Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS BMW X6
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
- Bonkers performance
- High-end interior
- (Somewhat) affordable pricetag
- Questionable rear styling
- Limited rear-seat headroom
- Firm suspension
Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead.
In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.
The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.
The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.
And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.
But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The BMW X6 has long been the ugly duckling of the Bavarian brand’s SUV family, often cited as the genesis of the swoopy, coupe crossover trend.
But look back at its 12-year history, and it's clear that the X6 has resonated with buyers around the world with more than 400,000 units produced.
Now in its third-generation form, the X6 has shed the awkward and even sometimes dorky image of its progenitor and evolved into a much more mature and confident model.
Crowing the new line-up, however, is the flagship M Competition grade that shoehorns a sporty V8 petrol engine to match the bulky and brawny exterior.
Is this a recipe for success, or should BMW go back to the drawing board?
|Engine Type||4.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.
It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.
Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.
SUVs are so hot right now, and BMW’s X6 M Competition is the hottest high-riding coupe you can get until its German rivals bring in their high-powered equivalents.
In a lot of ways, the X6 M Competition is one of the most BMW-iest models available today; it's covered head to toe in luxurious features, its performance puts most sports cars to shame and it oozes a don’t-care-what-you-think swagger.
What more could you want from a modern BMW? Maybe high safety standards and a practical interior space? The X6 M Competition has those too.
Sure, you could go for the slightly cheaper and more conventionally styled X5 M Competition, but if you are spending more than $200,000 on a performance SUV, don’t you want to stand out from the crowd? And stand out the X6 M Competition certainly does.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.
I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.
The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.
While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.
The X6 has long been a love-it-or-hate-it model for BMW, and in it’s latest third-generation form, the styling is as polarising as ever.
Maybe it’s the fact that more coupe-like SUVs have hit the market since the original X6's debut, or that we’ve had time to get used to the idea, but the latest X6 looks … good?
OK, we’re as surprised as anyone, but, especially in this top-spec M Competition form, the athletic proportions, heavily sloped roofline and chunky bodywork don’t look all that awkward or unattractive.
What also helps set the X6 M Competition apart, is its sports body kit, fender vents, aerodynamically optimised side mirrors, arch-filling wheels and black highlights befitting the performance-honed flagship variant.
It certainly stands out from the usual SUV crowd and, with a volcano of an engine tucked underneath the sculpted bonnet, the X6 M Competition is not a case of all show and no go.
You could argue that the X6 M Competition’s exterior styling is a bit ostentatious and over the top, but what would you expect a large, luxury, performance SUV to look like?
Step inside the cabin and the interior balances the sporty and luxury elements almost perfectly.
The front sports seats are clad in soft Marino leather with hexagonal quilting, carbon-fibre detailing is peppered throughout the dashboard and centre console, and small touches, such as the red start button and M toggles, elevate the X6 M competition from its more standard siblings.
The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.
So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).
Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.
What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out.
With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent.
There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.
There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.
While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.
The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.
The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.
The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.
Measuring 4941mm long, 2019mm wide, 1692mm tall and with a 2972mm wheelbase, the X6 M Competition offers plenty of interior space occupants.
There is front-seat space aplenty for passengers, despite sports seats that hug and support in all the right places, while the rear seats are also surprisingly functional.
Even with my six-foot-tall frame positioned behind the driver’s seat set for my height, I still comfortably fit and had enough leg- and shoulder-room.
The sloping roofline however, doesn’t help the headroom situation with my head just grazing the Alcantara headliner.
It’s a different story for the middle seat though, which will only fit children due to the raised floor and seating positioning.
All in all, I'm actually surprised at how usable the rear-seat room is in the X6 M Competition – it's definitely more practical than the stylish exterior would suggest.
Storage options abound throughout the cabin as well, with a huge storage bin found in each door that is easily able to accommodate large drink bottles.
The central storage bin is also deep and cavernous, but it can be a bit difficult to retrieve your phone from the wireless phone charger there as it's tucked away under the shutter.
The 580-litre boot can expand to 1539L with the rear seats folded.
While that figure doesn’t quite match the 650L/1870L figure of its X5 twin, it's still more than enough space to take care of the weekly shopping and family stroller.
Price and features
I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).
There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.
While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.
Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.
And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
The BMW X6 Competition wears a $213,900 before on-road costs pricetag, just $4000 more expensive than its more conventionally styled X5 twin.
While a $200,000-plus pricetag is certainly not chump change, things start to look a bit better when stacking up the X6 M Competition against other models that share the same engine and platform.
Also, consider that the X6 is an SUV, making it more appealing to those looking for a higher ride height and more practical storage options.
As standard, the X6 M Compettition is fitted with four-zone climate control, soft-close doors, automatic tailgate, electric front seat adjustment, heated front seats, Harman Kardon sound system, panoramic glass sunroof, adjustable exhaust, keyless entry and push-button start.
For the instrument panel, BMW has fitted its 12.3-inch screen, while the multimedia system is a 12.3-inch touchscreen unit with support for Apple CarPlay, gesture controls, digital radio and wireless smartphone charging.
