Car Reviews: Stylish SUVs

 Ford Edge, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Nissan Murano

Americans love their sport-utility vehicles. In recent months, SUVs have shown the greatest sales growth among various types of cars. Says one auto industry insider, “It’s an SUV feeding frenzy.”

The SUV moniker covers a lot of ground, however. Besides varying widely in physical size—from compact to gargantuan—SUVs differ in degrees of ruggedness. The Ford Expedition, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, or Nissan Xterra are well suited to conquering a rock-strewn trail or hauling a 5,000-pound wakeboarding boat, for example. 

But the three stylish midsize SUVs reviewed here—the Ford Edge, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Nissan Murano—are best suited to on-pavement people-hauling, whether that means commuting to work or carrying kids to soccer practice.

Ford Edge Sport AWD

Vehicle layout: 2.7-liter turbo V6 (315 hp), 6-speed automatic, AWD
MSRP: $41,295 (base), $46,375 (as tested)
Standard safety features: Front side and full side curtain air bags, front knee air bags, rearview camera
The Edge was redesigned from “wheels to roof,” as Ford folks say, for 2015. Based on a platform shared with Ford’s popular Fusion sedan, the second-generation Edge has a new—edgier?—exterior, a roomier interior, and new engines. A massive grille and high belt line give the latest Edge a decidedly hunky look. Inside, the theme is spaciousness—in particular the backseat, where legroom is nearly limo-like. There’s plenty of cargo room, too, even with the rear seat backs raised. Those rear seat backs also recline for better passenger comfort. As with most modern Fords, the cabin is attractively trimmed with high-quality materials. The Edge comes with a nonturbo V6 and an EcoBoost turbo 4-cylinder with more horsepower than the previous version. The Edge Sport edition comes only with a new twin-turbo V6; it’s a real sweetheart of an engine, providing gobs of instant acceleration. The Sport’s steering is quick and the brakes are powerful. Too bad its firmer suspension delivers an unsettled ride, even on relatively smooth surfaces. A 4-cylinder Edge SE may be the better choice and certainly is more economical, with a base price of $29,595, or $31,090 with all-wheel drive.

Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic

Vehicle layout: 2.0-liter inline-4 (241 hp), 9-speed auto AWD

MSRP: $41,875 (base), $56,990 (as tested)

Standard safety features: Front and rear side and full side curtain air bags, driver knee air bag, rearview camera

The German automaker is on a tear—redesigning, renaming, and adding to its SUV lineup. The 2016 GLC replaces the GLK, slotting between the smaller GLA and the larger GLE (formerly ML) SUVs. An entirely new vehicle, the GLC is longer and wider, with considerably more interior space than its predecessor. It’s also nearly 200 pounds lighter. Weight loss plus a switch from 6 cylinders to 4 equals up to 20 percent better fuel economy. The GLC’s horsepower is down from the GLK’s, but even so, acceleration is adequate, and the tow rating is 3,500 pounds. Moreover, the turbo-4 engine is supersmooth and superquiet. The standard Dynamic Select system allows the driver to adjust throttle, transmission, and steering response to emphasize either efficiency or sportiness. The GLC’s suspension delivers a remarkably pleasant ride even over railroad tracks and other annoyances, while effectively limiting body roll. The interior is typical Mercedes: upscale materials, attractive design, and fit and finish among the best in the business. The GLC comes loaded with no-extra-cost features, from a power liftgate to collision-prevention assist. Rear-wheel drive is standard; AWD is optional. Want more? Mercedes offers a myriad of other options, but watch your wallet. They’ll rapidly ramp up a RWD GLC’s $39,875 base price.

Nissan Murano Platinum AWD

Vehicle layout: 3.5-liter V6 (260 hp), CVT automatic, AWD

MSRP: $41,485 (base), $43,745 (as tested)

Standard safety features: Front side and full side curtain air bags, driver knee air bag, rearview camera

Maybe it’s the French influence; after all, Japanese automaker Nissan is partnered with Renault of France in a transcontinental alliance. And, sculpted with more seductive curves than a Rodin bronze, the latest Murano’s styling is something the French might love. Of course, it turns many American heads, too. Redesigned for 2015, the Murano is equally dramatic inside, with wide, armchair-like front seats and upscale trim. Though stylish, the interior doesn’t sacrifice function; the various controls, including those for the touch-screen infotainment system, are easy to find and to use. And the rear seat is spacious. Moreover, the cabin is pleasingly hushed at highway speeds. The Murano’s suspension is tuned more for comfort than snappy handling. Still, the SUV stays planted well enough when rounding corners. Nissan’s familiar 3.5-liter V6 resides under the hood, providing acceptable acceleration and decent fuel economy. The AWD test vehicle, loaded with such options as a panoramic sunroof and a forward-collision warning system, carried a price tag north of $40,000. But a nicely equipped FWD base S model, at barely more than $30,000, seems like a bargain.

Photo (top): Courtesy Ford

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