuous electronic damper control to enable various suspension and damping combinations that make up the Audi drive-select modes. Prices start at $41,500 for the Premium model, $45,500 for Premium Plus and $50,800 for the Prestige.

As good as the Q5 is (and in our conversations with owners we know, it is very good), the Mercedes-Benz GLC line compares very favorably and in the eyes of Motor Trend magazine is the 2017 SUV of the year. It took top honors based on opinions such as this one in the November 2016 review: “Overall, this is a great vehicle. You know you’re getting into a Mercedes as soon as you open the door to the GLC. The quality of the materials and the elegance of the design are very consistent with the Mercedes-Benz brand proposition and reputation.” I think you could call that a rave!

When it came to the interior, they couldn’t stop with the superlatives: “Looks rich and upscale, like a mini S-Class. It sets the benchmark for a small luxury SUV.” They ended with this: “The GLC isn’t the sexiest choice for SUV of the Year, but it’s without hesitation the smartest.”

Prices start at $40,050 for the GLC 300 with front-wheel drive and $42,050 for the GLC 4Matic. As always, destination, tax and license fees are extra. If you’re thinking about a great midsize SUV/crossover, why not do your own SUV test at Audi Meadowlands and Benzel-Busch? You’ll be the real winner, regardless of which marque you select.


The flagship of the Audi SUV line is the Q7 and it was redesigned for 2017. Despite the impressive size and carrying capacity, it still delivers a sedanlike driving experience. The redesign effort focused on significant enhancements to the interior. Audi boasts that the all-new Q7 features an improved interior with more headroom, legroom and shoulder room in the second and third rows and seating for seven standard on all models. Audi describes the interior design as representing its ever-higher standards for premium comfort and technology. And, of course, the automaker is proud that this redesign effort is matched by the brand’s signature fit and finish.

Up front, a 333-hp 3.0-liter engine with 325 lb-ft of torque powers the Q7. Audi says it can now tow up to 7,700 pounds. As for Motor Trend, the Q7 was selected as a finalist in its SUV of the Year judging. Reviewers were quoted as saying: “Elegant. Clean. Quality materials throughout.”

Any SUV driven on our local mean streets has to be tough as well as aesthetically pleasing. Here is where the Q7 really impressed the Motor Trend team. They gushed about the Q7’s handling and rugged build quality as they thrashed it on their desert off-road course: “The Audi was spectacular. It did full-throttle four-wheel drifts…and landed softly even after the jump, ahem, speed hump. But other SUVs did not comport themselves so effortlessly, instead bashing into their bump stops as they rattled around the course. Why is this comparison important when most of these vehicles spend little real-world time off-road? Because we now know how they would do driving through midtown Manhattan. If you’ve driven in NYC, you know its roads are only slightly less smooth than the motocross course.”

The Q7 Premium model starts at $54,800, the Premium Plus at $58,800 and the Prestige at $64,300.

The Mercedes-Benz vehicles that most closely match the Q7’s size, performance and value are in the GLE-Class. The standard GLE-Class can stow more than 38 cubic feet behind the split-folding rear seats. This can be expanded to more than 80 cubic feet with the proper rearrangement of the rear-passenger accommodations. The GLE Coupe sacrifices some cargo area for style but comes with a more powerful 385-hp motor.

The Car Connection website did a road test on the GLE and said: “The GLE-Class is handsome, top to bottom, with some daring ‘coupe’ options that stretch the definition of the word, but are standouts on the road.” Adding, “[In the GLE, Mercedes offers] base V-6 power, all the way up to fire-breathing twin-turbo V-8s, [offering] GLE buyers opportunities for flexibility, fuel-efficiency, or outright go-fast.”

When directly compared to the Audi Q7, the GLE 350 is standard with a 302- hp engine rated at 273 lb-ft of torque. The GLE 350 towing specification is rated at 6,600 pounds. So the towing and horsepower scales tip toward Audi.

However, the GLE 350 has quite a few features that tip the scale back in its favor. For instance, in the area of safety, GLEClass carries over the underlying structure of the M-Class that it replaced. That model achieved stellar occupant-safety ratings from both U.S. agencies. There are also a few more active-safety features in the Mercedes-Benz, including a drowsy driving detection system, active lane control, night vision and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Bottom line: the GLE 350 touches the safety, luxury and ruggedness bases and is a tempting option when shopping for a full-size SUV. The rear-wheeldrive variant (minus tax, delivery and licensing) starts at $52,200, the 4Matic at $54,700. There is even a plug-in hybrid with higher performance (436-hp) and more economy.

