Crossover & Midsize

Can the Tesla Model X Compete With BMW’s and Mercedes’ SUVs?

Although the new Model Y has stolen the spotlight somewhat, Tesla’s Model X still has a lot going for it. But EV acceleration alone isn’t enough to win out over every luxury SUV buyer. And for those able to drop six figures on such an SUV, two of the most compelling come from BMW and Mercedes. So, how does the Tesla Model X compare against the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS flagships? Carwow decided to find out.

Tesla Model X vs. BMW X7 vs. Mercedes GLS

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS | Mercedes-Benz

As Carwow tests in the UK, the GLS host Mat Watson tested was a diesel, which isn’t available in the US. But the mild-hybrid GLS450 is close in performance. The latter develops 362 hp and 369 lb-ft from an electrically-assisted 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder. The former’s 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder makes 330 hp and 516 lb-ft.

2020 BMW X7 side
2020 BMW X7 side | BMW

The BMW X7 and Tesla Model X Watson drove, though, are available in the US. Watson drove the BMW X7 M50i, the M Performance variant. It has a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 developing 530 hp and 550 lb-ft. And the Tesla Model was the Long Range dual-motor model, which makes 470 hp and 553 lb-ft. But, while the GLS was down on power, it wasn’t down on features.

Tesla Model X
Tesla Model X | Tesla

All 3 have all-wheel drive. Like the Tesla Model X, the GLS is a 7-seat SUV. And, like the BMW X7, Car and Driver reports the GLS comes with standard air suspension. But, the GLS also offers active body control, which uses a forward-facing camera to predict oncoming bumps.

The Mercedes GLS is also the most off-road-capable of the 3, which an optional off-road package that adds a locking diff, a low-range transmission mode, and hill-descent control that even works in reverse. It also comes with a ‘Bounce Mode’ in case it gets stuck in soft sand or mud, and has the most ground clearance.

2020 BMW X7 interior
2020 BMW X7 interior | BMW

The BMW X7, though, has its own luxury touches. You can spec it with optional crystal inlays, and it comes standard with dual-pane glass. In addition, the X7’s panoramic sunroof has built-in light-up elements. It’s not the Rolls-Royce Cullinan’s Starlight headliner, but it’s not far off.

And, of course, the Tesla Model X has its own unique features. For one, the falcon doors. For another, its large central infotainment screen and Easter eggs.

SUV testing and pricing

First, the 3 SUVs lined up for a standing drag race, followed by a rolling race from 50 mph. Although a drag race doesn’t precisely mimic real-world scenarios, it is a standard test of performance. The rolling race, though, removes any launch control benefits—which the X7 has—from the equation and better simulates real-world behavior.

Afterward, Watson went through each SUV’s styling, features, and interior comfort and quality. Finally, he drove each on the open road.

In the US, the BMW X7 M50i is the most expensive SUV, with a base price of $99,600. The Tesla Model X Dual-Motor is the 2nd most-expensive, with a pre-incentive price of $84,990. The equivalent US-spec Mercedes GLS, the GLS450, starts at $74,950.

As the most powerful SUV in the test, the BMW X7 won the first drag race. However, the Tesla Model X’s instant torque meant it easily won the rolling drag race. In both cases, the Mercedes GLS came in last. But outright speed is only part of these SUVs’ appeal.

How did the Tesla Model X compare?

In terms of luxury, the Tesla Model X lags behind. Watson noted several egregious panel gaps on both the outside and inside. And while the Model X’s infotainment screen is very responsive, it doesn’t actually have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. In addition, the Model X’s interior material quality doesn’t compare with the BMW X7’s or Mercedes GLS’s.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS interior overhead
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS interior overhead | Mercedes-Benz

Furthermore, although the Model X does have seating for 7, Watson found the GLS was actually the roomiest SUV. It had more headroom and legroom than the Tesla, and the 3rd-row seats were comfortable and spacious enough for adults. However, the Tesla’s falcon-wing doors mean 3rd-row and child seat installation was easier.

Watson, like the YouTube team The Straight Pipes, did find the BMW X7 slightly better than the GLS. Although the Mercedes’ infotainment was slightly clearer and sharper, its interior had a few cheap-feeling plastics, and the seat leather didn’t feel as luxurious as the BMW’s. In addition, although both the GLS and X7 were quieter than the Model X, the X7 handled and rode better than the GLS.

2017 Tesla Model X interior
2017 Tesla Model X interior | Tesla

It is worth noting, though, that Watson found the Tesla Model X felt the most like a sports car, thanks to stiffer suspension, lower seats, and a lower center of gravity. Watson also noted the Model X’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist were the best here.

In the end, Watson found the BMW X7 to be the overall winner, noting the difficulty in access EV chargers. However, he also noted that, if charging weren’t an issue, he’d prefer the more futuristic-feeling Tesla Model X. It’s not perfect, but it can definitely compete with the best of the luxury SUVs.

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