Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class VS BMW X5
- In-line six engine
- Grand interior
- High-tech features
- Three-year warranty
- Imposing looks
- Luxurious interior
- Sublime engine
- Relatively expensive
- Big wheels spoil ride
- Large turning circle
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|
Can you believe it’s been nearly two and a half years since the fourth-generation BMW X5 went on sale? Buyers clearly have short memories, though, because the first X model BMW ever unleashed on the world is still the best-seller in its large SUV segment.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, there’s no better way to find out than to take a detailed look at the X5’s volume-selling xDrive30d variant. Read on.
|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.
There is no doubt that BMW seriously stepped up its game with the fourth-generation X5, raising its levels of luxury and technology, all the way to that of the flagship 7 Series.
The X5’s mix of imposing looks and relatively well sorted dynamics is complemented by the xDrive30d’s brilliant engine and transmission.
It’s no surprise, then, that the X5 continues to be its best in xDrive30d form. There really is no need to consider any other variant.
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.
Few SUVs are as imposing as the X5 xDrive30d. Simply put, it commands attention on the road, or even from across the road. Or a mile away.
The sense of commanding presence starts at the front, where the first signs of its sports body kit are. As impressive as the trio of large air intakes is, it’s the engorged version of BMW’s signature kidney grille that gets people talking. It’s simply appropriately sized for a vehicle this big, if you ask me.
The adaptive LED headlights integrate hexagon-style daytime running lights, which look the business, while the LED foglights below also help to light the way.
Around the side, the X5 xDrive30d is also pretty slick, with our test vehicle’s optional bi-colour 22-inch alloy wheels ($3900) filling its wheelarches nicely, with blue brake callipers tucked behind. The ‘air curtains’ also look sporty alongside the high-gloss Shadow Line trim.
At the rear, the X5’s three-dimensional LED tail-lights look superb, combining with the flat tailgate to deliver a strong impression. Then there’s the chunky bumper, with dual exhaust tailpipes and a diffuser insert. Not bad at all.
Step inside the X5 xDrive30d and you’d be excused for thinking that you’re in the wrong BMW. Yes, it could very well be a body-double for the 7 Series luxury sedan. In fact, in many ways, it’s just as luxurious as BMW's flagship model.
Granted our test vehicle had optional Walknappa leather upholstery covering its upper dashboard and door shoulders ($2100) , but even without that it is still a seriously premium affair.
Vernasca leather upholstery is the X5 xDrive30d’s standard choice for seats, armrests and door inserts, while soft-touch materials are pretty much found everywhere else. Yep, even on the door bins.
The ambience is further heightened by the Anthracite headliner and ambient lighting, which makes things feel even sportier.
Speaking of which, while it might be a large SUV, the X5 xDrive30d still has a genuinely sporty side, as exhibited by its chunky steering wheel, supportive front seats and grippy sports pedals. They all make it feel that bit more special.
The X5 also has cutting-edge technology, highlighted by the pair of sharp 12.3-inch displays; one being the central touchscreen, the other a digital instrument cluster.
Both are powered by the now-familiar BMW OS 7.0 multimedia system, which was a stark departure from its predecessor in terms of layout and functionality. But that’s no bad thing, as it still raises the stakes, especially with its always-on voice control.
Users will also be stoked by this set-up’s seamless support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the former connecting with ease upon re-entry, although it does consistently dropout if the iPhone involved is placed in the cubby directly beneath the dash...
That said, the instrument cluster is fully digital, having abandoned the physical rings of its forbear, but it looks dim and still lacks the breadth of functionality that some rivals offer.
And let’s not forget the brilliant windshield-projected head-up display, which is large and crisp, giving you few reasons to look away from the road ahead.
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.
Measuring 4922mm long (with a 2975mm wheelbase), 2004mm wide and 1745mm, the X5 xDrive30d is a large SUV in every sense of the term, so it’s no surprise that it does practicality very well.
The boot’s cargo capacity is generous, at 650L, but it can be expanded to a very helpful 1870L with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench stowed – an action that can be taken via the boot’s manual-release latches.
The split power-operated tailgate ensures that access to the wide and flat rear storage area couldn’t be any easier. And there are four tie-down points and a 12V power outlet on hand.
There are plenty of genuine in-cabin storage options, too, with both the glovebox and central bin on the larger side, while the front door bins can carry a stunning four regular bottles. And don’t worry; their rear counterparts can take three apiece.
Better yet, two cupholders are located at the front of the centre console, while the second row’s fold-down armrest has a pair of pop-out cupholders as well as a shallow tray with a lid.
The latter joins the small driver's side cubby and the two trays at the rear of the centre console as the most random storage spaces on hand, while map pockets are attached to the front seat backrests, which integrate USB-C ports.
Speaking of the front seats, sitting behind them, it becomes apparent how much space there is inside the X5 xDrive30d, with oodles of legroom available behind our 184cm driving position. We also have about an inch of headroom, even with the panoramic sunroof fitted.
What’s really impressive is how well the second row accommodates three adults abreast. There’s enough room on offer that a fully grown trio could go on a long journey with few complaints, partly thanks to the almost non-existent transmission tunnel.
Child seats are also easy to fit, thanks to the three top-tether and two ISOFIX anchorage points, as well as the generous aperture of the rear doors.
