Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class VS Audi Q7
- In-line six engine
- Grand interior
- High-tech features
- Three-year warranty
Not so long ago, even the idea of 'coupe SUV' would have been considered just a little bit silly.
But not anymore. This almost contradictory bodystyle is well and truly here to stay, as evidenced by the expanding catalog of available models pouring out of premium automakers.
Benz tells us, for example, that coupe versions make up some 25 per cent of its GLE sales in Australia.
Which brings us to this car – the second-generation GLE coupe. We were sent to its international launch to find out what’s new, what’s changed, and what Benz has in store for the Australian market, come its arrival in Q3 of 2020. Read on to find out what we discovered.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Audi's Q7 burst on to the scene at the 2002 Frankfurt Motor Show. A big, bluff unit, it went into production in 2005 and hung around for what seemed like an eternity. Like many first-generation German premium SUVs, it was compromised, heavy and heavily US-market focused.
The second-generation arrived in 2015. Its styling polarised opinion but its shift in focus has - arguably - made it more appealing to more people. Lower, better-packaged and with a very impressive interior, the Q7 transformed into a proper, premium SUV.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Whether you like Coupe SUVs or not is an entirely subjective matter, but there’s no denying the GLE 53 is a tech and spec showcase – some of the best Mercedes has to offer. If you can get past its relatively enormous dimensions and naturally compromised visibility – it’s even a hoot to drive.
The significant proportion of GLE consumers who are picking one of these over the regular version will be pleased with its many improvements. We’ll know more about how its price and specification lines up against primary rivals closer to its Australian launch date, so stay tuned.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
It's difficult to pick between the 160 and the 200. Neither are particularly cheap but this is another of those occasions where it would be a waste of money to bring in a comparatively stripped-out entry level that nobody would buy.
If pressed, I'd say spend the extra on the 200 - it's got a fair bit more gear for the extra outlay and in both the theoretical and real worlds, it doesn't really use that much more fuel for the decent performance boost.
The e-tron is a long shot for a bigger wad of cash and is really only for those keen on a plug-in hybrid Q7. The limited competition isn't any better.
The Q7 is a belter of a large SUV - quiet, refined and reasonably capable off-road, despite its decidedly on-road focus. It goes about its business quietly, confidently and with a minimum of fuss . You know it's big, but it doesn't shout about it and, crucially, it doesn't feel like it from behind the wheel. That's a neat trick.
Do you agree with Peter's assessment that the Q7 is a suave city-dweller or is it just Another SUV? Tell us in the comments below.
The GLE Coupe has improved so much in its looks it’s easy to see when it came to the second-generation GLE underpinnings, Benz had it planned from the beginning.
It looks mean, especially the 53 with its giant toothy grille. The stance is low and wide for an SUV, and I’m especially a fan of the much more resolved rear end.
It’s less bulbous and frumpy, more slick and menacing, rounded out nicely by the flick of a lip spoiler jutting out the rear.
You might think proportionally, the very idea of a coupe SUV is silly, and there’s no denying that, but then, you and I might not be the target audience.
That audience is someone looking for an avant-garde take on what a sports car actually looks like. They will be pleased – I’d say its even more resolved than BMW’s X Coupes and a little less science-fiction than Audi’s Q8. The incoming Coupe version of the Porsche Cayenne will be a real challenger.
The presence the GLE Coupe exudes extends to the inside, where there’s plenty of Mercedes wow factor. Level what you might at the brand’s use of silver fittings and flat dual-screen set-up, there’s no denying Benz offers an interior entirely unlike its competition.
The GLE has one of the best of the recent Benz interiors, too. I love the way the big dual-screen set-up is framed in a 'leather'-clad bay of vents.
I also like the real wood trim on our test car which runs across the dash and flows into the doors, and of course the wholly unnecessary vent-overload (becoming a Benz signature) pride of place in the centre of the dash.
