The two German brands have been illustrating the “competition drives innovation” principle for decades now, pushing each other to come up with better and better vehicles while also splitting the automotive fanbase in two in the process. Well, saying you like a brand or a car is one thing, but actually putting your money where your mouth is, completely another.
AutoTrader’s (and, albeit briefly, former Top Gear’s) Rory Reid has chosen BMW but, as it so often happens after making an important decision such as buying a new car, shortly after he was overwhelmed with doubt. Was it really the best choice? Should he have opted for the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class instead?
Being an automotive journalist, getting a test vehicle wouldn’t have been a problem, but it was one of those questions you don’t really want to find the answer to. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, and all that.
Well, he must have realized a video comparing the two models could benefit a lot of people, so he finally mustered the courage to put the two side-by-side – his own car, and a brand-new Mercedes-Benz GLE. The Bimmer is an X5 30d, which means it packs a 3.0-liter straight-six turbodiesel with 282 hp (286 PS) and 479 lb-ft (650 Nm) of torque.
The Merc’s powertrain, on the other hand, sits one level higher as it’s the 400d. Like the X5, it also has a 3.0-liter straight-six turbodiesel under its hood, but it makes 326 hp (330 PS) and 516 lb-ft (700 N) of torque. Considering the GLE 350d slots underneath the X5 30d’s figures, let’s just say it’s impossible to match them perfectly and move on.
Starting with the one thing we all judge any car on the first, exterior design, Rory feels like the GLE looks “miserable” (as in sad). We would rather interpret its looks as aggressive, but that just goes to show why you should never expect other people to share your opinions on styling: everyone sees it differently.
Next up is the passenger comfort, and this is where the GLE scores its first big win. There are tons of space in the back and there are also digital climate controls and USB ports, two things the BMW lacks. Trunk space is similar, but the X5 has that split opening that can be very useful – it’s not enough to count as a win, though.
When it comes to on-road manners (off-roading won’t even get a mention), there isn’t that much between them, but it’s the little things that drag the Mercedes-Benz down. For instance, the suspension is too soft over bumps in the road, though it stiffens nicely when cornering. Even so, the X5 does what BMWs do best and edges in front as being the clearly more driver-oriented vehicle out of the two.
Then there’s the interior and the technology. The dashboards of the new Mercedes-Benz models are a work of art and even though BMW’s isn’t bad either, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the GLE’s. The displays in the Merc also have better all-round image quality, so even if it’s not by a landslide since the BMW is aging gracefully, it’s still a clear win for the Benz.
With price and fuel efficiency failing to provide a much-needed clear-cut differentiator, reaching a decision is tricky. If you ask us, the people who buy this type of vehicle do so for two reasons: comfort and interior space. Driving dynamics matter, but only to the point where there is a significant gap between the two. If not, then the SUV that is more practical and has a better interior should win since, in many cases, these vehicles double as family cars as well.
For the logical, impartial observer, the Mercedes-Benz GLE is the winner. Rory disagrees, though. He says that, for him, handling and ride quality matter a lot, so he’s at peace with the choice he made. But even he admits most people would prefer the GLE, so it’s almost a perfect 50:50.