Connectivity-wise, there’s a wireless smartphone charger, a USB-A port and a 12V power outlet ahead of the aforementioned front cupholders, while a USB-C port is found in the central bin. Rear occupants also get a 12V power outlet below their central air vents.
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.
Priced from $121,900 plus on-road costs, the xDrive30d slots between the xDrive25d ($104,900) and xDrive40i ($124,900) at the lower end of the X5 range.
Standard equipment in the X5 xDrive30d that hasn’t been mentioned yet includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-folding side mirrors with heating functionality, roof rails, keyless entry and a power-operated tailgate.
Inside you'll also find push-button start, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio, a 205W sound system with 10 speakers, power-adjustable front seats with heating and memory functionality, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and M-branded scuff plates.
In typical BMW fashion, our test vehicle was fitted with several options, including Mineral White metallic paintwork ($2000), bi-colour 22-inch alloy wheels ($3900) and Walknappa leather upholstery for the upper dashboard and door shoulders ($2100).
Rivals for the X5 xDrive30d include the Mercedes-Benz GLE300d ($107,100), Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum ($94,990) and Lexus RX450h Sports Luxury ($111,088), meaning it’s relatively expensive, although specification isn’t exactly like for like.
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.
As its name suggests, the X5 xDrive30d is motivated by the same 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine used in other BMW models, and that’s a very good thing, because it’s one of my favourites.
In this form, it produces 195kW of power at 4000rpm and a very useful 620Nm of torque from 2000-2500rpm – perfect outputs for a large SUV.
Meanwhile, an eight-speed ZF torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) – another favourite – and BMW’s fully variable xDrive system are responsible for sending drive to all four wheels.
As a result, the 2110kg X5 xDrive30d can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in a hot-hatch-like 6.5 seconds, on the way to its top speed of 230km/h.
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.
The X5 xDrive30d’s fuel consumption on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 7.2L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 189g/km. Both claims are strong for a large SUV.
In the real world, we averaged 7.9L/100km over 270km of driving that was slightly skewed towards highways over city roads, which is a very solid result for a vehicle of this size.
For reference, the X5 xDrive30d has a large, 80-litre fuel tank.
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.
When it comes to ride and handling, it would be easy to argue that the X5 xDrive30d’s combination is class-leading.
While its suspension (double-wishbone front and multi-link rear axles with adaptive dampers) has a sports tune, it stills rides comfortably, wafting over uneven surfaces with ease and quickly regaining composure over bumps. It all feels suitably luxurious.
However, the optional bi-colour 22-inch alloy wheels ($3900) fitted to our test vehicle often catch sharper edges and spoil the ride over poorer surfaces, so you should probably stick to the standard 20-inch rims.
Handling-wise, the X5 xDrive30d does naturally lean into corners during spirited driving when in its Comfort drive mode.
That being said, overall body control is relatively strong for a large SUV, and the Sport drive mode does go some way towards tightening things up, but the fact is, it’s always going to be hard to defy physics.
Meanwhile, the X5 xDrive30d’s electric power steering is not only speed-sensitive, but its weight is adjustable via the aforementioned drive modes.
In Comfort, this set up is well-weighted, with just the right amount of heft, however, change it to Sport and it becomes heavier, which might not be to everyone’s taste. Either way, it’s relatively direct and offers solid levels of feedback.
That said, the X5 xDrive30d’s sheer size is reflected by its 12.6m turning circle, which makes low-speed manoeuvres in tight spaces more challenging. The optional rear-wheel steering ($2250) can help with that, although it wasn’t fitted to our test vehicle.
In terms of straight-line performance, the X5 xDrive30d has a thick wad of maximum torque available early in the rev range, which means its engine’s pulling power is effortless all the way through to the mid-range, even if it can be a little spiky initially.
While peak power is relatively strong, you rarely need to approach the top end to make use of it, because this engine is all about those Newton-metres of torque.
Acceleration is therefore spritely, with the X5 hunkering down and charging off the line with intent when full throttle is applied.
A lot of this is performance is thanks to the transmission’s intuitive calibration and general responsiveness to spontaneous inputs.
Gear changes are quick and smooth, although on occasion they can be a little jerky when decelerating from low speeds to a standstill.
The five drive modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, Adaptive and Individual – allow the driver to alter engine and transmission settings while on the move, with Sport adding a noticeable edge, but Comfort is what you'll be using 99 per cent of the time.
The transmission’s Sport mode can be summoned at any time, with a flick of the gear selector leading to higher shift points that are complementary to spirited driving.
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 Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the X5 xDrive30d its maximum five-star safety rating in 2018.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the X5 xDrive30d extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, traffic-sign recognition, high-beam assist, driver-attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, park and reversing assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, hill-descent control and tyre-pressure monitoring. Yep, there’s not much missing here.
Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver’s knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and the usual electronic stability and traction-control systems.
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.
As with all BMW models, the X5 xDrive30d comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years behind the premium standard set by Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Genesis. It also gets three years of roadside assistance.
The X5 xDrive30d’s service intervals are every 12 months of 15,000km, whichever comes first. Five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plans start from $2250, or an average of $450 per visit, which is more than reasonable.