It’s complemented by the tape-deck style silver switches for the climate controls which protrudes underneath.
The materials are great, with Artico trim running down the centre console, and across each doorcard. Almost every surface you’ll reasonably come into contact with is soft, and the commitment to real metals and wood is admirable.
Other highlights include the comfortable seats (with heating which extends into the armrests!) and AMG wheel which is flashy and aggressive, well suited to such a gratuitous vehicle.
The second-generation Q7 is a familiar sight on our roads. I remember the change from the first to second iterations clearly - I wasn't a fan of the old one's overbearing looks and it always looked as though it rode too high, especially on smaller wheels. As its long model cycle wore on, it became ever more bejewelled and the basic shape was lost in bling.
Thankfully, the second generation went light on the chrome and flashiness. Always riding on big rims, it looks less imposing than the original. There are some off-road nods, like vestigial wheelarch extensions, but anything with a rear diffuser is meant more for tarmac than gravel.
This Q7 is more a high-riding wagon (or higher-riding of you take the A6 Allroad into account) and seems more optimised for passenger space and utility rather than shouting 'Look at my massive car!'. Like the bulk of the current Audi SUV range, it's quietly elegant.
And inside, it's tremendous. The now de rigueur 'widescreen' feel to the interior means an airy, light space. Materials are spot on, the design coherent and sensible and the ergonomics are close to faultless. You'll want for nothing in here, with plenty of space, gadgets and style.
Naturally, the entire idea of shaving a solid bit of roof off of an SUV is going to compromise the amount of ‘practicality’ you get from such a large footprint.
Those compromises are not only there, but they are quite obvious. The sheer height of the GLE makes peering over the edge of the bonnet difficult for parking, and the sloped roofline causes the A-pillar to eat quite a bit of your field of vision.
As you might imagine, it’s genuinely difficult to see much out of the back of the GLE Coupe. I caught myself continually adjusting the rear vision mirror – as though somehow it would grant me more vision out of the letterbox rear window.
While front passengers get away with plenty of room, rear passengers are a little harder done by. This is again, largely due to the roof pillar, which eats into headroom and gives the cabin a claustrophobic feel.
Thankfully, legroom is fantastic (largely due to that massive GLE platform), the trim is all just as good as it is in the front seats, and the back of the centre console gets its own set of climate controls, adjustable air vents and USB-C power outlets.
I’d hardly say there’s an abundance of bottle holders for occupants, but there are a few. They aren’t big or packaged in ideal locations, but you’ll be able to get away with four 300ml containers in the front and four in the rear.
The boot has been re-worked from the GLE Coupe’s predecessor, there’s five extra litres on tap, for a total of 655 litres (VDA) – so it’s far from useless, but still down significantly from the full size GLE which has a massive 825L of space.
Benz has made the boot more useful, too, lowering the sill by 60mm for easier access.
The size of this car is undeniable - interior images confirm loads of space and comfort for passengers and cargo. The interior dimensions match the huge exterior (the Q7 measures 5052mm long, 1968mm wide, and 1740mm high).
The diesel-only Q7s are seven-seaters, with access to third-row seating provided by tumbling the middle row forward. You can change how many seats by specifying it with just five as a no-cost option. The e-tron is available as a five-seater only.
Rear legroom in the middle row ranges from almost zero if you slide the seats all the way forward, to 'limousine', and that obviously affects the back row. The four-zone climate control (optional in the 160) also means third row passengers don't have to sweat it out when it's hot, which is a nice touch.
Boot space starts at an already-massive 770 litres with the third row stowed, and up to 1955 litres with the middle row down. The e-tron, with its underfloor gubbins, has a slightly reduced capacity with 650/1835 litres. The bottom line is, luggage capacity is excellent when the third row is out of the way.
The car comes standard with a cargo cover, roof rails (but no roof rack, although I'm certain a dealer will sell you one from an extensive accessories list). A net-style cargo-barrier can be erected either behind the middle or front rows of seats.
