2020 MG Gloster review, test drive
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25th Sep 2020 2:00 pm
Can MG’s massive new flagship win buyers over with its ‘more for more’ approach to the 7-seat premium SUV formula?
- Make : MG
- Model : Gloster
What is the MG Gloster?
The is a big, three-row, body-on-frame SUV borrowed from MG’s sister brand Maxus. Owned by the same parent SAIC, the Gloster is essentially the Maxus D90 in China and the LDV D90 in Australia. It’s been rebranded for India and sold as the flagship of the Morris Garages (MG) range, with a suitably British-sounding name – Gloster.
The Gloster made its India debut in February 2020 at the Auto Expo and one thing was immediately clear – this was a bigger vehicle than the other three-row, body-on-frame, premium SUVs on sale in India, namely the , and the .
More details about the SUV trickled out over the next few months, notably a long features list that included ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) thus far seen only on a handful of all-out luxury vehicles, giving some credence to the SUV’s positioning.
Now, however, we’ve got the real thing – a first drive of the MG Gloster, to see if it’s as good on the road as it is on paper.
MG Gloster exterior details
We weren’t joking about the dimensions. Its 4,985mm length, 1,867mm height and 2,950mm wheelbase are all best in class, with only the 1,926mm width being slightly less than the Alturas G4. And this sets the tone for what the Gloster aims to offer, which is a little bit more of everything, compared to the big SUVs we’re used to.
This is truly a massive SUV with loads of all-important road presence, to the point that its 19-inch alloy wheels (themselves a size larger than the competition) almost look a little dwarfed in the cavernous wheel arches.
Despite its imposing size, however, what the MG Gloster lacks is a distinctive design. There’s no visual link to the other MG models on sale in India (there wouldn’t be, as each car is sourced from a different SAIC-owned brand), and some of the details look a bit derivative of other brands too.
The LED headlights and brushed-metal grille look attractive.
Still, details like the slim LED projector headlamps, the large brushed-metal grille and the sculpted bonnet are quite attractive, I like the way the chrome window garnish extends upwards at the C-pillar to ‘join’ the roof rails, the dummy quad exhausts lend it a sporty look, and although there is a lot of chrome all over the car (including the alloy wheels), it’s pretty tastefully done.
The ‘ADAS’ badge denotes the advanced driver aids offered on the Gloster.
There’s nothing subtle about the way the Gloster flaunts its identity. You’ll find an overdose of badges, with as many as five at the rear – a large MG logo, a 4WD badge, an ‘ADAS’ badge denoting the advanced driver aids, the one that adorns all MGs, ‘Internet Inside’, and you’ll also find the word Gloster spelled large across the width of the tailgate. And like with the Hector, MG is at pains to shout out the brand’s origin – there’s a pair of Union Jack badges on the front flanks that say ‘Brit Dynamic’.
MG Gloster interior details
If the exterior dimensions offer a bit more than other SUVs of this ilk, the interiors aim to offer a lot more. Open one of the front doors and you’re treated to a flowing dashboard draped in tan leather, with double-stitching, brushed aluminium trim and lots of layers. BMW owners might not love the fact that there’s more than just a passing resemblance to some of the brand’s more recent models, but MG buyers certainly would. That can be seen in the overall design but more so in the 12.3-inch touchscreen that sits docked in the dash,
The 12.3-inch touchscreen nfotainment system takes centre stage on the dashboard.
The screen is bright and colourful, of a reasonably high resolution (although requires a bit of a firm finger prod) and makes good use of its wide-screen aspect ratio with neatly arranged function ‘tiles’, but it’s still not my favourite screen in the car.
The 8.0-inch MID in the cluster is crisp and full of relevant information.
That’s the 8.0-inch colour screen between the dials that is crisp, fluid and full of relevant information. In fact, it overshadows the ordinary looking analogue tachometer and speedometer relegated to the sides of the binnacle. Apart from the usual trip and fuel computer info, it can show you drive modes, ADAS functionality (more on this later), tyre pressure, media and phone information, and much more.
Perceived quality is generally pretty good, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that the plastics aren’t anything to write home about for a car of this price. This is especially true of the switchgear on and around the button-heavy steering wheel. You’ll find yourself accidentally hitting the one with the * on it regularly, resulting in a call back from MG’s prompt and patient helpline.
MG Gloster space and comfort
Like the dashboard, the front seats make a good first impression. They’re power-adjustable (though the co-driver can’t adjust for height), heated, draped in quilted tan leather upholstery, quite large and generously cushioned. The driver’s seat goes a bit further, with seat ventilation, massage and a memory function.
Both front seats are power adjustable, have heating and ventilation as well as a massage function.
