Those who spend six figures on an SUV have discerning tastes. Customers like these are what drive Land Rover to make sure its Range Rovers can still ford rivers, even though most of their time is spent ferrying people to airports. It’s why the Rolls-Royce Cullinan can win rally races with little-to-no modification. And it’s what keeps luxury marques BMW and Mercedes at each other’s throats. YouTube team The Straight Pipes recently spent some time with the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS, the luxury flagship SUVs of their respective brands. So, which $100,000+ SUV truly has the most opulence?
How the BMW X7 does luxury
The BMW X7 is the German automaker’s first 3-row SUV, according to Doug Demuro, but it’s clear the company spent the development time well. While Car and Driver found the X7’s third row a bit cramped for adult passengers, the rest of the SUV drew plenty of praise.
BMW offers the X7 with a range of engines. Initially, only two were available: a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 and a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. The six-cylinder makes 335 hp and 330 lb-ft, while the V8 makes 456 hp and 479 lb-ft. However, BMW now offers an upgraded version of the 4.4-liter V8 in the M50i X7, with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. The six-cylinder xDrive40i starts just below $75k, with the xDrive50i and M50i starting at $93,595 and $100,595 respectively.
Car and Driver found each engine smooth, with even the six-cylinder providing good acceleration. A 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds isn’t too shabby. The average X7 customer probably doesn’t have to worry too much about fuel costs, but the six-cylinder is also easier on fuel. Car and Driver recorded 28 mpg on the highway, beating the EPA’s 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway rating. V8-equipped X7s are rated at 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway, although Car and Driver managed to beat that with xDrive50i, too.
And each BMW X7 comes with a whole host of luxury touches and features. All-wheel drive is standard, as is adjustable air suspension. The glass is dual-pane for added serenity, reports Autotrader. There’s a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, 10-speaker audio, and a WiFi hotspot. There’s also a whole host of standard safety features, such as rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure, and front collision warning. And while the leather interior is extra, it’s worth it for the comfy seats and hand stitching.
What the Mercedes GLS brings to the table
The BMW X7 has a worthy contender in the Mercedes GLS. As Doug Demuro explained in his video and Autotrader column, while the X7 is brand-new, the GLS is now in its 3rd generation. And while it’s done well so far—Car and Driver put it on its 10Best Trucks and SUVs list 3 years in a row—it needed an update to keep up.
Thankfully, it seems to have worked. Although the options can get pricey, and the styling is a bit muted compared to the X7—though with that grille, that might be a good thing—the Mercedes GLS is an extremely competent luxury SUV.
Like the X7, the Mercedes GLS also comes with six- and eight-cylinder engines. Unlike the BMW, the GLS can be equipped with electric-assist motors. Paired with the electric motors, the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 GLS450 makes 362 hp and 369 lb-ft; the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 in the GLS580 makes 483 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both come with a 9-speed automatic and standard AWD.
The GLS450 starts at $75,200 and the GLS580 at $97,800. Acceleration is slightly behind the X7’s, with the GLS450 going 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Like the X7, the GLS also comes with standard air suspension. However, Mercedes also offers a trick electronic body control system. Using the front camera, the SUV reads the road ahead and readies itself for upcoming bumps. However, Car and Driver found the standard suspension more than adequate.
That isn’t the GLS’ only luxury feature. There’s more room than the X7, the infotainment system gets high marks, and customers can even order rear ‘executive’ heated and ventilated seats and tablet-controlled infotainment.
And, as Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman described on The Smoking Tire podcast (warning: potentially NSFW language), it can bounce.
What did The Straight Pipes think of these flagship luxury SUVs?
The BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS driven by The Straight Pipes weren’t exactly equal. The X7 was in its M50i spec, and the Mercedes was in GLS450 form. But what the duo really wanted to see was, fundamentally, which one was the better luxury SUV.
If the two SUVs were compared on engines, the Mercedes GLS’ six-cylinder is more powerful than the BMW X7’s. However, the X7’s V8 is more powerful than the GLS’. Similar flip-flopping occurred when The Straight Pipes asked their Instagram followers which SUV had the better looks and interior. The BMW X7 won the exterior poll, but the Mercedes GLS was voted to have the better interior. The Straight Pipes hosts do personally prefer the X7’s looks, explaining that the big grille makes the BMW look more imposing.
Going over the exterior design, interior, and features, The Straight Pipes eventually pick the BMW X7 over the Mercedes GLS. They preferred the X7’s looks, its interior, its range of available features, and also found Mercedes’ touch-pad infotainment system rather annoying. However, the X7’s lane-keeping assist was given some criticism.
Should you buy the BMW X7 or Mercedes GLS?
Trying to pick between these two high-end luxury SUVs is like trying to pick between master-class sushi and Wagyu beef for dinner. Whichever one you end up with, it’s going to be a good time. And it mostly comes down to personal preference. Although The Straight Pipes liked BMW’s gesture-based controls, you might not. But then, you might prefer the X7’s ambient lights over the GLS’.
That being said, although the BMW X7 didn’t win Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year award, the reviewers found the BMW in some ways beat out the GLS. The X7’s interior was comfier, and it’s V8 more powerful. However, the MT team found the X7’s looks polarizing and found body roll to be too pronounced. But expecting an extravagant 3-row SUV to handle like a sports car is a bit of a tall order.
In short, if you can get past the BMW X7’s looks, you’ll find a richly-equipped flagship SUV. But it’s not like the Mercedes GLS is a poor alternative.