Storage space is good - the interior features a shallow centre console up front, a cupholder each for up to six passengers, a good glove box and bottle holders in each door.
Gross vehicle weight is rated at 2940kg for the 160 and 200 while the e-tron, with its higher kerb weight as a result of the electric gear, is rated at 3185kg. Double the turning radius and you have a turning circle of 12.4 metres. Ground clearance is 245mm unladen and wading depth, if you're game, is 535mm.
Price and features
There’s no dancing around the fact that the GLE Coupe is a niche, gratuitous product, targeted at a well-off consumer.
We don’t know what the pricing will be for the Australian range yet – and we won’t for a few months. But what we do know is Mercedes-Benz will only bring two highly specified variants to our market for the launch.
Those two will be the AMG-tuned GLE 53 which we were able to test at the launch, and a slightly lesser specified GLE 450.
Expect tall pricing, north of the wagon bodied GLE 450 ($111,341) for the 450 Coupe and outgoing GLE 43 Coupe ($145,829) for the GLE 53 Coupe.
Standard features, as with the rest of the second-generation GLE range will be pretty good. We don’t know exactly what Australian-specified vehicles will get, but the GLE 53 as tested in Europe came with an extensive list of items.
You can expect all variants to get 20- to 22-inch alloys, electric tailgates, LED headlights, and Benz’ signature ‘Artico’ faux leather interior trim. The 53 also had a swish fully RGB adjustable interior ambient lighting suite and real wood in the dash. Very nice.
All GLE Coupes will have the impressive MBUX (I’m told it’s said “em bee you ex”, not “em bucks”) digital dash and multimedia suite, consisting of two 12.3-inch screens, one a digital dash, the other a multimedia screen.
The flashy setup also supports Apple CarPlay and Android auto as well as the usual connectivity via Bluetooth and packs several USB C outlets alongside Aux and USB 2.0. Our test 53 had a head-up display, too.
Mercedes’ built-in assistant (summoned by uttering 'Hey Mercedes') has perhaps the best native voice recognition on the market in terms of its accuracy and what it can do.
You can do things like adjust air conditioning, open the sunroof shade (oh yes, the GLE comes with a panoramic sunroof, too), and even find your specific music tracks via internet radio.
Then there’s the built in nav suite which is also one of the better ones on the market, featuring some very cool innovations.
The system will switch to the forward-facing camera when approaching an intersection and show you where to exit using augmented reality. Neat.
The 53’s system is also uniquely adjustable with AMG-specific themes and modes for the dash cluster, setting it apart from the lesser GLE 450 when it arrives.
It’s safe to assume there will be an extensive options list, including the 'E-Active Body Control' system (a $13,000 option on the wagon version) which uses cameras to detect road quality and optimize the air suspension system to suit. It also leans into corners. We’re keen to test it when it becomes available on the GLE 450.
There are three Q7s in our model comparison, excluding the V8-powered triple-turbo SQ7. The range starts with the 160 at $97,800, with the 160 designation referring to the engine output in kilowatts.
The 160 starts the range with 19-inch alloys wheels, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless entry and push button start via smart key, electric power steering, cruise control, hill-descent control, quattro all-wheel drive, power tailgate, floor mats, chrome exhaust tips, electric front seats, leather trim, air-quality sensor, park assist, electric everything, auto wipers and headlights and a comprehensive safety package.
Read More: Audi Q7 e-tron 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 160 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 200 2018 review: snapshot
Rather than supplying a spare tyre, Audi gives you a tyre-repair kit.
Stepping up to the 200, the price increases to $106,900, with an attendant increase in horsepower. The basic specification is roughly the same between the two versions, with detail differences.
The 200 adds four-zone climate control, a self-parking system, full body paint finish (body colour applied to the lower extremities of the car) and Audi's excellent 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dashboard.