But as you try to settle in for a long drive, you’ll notice the lumbar support, even at its lowest setting, is a bit excessive, and the cushioning all round is a tad firm. The massage, as a result, feels more like physiotherapy than relaxation.
Still, even with the seat motored down to its lowest setting, forward visibility is great, thanks to upright A-pillars and a relatively low-set dash. Even the giant wing mirrors have enough of a gap from the Gloster’s body so as to not cause a huge blind spot. Rear visibility, however, is hampered by the big head restraints on the rear seats.
Second row features captain seats with manual adjustment.
And speaking of the rear seats, it starts with a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row. It’s a bit of a step up into the cabin, like all ladder-frame SUVs, but the two individual seats are almost as generously cushioned as the ones up front. They’re not powered, but they can be reclined a fair bit, and, more importantly, have a long range of fore-and-aft sliding travel, allowing for limousine legroom if no one is in the last row.
Housed in the seat bases are cupholders and storage for tablet computers, you get a third climate zone for the rear cabin, and of course, larger than ever, is the panoramic sunroof, which has become an MG staple.
For those who are largely chauffeur driven or traveling with families, it’s important to note that the combination of captain seats and overall space on offer makes the Gloster’s middle row by far the most comfortable in its class.
The third row is very spacious, though you sit low and thigh support isn't great.
Tilting and sliding the second row forward does allow you decent access to the last row, but it’s perhaps easier to just walk between the middle-row seats. When it comes to outright space, just like with the middle row, this is easily the best third row among SUVs in this segment, and perhaps even among larger, full-size luxury SUVs.
Sure, you sit a bit low, thigh support isn’t great, and there’s no place to tuck your feet (which is all par for the course), but headroom is decent and kneeroom – with the second row in its mid-way position – is so good, you’ll forgive it those shortcomings.
You get cupholders, USB and 12V charging, and dedicated AC vents back here, and though it’s comfortably wide enough for three kids, MG has given it just two seatbelts and head restraints.
Storage with all three row up, isn't great but it is more than what the competitors offer.
With all that cabin room, it’s understandable that there’s not a lot of space for luggage with all rows up; but again, it’s more than what the competition offers, and you can fit a couple of strollers and soft bags. Flip the third row down, though, and space is vast. You even get a powered tailgate with hands-free opening, and a retractable luggage cover that stows away under the boot floor, but the loading lip is seriously high off the ground.
MG Gloster features
If the Gloster’s size doesn’t steamroll other SUVs, its features list certainly will. The 12.3-inch touchscreen alone packs in a lot – apart from being the largest, it gets Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MG’s iSmart suite of connected-car tech. This includes a smartphone app for remote functionality, intelligent voice commands, an onboard e-SIM, the Gaana music streaming app built in, live weather status, and MapMyIndia-sourced navigation with real-time traffic data.
The 12.3-inch infotainment screen offers a lot features like live weather status, navigation and more.
There’s also the feed for the very helpful 360-degree cameras, which can even do a more basic version of the ‘3D external augmented reality’ view we first saw on the BMW 7 Series. What’s really handy is it changes the main camera feed to suit your need – front or rear, depending which way you’re moving, and a side view when you use the indicators. However, the camera resolution is pretty poor, which translates to a poor image, especially in low light.
There is also a 360-degree camera as part of the equipment list.
We’ve talked about the sunroof, the heated, cooled and massaging driver’s seat and the 8.0-inch MID screen before, but a few more things worth mentioning are the three-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, 12-speaker audio system, 12-colour ambient lighting, tyre pressure monitoring and an electronic parking brake with auto hold.
And then there are the . Some of them are more familiar these days, like driver fatigue detection, and auto parking assist, but then the MG Gloster doubles down with its sensor-based tech.
There’s blind-spot warning, which flashes a light in the wing mirror to tell you a vehicle is overtaking you, and a lane departure warning that alerts you when you stray out of your lane (as long as the road markings are clear).
A number of safety features can be activated from the switches in the centre console.
There’s the self-explanatory frontal collision warning, which ultimately manifests as autonomous emergency braking – slamming the brakes to avoid hitting an obstacle in front of you.
And finally, adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front of you and adjusts your speed to match, even down to a complete halt. This works brilliantly for the most part, but, understandably, can get caught out when an errant driver suddenly cuts in front of you.
Whilst the ADAS features work quite well, the warning alarms, parking sensors are too loud and can get very annoying and there’s no way to turn the volume down. In fact, even something like the turn indicators sound excessively loud.