However, it’s the attention to detail that we appreciate in a luxury SUV like this.
Take, for example, the spare tyre, which is stored under the floor of the boot. In any other car where this happens, you would just have to lift up the floor and then struggle to take the tyre out as you fight to prop up the floor. Not in the X6 – the floor panel has a gas strut to keep it from dropping when it's lifted. Clever!
The front cupholders are also fitted with heating and cooling functionality, both of which have two settings.
Befitting an M model, the X6 M Competition also scores an active differential, sports exhaust, adaptive suspension, uprated brakes to go with its potent engine.
Of note, there is no cooling option for the seats and the steering wheel misses out on a heating element.
However, the metallic paintwork and carbon-fibre interior flourishes as seen on our test car are no-cost options.
Engine & trans
The GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.
Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.
The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.
Drive is sent to the road via a rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which enables a zero-to-100km/h acceleration time of 3.8 seconds. The X6 tips the scales at 2295kg, so this level of acceleration almost defies the laws of physics.
The engine is shared with the X5 M Competition, M5 Competition and M8 Competition.
The X6 M Competition also outpowers its Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe rival by 30kW, though the Affalaterbach SUV produces 10Nm more torque.
However, it is important to note that the current Mercedes uses the older 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, and is due to be replaced with a new GLE 63 S model that switches to AMG’s ubiquitous 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 for 450kW/850Nm.
Audi’s RS Q8 is also incoming later this year, and packs a 441kW/800Nm punch thanks to a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8.
Official fuel consumption figures in the X6 M Competition are pegged at 12.5 litres per 100km, however, we managed 14.6L/100km in a morning drive covering almost 200km.
No doubt the hefty weight and big petrol V8 engine contribute to the higher fuel bill, but the start/stop engine technology helps keep the figure down.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
With such a large footprint, you just don’t expect the X6 M Competition to drive as well as it does, but it’s great to have your expectations checked every now and again.
The seating position is spot-on thanks to heaps of adjustability in the driver’s chair and the steering wheel, while visibility (even out the small rear window) is excellent.
All the controls fall easily in hand, and if you just left the X6 to its own devices, the sporty elements almost fade away into the background.
Dive into the drive settings, however, and you will notice Sport and Sport Plus options for the engine and chassis, while the steering, brake and M xDrive settings can also be dialled up a notch.
There isn’t a ‘set-and-forget’ drive mode switch though, as each of the aforementioned elements can be adjusted individually to dial in the exact response you want from the car.
Even the transmission has its own independent setting, with shifts in manual or automatic mode able to be tweaked to three levels of intensity each, while the exhaust also has an option for loud or less loud.
We love the flexibility this affords, and opens up the possibility of having the engine on full attack mode while the suspension and transmission are on the comfort settings, but it does require some time sitting in the driver’s seat and tweaking this and that to get things right.
Once you work it out though, you can store these settings in M1 or M2 modes, which can be switched on with the push of a button on the steering wheel.
With everything switched to the sportiest options, the X6 M Competition is much more akin to a rapid hot hatch attacking corners and devouring the open road than its high-riding SUV body style would suggest.
Credit where it’s due, BMW’s M boffins know a thing or two about building a big barnstorming bruiser.
Fitted with gigantic 315/30 rear and 295/35 front Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, the X6 M Competition benefits from superglue-like levels of grip in most situations, but a stab of throttle can still overwhelm the rear axle mid-corner.
Pulling up is a non-issue in the two-tonne-plus SUV, thanks to M Compound Brakes with six-piston fronts grabbing 395mm discs, and single-piston rears biting 380mm discs.
When you're not putting the boot in, the X6 M Competition also doubles as a convincing luxury runabout, but even in the chassis’ most comfort-orientated setting, road imperfections and high-speed bumps transmit directly through to the occupants.
The GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.
You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.
In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.
But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.
The BMW X6 has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP and does not have a crash rating.
However, the mechanically related X5 large SUV scored a maximum five stars when tested in 2018, notching 89 and 87 per cent for the adult- and child-occupant protection tests respectively.
Safety equipment fitted to the X6 M Competition includes a surround-view monitor, tyre pressure and temperature monitor, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, reversion camera, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and built-in dash cam.
In terms of safety gear, there really isn’t much left on the table for the X6 M Competition to pack in, though it does lose a point for not having a crash-safety rating.
In its favour though is the fact its onboard technology works unobtrusively and the adaptive cruise control is one of the smoothest and easy-to-use systems I've experienced.
Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good.
In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing.
The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250).
Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.
Scheduled service intervals are pegged at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
BMW offers two five-year/80,000km service plans with the X6 M Competition, a basic option for $4134 and a Plus for $11,188, with the later including the replacement of brake pads, clutch and wiper blades.
Though pricey to maintain, it’s not unexpected for a vehicle at this price point.
What we like to see though, is BMW match Mercedes’ pledge for a five-year warranty across its range, including high-performance AMG models.