The difference between the 160 and the 200 is small but useful. The diesel fuel economy is barely different, you get the same transmission, 4x4 system and overall comfort.
Both 160 and 200 buyers have a wide choice of colours: 'Night Black' and 'Carrara White' are free. 'Orca Black', 'Galaxy Blue', 'Ink Blue', 'Cobra Beige' (more gold, really), 'Argus Brown', 'Graphite Grey', 'Temperament Red' and 'Florett Silver' are all $2250. 'Sepang Blue' and 'Daytona Grey' are $7050.
The e-tron adds the hybrid electric unit, loses the third row of seating and some cargo capacity and comes with a full suite of safety systems, heated front seats, 'Audi Connect', LED headlights, e-tron styling and adaptive air suspension. The options list is way shorter, however, but few e-trons find their way into customers' hands.
Audi e-tron buyers are down to seven colours: Night Black, Carrara White, Orca Black, Ink Blue, Graphite Grey and Florett Silver are all freebies.
The many iPhone users out there will be very pleased that Apple CarPlay is standard on the Q7, while Android Auto is also available. As always, Audi's MMI mutlimedia system is excellent. The big 8.3-inch screen is run by a console-mounted rotary dial and touchpad, but it's not yet a touch screen.
GPS sat nav is available across the range. The navigation system can also have a Google Earth overlay. Obviously there is a mobile-phone bluetooth connection in addition to the USB. The multimedia gadgets include a CD player, DVD player, MP3 functionality and the usual AM/FM radio as well as DAB.
As it's an Audi, there's a huge options list as well as various packages to add to the lengthy standard features list.
The $6200 'Technik' technology pack adds the excellent head-up display, plus nine speakers to the stereo (19 in total, including sub-woofer) and wireless phone charging.
The Assistance package includes additions to the safety list (see below).
Of course, the drive-away price can be significantly affected by options choice. The standard price list is just the start, and the amount you can choose to spend on options is breathtaking.
You can upgrade the sound system to a thumping Bang & Olufsen with 23 speakers (including sub-woofer) for a whopping $13,990 (it's a good one), a panoramic sunroof for $3990, four-wheel steering for $2650, air suspension ($4690), 'Matrix LED' headlights ($4850), rear seat entertainment system, side steps, - you get the idea. If I have this right, you can almost double the cost of the Q7 with options.
The S-Line options are more an exterior design pack than the dynamic pack they used to be, offering ever-bigger alloy wheels, side skirts, darker tinted windows, subtle front spoiler and LED headlights.
Ceramic brakes with red brake calipers aren't available in 'standard' Q7s but are available on the sport edition SQ7.
Unavailable are autopilot self driving, tool kit, nudge bar, bull bar, auxiliary heater, heated steering wheel, sunglass holder, carbon fiber trim, 'Homelink', specific premium package and cargo liner.
Engine & trans
Australia will only get one engine in the GLE Coupe – a 3.0-litre 48-volt mild-hybrid in-line six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol.
There will be two states of tune. The 450 will be able to make use of 270kW/500Nm, while the AMG-spec GLE 53 we were able to drive at the launch has more power still (thanks to extra hybrid augmentation on the turbo) for a total of 320kW/520Nm.
For a quick comparison, the single-variant Q8 produces 250kW/500Nm from a twin-turbo V6, while the equivalent X6 – the M40i packs a 3.0-litre twin-turbo in-line six to make 250kW/450Nm.
The GLE 53 has a nine-speed auto transmission which is specially tuned by AMG to go with the expanded list of available drive modes. All Australian GLE Coupes will be all-wheel drive via a permanently active '4Matic+' system.
All Q7s are available with same engine size - a turbo-diesel 3.0-litre V6. In the base model it spins up 160kW/500Nm. Step up to the second spec and with a bit of extra turbo boost and some software tweaks you have 200kW/600Nm.
