Luxurious interiors, fantastic equipment, plenty of safety features including autonomous emergency braking and proper off-road ability with a low-ratio transfer box gives the MG Gloster the potential to shake up the full-size SUV segment
MG Motor India is all set to launch its third SUV in India — the MG Gloster, and it is going to be a full-size SUV that rivals the likes of the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and the Mahindra Alturas G4. Like these SUVs, it has body-on-frame construction, 4x4 capabilities and three rows of seats. But the Gloster, in typical MG fashion, goes one step further and brings a whole bunch of new features to the table. MG is debuting Level 1 autonomous driving features on the Gloster which includes autonomous emergency braking, there are 7 driving modes including Rock mode that engages the Borg-Warner low-ratio transfer box, it’s powered by a powerful twin-turbo diesel mated exclusively to an 8-speed automatic, there’s an incredible amount of space and plenty more.
On the outside
The MG Gloster looks good, and that is an opinion that everyone seems to share. Unlike the Hector that polarised opinions rather strongly, the Gloster has a more conventional SUV design. There’s a massive grille, flanked by two LED projector headlamps giving it a strong, distinct face. I like the fact that MG has stayed away from chrome, and instead has used a brushed metal finish on the grille.
In profile the Gloster’s length becomes very apparent. It is just a few millimetres shy of 5 metres, making it longer than the Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner. The Gloster runs on 19-inch wheels shod with 255/55 R19 tyres and they add to the handsome stance of the Gloster. At the rear though, there’s a lot going on — there’s an abundance of badges and tailpipes. The Gloster badge can be seen from a mile away, and there are badges for ADAS and 4WD, plus so typical of MG, an Internet Inside badge. There’s another thoroughly perplexing badge on the flanks — one that says ‘Brit Dynamics’ along with the Union Jack. Don’t ask me what it means. I have no clue. The Gloster has quad pipes, though these are fake tips and the actual pipes (just two) are behind them.
The interiors of the Gloster are rather well appointed. There’s a dual-tone brown and black leather trim that not only looks rich but feels it. MG does screens well and there’s a massive 12.3-inch unit for the infotainment. There’s an 8-inch multi-information display in the cluster flanked by analogue dials for the speedo and tacho and the layouts of both these screens are awfully similar to what BMW does in its cars. Which is no bad thing, if you ask us. That’s not the only bit that you will find familiar — the icons for the off-road drive modes look very similar to the ones on Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 System.
There’s plenty to like about the cabin. Quality is great and it is packed with features — the infotainment screen is connected to the internet and gets the Gaana app along with live weather and traffic updates along with a news app. We found the touchscreen to be a bit laggy but have been assured there’s an update coming to sort it out. Both front seats are heated and electrically adjustable, while the driver’s seat is also ventilated, gets a memory function and a massage function. On the seats though I must mention that they are strangely hard and stiff; we’d have preferred something more cushy. There’s three zone climate control, 64 colour ambient lighting, a 12-speaker sound system and it accepts voice commands just like the Hector.
The variant we had on test was a six-seater with large and accommodating captain’s seats in the second row but you can also get variants with a bench in the second row that can then seven in total. Room in the second row is great, both in terms of knee room and headroom though the seats could have been more supportive. This is a long car, and the interiors make full use of that length. An adult can sit in the third row without his knees touching the seat back in front and that takes its spaciousness to the top of the class.
Behind the wheel
Back at the Auto Expo when MG were being guarded with details, we assumed the Gloster would launch with the FCA-sourced 2-litre diesel engine. Instead, we have got something much more powerful. The Gloster gets a twin-turbo 2-litre diesel engine that is made by one of SAIC’s many subsidiaries and its outputs are impressive — 215bhp and 480Nm — making it the most powerful SUV in its class. It also gets an 8-speed automatic gearbox as standard and it shifts energetically and that translates to good performance as well — we tested it and it did 0-100kmph in 11.09 seconds. Overtaking on the highways is a breeze and I only needed to tug at the left paddle (it gets steering wheel paddles as standard) for particularly spirited overtakes, but those were few since most cars just got the hell out of the Gloster’s way. The throttle response is slightly lazy and on our performance testing we noticed that after every upshift there was a momentary hesitation at 3000rpm before the turbos spooled up and started whistling away. That said there wasn’t any noticeable turbo lag, thanks to the gearbox making sure the engine is always spinning in its sweet spot. As for NVH there were no vibes even during hard acceleration but you can hear the engine and it does get rather audible especially under hard acceleration.
Something that irks me about these body-on-frame SUVs is how unstable they can feel at speed on the road. Not the Gloster. I could do serious speeds (not saying that I did!) without my palms sweating. On our tests it registered 187kmph on the VBOX and even at max speed it was planted, stable and safe. This was despite the fact that the ride quality is soft and it can deal with broken roads without a problem. The large wheels do give it a firm edge over slightly sharper bumps, but this isn’t too intrusive. I did wish the steering was a little more weighted at speed. That lightness in the steering is really helpful in the city though, as it is really easy to manoeuvre around despite the massive size. In corners, the steering is direct and though it is light and lacks feel, the SUV reacts predictably to your inputs. In fact it is the best handling SUV in this segment with the best body control and least body roll. Yeah, even we were surprised! You just have to remember how long an SUV it really is, and account for that when you’re behind the wheel.
