Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class VS BMW X6
- In-line six engine
- Grand interior
- High-tech features
- Three-year warranty
- Bonkers performance
- High-end interior
- (Somewhat) affordable pricetag
- Questionable rear styling
- Limited rear-seat headroom
- Firm suspension
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|
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|
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.