The e-tron plug-in hybrid runs the same diesel engine with an electric motor added. The diesel specs come in at 190kW/600Nm while the electric motor brings 94kW/350Nm to the party. It's not as simple as adding the figures together, however - Audi quotes the combined specifications as 275kW/700Nm. The battery is a 17.3kW/h lithium-ion pack under the boot floor.
Charging times vary from 2.5 hours from a 400V/16-amp supply to 10.5 hours from a household socket.
All Q7s ship with an eight-speed automatic transmission (from ZF) with power going through all four wheels. All Australian Q7s are all-wheel drive.
Towing capacity is 750kg for unbraked trailers and 3500kg braked - the ratings are identical across the three trim levels. A tow bar is on the optional features list.
The 0-100km/h acceleration times are an impressive 6.2 seconds for the e-tron, 7.3 for the 160 and 6.5 for the 200. These are good performance numbers for a 2000kg-plus SUV with decent fuel mileage.
The question of whether the engines use a timing belt or chain has a simple answer - the Q7's engines all use a chain. The engine also features a diesel particulate filter and the turbocharger is inside the engine V for quick response. The oil type is listed in the owner's manual.
There is no manual transmission or LPG version.
The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the GLE 53 Coupe is 9.3L/100km, and while that’s not bad for something this heavy – keep in mind it’s an NEDC figure and not the widely-used WLTP figure so it could be a bit different by the time the GLE Coupe launches here.
Regardless, the fuel consumption is helped along by the abundance of ratios in the transmission and 48-volt mild-hybrid additions which help to remove inefficiencies from the drivetrain.
Our sweet but brief drive route in the Austrian Alps was not a fair reflection of fuel consumption, so we don’t have a real-world figure for you yet.
Expect the GLE 53 to require premium 98 RON unleaded petrol to fill its 65-litre fuel tank.
For the 160kW, claimed consumption is listed at 5.8L/100km, while the 200kW is barely more at 5.9L/100km. Our time with a 200kW with a few options on board resulted in an average of 8.2L/100km.
On pure electric, Audi says you can shift the e-tron Q7 up to 56km with a top speed of 135km/h. This is purely academic - after a full charge we managed about 20km on pure electric, which isn't terrible but a fair way off the claimed range.
The e-tron's claimed combined consumption figure is 1.9L/100km but we got 4.5L/100km.
The fuel-tank capacity is a hefty 85 litres with the exception of the e-tron, which carries 10 fewer litres at 75.
As the Q7 is available only as a diesel or diesel PHEV, petrol consumption is a non-issue.
The resurgence of the in-line six engine is a glorious thing, and it makes the GLE 53 quite a fun, if chunky, unit to drive.
Acceleration is urgent thanks to the pre-spooled first-stage turbo, and the transmission flicks through the gears like there’s nothing to it.
It’s perhaps not as 'smart' on the downshifts as competitor transmissions from Audi or Porsche, although Mercedes was keen to point out this will get better over time as the car’s computer 'learns' your driving characteristics.
Thankfully though, unless you’re in 'Eco' mode, the GLE 53 does a great job of letting you ride each gear out, giving you that signature in-line six sensation of an entire revolution range of relatively even torque distribution – a characteristic which Mercedes has gone to pains to perfect on a turbocharged engine.
This has the result of letting you bask in the sound for precious extra seconds.
While not as furious as preceding V8s – it is distinct. It’s refined and rich, although more subdued than you might have come to expect from vehicles wearing the Affalterbach badge.
I’m a fan. It’s an engine befitting a more refined sports machine than a garish statement.
The AMG suspension tune was great, too, keeping the massive Coupe truly under control in the corners, while soaking up bumps (which we’ll admit, there were few of on Austria’s immaculate roads).
It was interesting to read colleague Matt Campbell found the standard suspension less than impressive on the regular SUV-shaped variants, so we’ll see what the more basic set-up on the 450 is like at the Coupe’s launch.