There has been a lot of noise being made around the Gloster’s autonomous features. This isn’t the first time we’re seeing them in India — SUVs like the Volvo XC90 get them, but it certainly is the first time we’re seeing it in this class of SUVs. The most useful of them to me were the active cruise control and park assist. Set the cruise speed and the Gloster slows down if there’s a car in front and gets back up to speed when the car in front speeds up or (as is most often the case) gets out of the way. It also has lane departure warning so if you are on a straight road with lane markings it sounds of a buzzer to tell you you’re leaving your lane. However, it does get a bit thrown by cars weaving in front of you, as it assumes it is an obstacle and slams the brakes. The park assist was great too, though this isn’t a segment first feature — the Endeavour had it years ago. Press the button on the centre console, switch on the indicator to tell the system which side you want to park and the car will search for a suitable parking space (both parallel and perpendicular) and indicate when it find one. Then you leave the Gloster to do the steering (you have to operate the accelerator and brake) and it will park to perfection — closer to the kerbs than you would normally park.
Now with our Indian traffic and chaos the safety features will keep buzzing so thankfully, there’s a hard button to turn it off. The Gloster also has a collision warning system, and an active braking function if it senses a collision but I have nothing to report about them since I got nowhere close to testing them, and had no intention to either. It also gets a blind spot warning which flashes a light on the wing mirrors, which is useful in such a massive SUV. Safety is not something that you should be worried about through — the Gloster is sold in Australia as the LDV D90 and it has scored a full five-star in the Australia NCAP crash tests.
Gloster owners might not take their SUV off-road that often, but an SUV’s allure lies in its ability. And so the Gloster needs to be capable enough to go off-road to create that reputation for itself. It certainly has the kit to do so — it gets a full-time 4WD system, and a BorgWarner low ratio transfer case. Ground clearance is an impressive 210mm, and the Gloster has a wading depth of 550mm. But hardware is just half the story, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes making the Gloster even more formidable.
There’s an electronic locking differential on the rear axle — which essentially means the SUV will brake the wheel with less traction to prevent it from spinning freely, and diverting torque to the wheel with more traction. Then there’s the driving modes — Sport, Auto and Eco for the road along with Snow, Mud, Sand and Rock when you go off-road. These modes adjust the throttle response, transmission characteristics and the traction control settings to optimise them for the sort of surface you are on.
Mud really seems to be no problem for the Gloster, the four-wheel drive and electronics sorting out where to send torque and managing to make muddy tracks look easy. You can feel all five metres of SUV sliding about behind you when the traction is low, but all it needs is a steady foot on the throttle and a little steering correction to keep to going where you want it to. The weakest link of the Gloster’s off-road ability is precisely what gives it the class-benchmark on-road handling, the ContiSport tyres. These are optimised for road use and in off-road situations don’t have the grip of all-terrain tyres, plus they have shorter sidewalls than its 18-inch clad rivals so you don’t have the impact absorption when you hit rocks and also have to be careful not to damage the wheels (which are expensive looking!) and tyre sidewall. But despite that, the Gloster managed to come through some real gnarly bits which you will see in our off-road test video here.
Rock mode engages the low-ratio with a satisfying mechanical clunk — there’s no lever to fiddle around with for low-ratio. This significantly increases the torque to the wheels letting you power over serious obstacles and making it easier to extricate itself out of really tricky situations. The riverbed I attempted to cross had some nasty rocks under the surface and the car crawled over everything, though we did scrape the running boards quite often and ended up with a scuffed wheel.
The evo India verdict
“This is what MG should have launched in India with!” exclaimed the editor after day one of our week-long test with the MG Gloster. You see, we are all about The Thrill of Driving and a softly sprung, wallowy, understeery car immediately falls out of favour. The Gloster though, it is a surprisingly and extremely capable machine. It offers significantly more space, equipment, safety features and kit while also looking handsome (by the standards of this class). It is powerful and really quick on the road with good on-road dynamics for a nearly 5 meter-long ladder-frame SUV. The off-road modes aren’t gimmicks, it does deliver strong ability when the terrain gets tricky. We’d of course have preferred more comfortable seats, a sharper throttle response and less badges plastered all over the SUV but fact is the Gloster is a properly sorted full-size SUV. Our final verdict will have to be reserved till we get to know its prices but if it is in the same ballpark — or even undercuts! — the Fortuner, it is sure to shake up the established order. Starting at under Rs 30 lakh and with this 4x4 variant at Rs 34 lakh, ex-showroom, would make things very interesting in this segment.
Photos: Rohit G Mane & Abhishek Benny