That’s where the head-to-head Audi/ Mercedes-Benz SUV comparisons stand right now. Still, Mercedes-Benz offers a few SUV models which are, practically speaking, singular examples of the marque’s engineering expertise. Let’s take a quick look!


The GLS is a full-sized SUV. It’s engineered and equipped by Mercedes-Benz to set the bar for seven-passenger luxury SUVs. It takes its legacy from the class leadership demonstrated by the benchmark S-Class sedans. If you’re aiming to be the SUV benchmark, you had better dig deeply into your design expertise, and here the GLS excels in every area that counts.

In one of these — driver and passenger safety — the GLS sets the standard No need for taking two cars on a road trip any longer: the GLS can comfortably fit up to seven adult-sized passengers. FALL 2017 7 through a Mercedes-Benz system called Intelligent Drive. It provides virtual eyes on the road and can take real action on your behalf. That’s because a team of advanced technologies is constantly working on your behalf to boost safety, reduce stress and help to take the hassle out of every move. Technologies such as radar-based Active Brake Assist can help you avoid a collision.

The GLS’s technical innovations can even help fend off crosswinds. An option worth considering is the Distance Pilot DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control. It includes advanced Steering Pilot and not only can reduce driver fatigue, but also add a higher level of accident avoidance. We like that option because we think safety is the highest level of luxury.

The GLS comes standard with heated power front seats, a second row of seating that reclines and a power folding third row with adult-sized comfort. A feature that should be especially exciting to your passengers are the GLS’s large side doors and something they call EASY-ENTRY 2nd-row seats. So, not only can the GLS accommodate up to seven adults, it does so in three rows of luxury seating that include a very spacious third row. That means, no matter where you sit, the GLS takes you to a place where class, luxury leadership, roominess and refinement are ever present.

We particularly like the available massaging front seats and vast panorama roof. The standard power lift gate, power-folding third row and 60/40-split second row accommodate almost 94 cubic feet of cargo. In any configuration, Mercedes-Benz boasts that the GLS has an extraordinary capacity to satisfy.

Because the GLS is designed to carry friends, family or guests in comfort, safety and luxury, the second-row passengers are not neglected. A super-sharp flat screen is positioned behind each front head restraint so your second-row passengers have an entertainment platform for DVD movies, game play and more. There are multiple inputs, two remotes and two DVD players! This lets passengers enjoy themselves individually or together, with audio played via two wireless headsets or the GLS very musical sounding sound system. Prices for the GLS start at $69,500 plus tax and other fees.

The final Mercedes-Benz SUV to consider started as a vehicle designed for the military. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, sometimes called G-Wagon (short for Geländewagen, “cross-country vehicle”), was created to conquer challenges on six continents. The current highly refined edition represents the 38-year evolution of the G-Class and, as befits a legend, Mercedes-Benz keeps elevating the level of refinement. Like single malt scotch and scungilli salad, the G-Wagon or, more properly, the G-Class is an acquired taste.

From its slab sides and bolt upright posture to plasma-TV-flat windscreen, you either love it and wish you had one in your garage or you shrug your shoulders and wonder what the fuss is all about. I fell into the “wish I had one” category ever since I rode in one back in the day when it was forbidden fruit: legislated out of the USA by government regulations. In 2002, Mercedes-Benz was able to comply with all of the rules and started to bring the G-Class SUV to America’s shores.

These days, the G-Class is a far cry from its military ancestors. Despite the no-nonsense exterior, inside it’s blessed with surprising levels of luxury. For example, it comes standard with heated and ventilated leather seating, 12-speaker surround sound, Sat/Nav and even Apple Car Play!

But don’t let that fool you into thinking that Mercedes-Benz has taken the soul out of the G-Class. It has a V8 (or V12!) lurking under the hood. It has permanent four-wheel-drive and a two-speed transfer case with three sequentially lockable differentials. That’s serious off-road kit and it’s been tested and proven unbeatable on virtually every serious off-road rally on the planet. Bottom line: every surface of the G-Class reflects its confident capability on any road (or non-road) on earth. Prices for the G550 start at $122,400 and can reach more than $220,000 for the AMG G65.

No matter which SUV itch you want to scratch, your friendly Audi Meadowlands and Benzel-Busch account reps can work with you to find the perfect one for your needs and budget.

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