Luxury compact crossovers didn't even exist not long ago, but now there are lots of them to choose from and some of them are very good indeed. As there are more fuel-efficient and more practical vehicles out there than compact crossovers, desirability is incredibly important, especially with luxury models.
A couple of German badges certainly have desirability built in, so let's compare the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC and the BMW X3 to see which is the better buy.
Once there's an appropriately prestigious badge on the hood, how one of these vehicles looks is the next most important thing that buyers consider. The GLC looks fabulous, especially in darker colors, and in black it can even look quite menacing for a vehicle of such compact proportions. The coupe version's roofline certainly helps, and in this type of vehicle restricted rear headroom doesn't much matter. The X3 is the vehicle that began this entire segment, and although it has had a few tweaks, it's starting to look like it was the original (and not in a good way). It doesn't have the sloping rear of the GLC and as a result it looks a little frumpy in comparison. This is an easy win for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC then.
Features & Equipment
The days of having to pay extra for just about everything in entry level luxury models are long gone, and the GLC is a great example of that fact. The base rear wheel drive GLC 300 comes with standard 18-inch alloy wheels, a glossy wood trim, the excellent 7.0-inch infotainment system, a power driver's seat with memory, and dual-zone automatic climate control. BMW dramatically upgraded the X3's active-safety, connectivity, and infotainment features last year and there are some seriously hi-tech optional features and equipment now available too. All models include a power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth® connectivity, and a nine-speaker audio system with a USB port and HD radio.
There's actually plenty of room for passengers and cargo in the Mercedes, and there's also good forward visibility due to the relatively low positioning of the instrument panel. The interior as a whole isn't noticeably stylish, but there's no doubting the quality of the build and the materials. The only thing to possibly criticize about the interior is the width across the rear seat. Once again, the X3 is also pretty spacious for a compact vehicle and perhaps an even roomier feel in the cabin due to the slightly higher roof of the BMW. The interior isn't as lavish as some might expect for a luxury model, but there are no problems with the quality everywhere you look and touch. If anything, the X3 is just a little less upscale than the Mercedes inside, so we'll have to award this section to the GLC.
Engines & Performance
The GLC offers just a single powertrain, although the power ante can really be upped by going for the GLC Coupe. The GLC 300's engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, which puts a very healthy 241 horsepower at the driver's disposal. This engine is absolutely perfect for the GLC, but it's nice to have something more potent available if you want to go there. Two engines are available with the X3, and the base engine is a close match for the one in the GLC 300. But the alternative is a 3.0-liter straight-six producing an impressive 300 horsepower, which makes the X3 pretty fast for this type of vehicle. Add into the mix the user-configurable steering and suspension and the decision has to go to the BMW.
When it comes to the nitty-gritty of facts, figures, and details, it's easy to make a case for choosing either of these two excellent vehicles. However, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC is a lot more contemporary and stylish than the BMW X3, especially in coupe form, and that's why we crown the GLC our winner.