MG Gloster engine details and performance
The in-house-developed, 1,996cc, twin-turbo diesel engine under the hood of the Gloster punches out 218hp and 480Nm of torque, which again are the highest outputs for this sort of SUV. Drive goes to the rear via an 8-speed torque-converter automatic, with an on-demand 4WD system engaging when necessary.
The 2.0-litre, twin-turbo diesel engine produces 218hp and 480Nm of torque.
There is a locking rear e-diff that you can engage with a button on the centre console, but apart from that, your only control of the 4WD system is via a set of pre-set drive modes – Sand, Snow, Rock and Mud. There’s no manually selectable 4WD or low-range, like you get in some rivals.
Drive modes are accessed from the dial in the centre console.
There are also Eco and Sport driving modes for the Gloster’s on-road performance, but in practice, we couldn’t discern a tangible difference between engine or gearbox performance, mode to mode. Still, the Gloster can be launched pretty briskly off the blocks, and our VBOX testing equipment registered an impressive 11.21sec 0-100kph time for the massive SUV.
In roll-on acceleration, 20-80kph was dispatched in a reasonably quick 6.57sec and 40-100kph in 8.77sec, after a firm kick down on the accelerator; again, all these performance numbers are quicker than the competition.
It also hauled itself down to a standstill from 80kph in just 2.56sec and 25 metres, which again is impressive, given the mass at work.
There is one small sticking point though. Powerful the engine may be, but the way it’s been calibrated has plagued it with a particularly weak bottom end and off the line, it feels unusually sluggish.
Below 2,000rpm, no amount of poking the accelerator will get it to pick up the pace, and this is only exacerbated by the slow responses of the gearbox, which often takes time to figure out which gear you need to be in. As soon as you pass 2,000rpm, all of the boost comes in and you surge forward.
An advantage you get is manual control via a set of paddle shifters, which really come in handy to drop a gear or two for an overtake. However, it doesn’t like overly aggressive downshifts; if the revs are too high, it won’t comply.
The Gloster with its low-revving diesel engine feels most at home on highways.
The highway is where this slow-revving engine, which won’t spin beyond 3,900rpm, feels most comfortable. Its big reserves of torque and long-legged gearing mean it can cruise effortlessly in seventh or eighth gear, which makes it the ideal SUV for those long outstation trips with the family. Gearshifts on the move are unobtrusive and you’ll always have enough power available, should you want to go faster.
So, once you’ve overcome that sluggishness at low speeds, the Gloster gets into its stride; you’ll be quite impressed by how smooth and refined its power delivery is.
MG Gloster ride quality
This is where the MG Gloster’s driving experience starts to come good. First, there’s the refinement, both from the engine and the running gear, at low speeds or high, which is really exceptional with engine, wind and road noise very effectively muted.
The ride quality is also really good. Sure, you’ll get some of that lumpiness typical of a ladder-frame SUV at low speeds, but it smoothens out admirably as you go faster and isn’t as nearly as choppy or bouncy as some of the others out there.
The Gloster can handle bad roads without much strain.
It does this while maintaining good composure at highway speeds too, and there’s none of that float you might find on an overly soft suspension. Moreover, it will suppress broken roads without flinching, which is just what you want from your big, body-on-frame SUV.
There is quite a bit of body roll, expectedly, so you wouldn’t want to corner this big SUV hard. Even high-speed, lane-change manoeuvres on the expressway should be made with some consideration for your passengers in the back.
The steering is another big surprise, because it is very light and allows you to come to grips with this behemoth’s dimensions in almost no time. And it manages to do this while giving you a reasonable amount of feedback and confidence at speed – not too sharp to be edgy, but not too slow to be ponderous either. In fact, it’s safe to say the Gloster has the best ride and handling mix among all the large, ladder-frame SUVs on the market right now.
Should you buy an MG Gloster?
All things considered, the MG Gloster comes across as a pleasant surprise. It could very well have turned out to be a collection of impressive specs with no substance to back it up, but that simply hasn’t been the case.
The only real fly in the ointment appears to be the sluggish response at low speeds, which, coupled with the gargantuan dimensions, can make city driving pretty taxing. Also, some bits in the cabin should have been a touch better for a car at this price point.
Refinement and ride quality are stand-outs, as is interior space, and then of course there’s the long equipment list, which is enough to shame far more expensive SUVs.
What we don't know yet is the price, which wasn't yet revealed at the time of this review. But what we hear is that this top-spec Savvy version will be priced just above the established competition, at around Rs 35 lakh (ex-showroom).
That's a pretty bold move, but MG is hoping buyers will see value in the size, space, performance, comfort and, of course, the equipment. Only time will tell, but if the Gloster can make as big an impact as MG’s debut product, the Hector, it could just have another winner on its hands.
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