I have no complaints about the steering, which proved to be responsive, smooth and accurate, while not erring too far on the heavy side, even in 'Sport' or 'Sport+' mode.
My main complaints lie with outward visibility and the sheer size of the GLE’s body. There were some nerve-wracking moments piloting it at speed around narrow streets with tall snow embankments encroaching.
And no matter how much I adjusted my seat and mirrors, the view out the back was particularly compromised.
Hit the start stop button (like most cars, carefully hidden from view behind the steering wheel) and the 3.0-litre V6 starts quietly (or not at all in the e-tron). As soon as you're out driving, you realise how little road noise invades the cabin, even with the fat tyres all Q7s wear.
Acceleration is good in all of them, even the 160 feels quick. At speed, the cabin is super-quiet and with the air suspension the ride is almost supernaturally good. With the steel springs, you do feel the weight of the car more than with the air suspension, but it handles the bumps and grates of Sydney roads very well indeed.
The e-tron feels heavier, but the standard air suspension copes nicely with the extra bulk. In all other ways it feels extraordinarily similar to the 160 and 200, with the predictable penalty in handling. While the pure EV range might be a little disappointing, the stats tell a rosier story. Around town, you might see 0km in the digital display for electric range, but stepping off from a standstill - a big contributor to city fuel consumption - is electric, with the diesel quietly intervening at around 20km/h. All up, the MMI system told us electric drive accounted for half of city running.
From the day this Q7 landed on our roads, we've praised it for its overall refinement, good steering and handy chassis. Ride is excellent on the standard and air suspension, although the latter is clearly better but does add weight (and cost).
This isn't an off-road review, but the capability of Audi's SUV range surprised me last year on a trip to the Audi Driving Experience where I put Q5s and Q7s through a reasonably tricky set of obstacles and alarming angles, all without the aid of off-road tyres.
We don’t know exactly how Australian cars will be specified yet, but expect the two GLE Coupes to come with flagship active features like high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear and front cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, 360 degree parking sensors and cameras, fully auto LED headlights, semi-autonomous parking, and driver attention alert.
The GLE has nine airbags and dual ISOFIX child seat mounting points in the outer rear seats.
Regular wagon bodied GLE class vehicles have maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings as of 2019, and we’ll update you when we hear more about the Coupe variants.
The Q7 arrives with six airbags, reverse cross traffic alert, traction and stability controls (aka ESP), forward (up to 85km/h) and reverse AEB, around-view cameras as well as forward and side, blind-spot sensor and lane-departure warning.
The 'Assistance' package ($3850) adds active lane assist and adaptive cruise control.
Oddly, traffic-sign recognition isn't available.
You can fix your ISOFIX baby car seat with the supplied two anchor points or three top-tether points in the middle row and a further two in the third row where fitted.
All of these combine for a five-star ANCAP safety rating, awarded in December 2015.
Mercedes continues with its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which is frustratingly standard across European premium car manufacturers in Australia– particularly its primary competitors, Audi and BMW. We doubt this will change any time soon.
Like VW Group competitors, though, Mercedes is now bundling in service costs in packages which can be tacked on to finance. The GLE requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km – we’ll update you on the cost of the packages closer to the Coupe’s local launch.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty along with roadside assist. An extended warranty is available from your dealer.
The maintenance cost of the Q7 is controllable if you purchase an Audi service plan. This covers the basic service costs for three years/45,000km and at the time of writing costs $1900.
The stocks of Q7s appear reasonable, particularly during the current dip in the luxury market, so unless you have a weird set of options, your waiting time will be short.
Second-hand resale value stats appear strong. Audi certainly got on top of the common problems, complaints, faults and issues of the first-gen and the new car appears free of major reliability issues. The automatic-gearbox problems and diesel-engine problems of the past seem absent during my usual sweep of prominent internet forums.
Where is the Audi Q7 built? Same place as the forthcoming Q8 - Audi's Slovakian factory in Bratislava.