BMW X5 vs. Mercedes-Benz GLE350

By

Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.


, Contributing Editor - March 17, 2016

Part of the lineup since 2000, the American-built X5 has been one of the most successful luxury-crossover SUVs, earning a strong reputation for solid performance. Redesigning for 2014 boosted comfort and refinement of what BMW calls its midsize “sports activity vehicle.” Up to seven occupants fit inside, if an optional third row is installed. Available safety technology includes lane-departure warning, pedestrian collision-avoidance with automatic braking, and a Traffic Jam Assistant.

Even though Mercedes-Benz's M-Class nameplate is gone, the luxury-crossover remains alive under the new GLE-Class designation. Henceforth, all Mercedes-Benz SUVs will have a “G” prefix. Available with a gas, diesel, or plug-in hybrid powertrain, the GLE350 continues the M-Class reputation for active-safety features. Choices include active cruise control with steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with auto braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.

See a side-by-side comparison of the X5 & GLE350 »

What the BMW X5 Gets Right

Like nearly every BMW, the X5 continues to score highly in handling. With one small exception, that is: electric power steering is particularly light, providing reduced feedback to the driver. That’s a surprise for a larger SUV, but that deficit is countered by satisfying performance. The X5 is offered with rear-drive as the sDrive35i, or all-wheel drive as the xDrive35i. Both hold a 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine that develops 300 horsepower, working with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In addition to the diesel-engine version (xDrive35d), a plug-in hybrid has joined the X5 lineup for 2016. Buyers who crave even stronger acceleration can choose the xDrive50i, with its 448-horsepower 4.4-liter V8. Operating with gratifying smoothness, BMW’s transmission includes a Sport mode, but front seats aren’t the best of the BMW brand. Fuel economy earns no kudos, estimated at 18/25 mpg (city/highway) with rear-drive. An adaptive suspension is available.

What the Mercedes-Benz GLE350 Gets Right

Not only does the GLE350 deliver commendable manners on the highway, it stands ready to indulge in the occasional trail journey—though serious off-roading is out of bounds. The GLE350 is the only version of the GLE-Class to offer rear-wheel drive, but most are likely to be equipped with all-wheel drive. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 302 horsepower, driving a seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy falters, at only 17/22 mpg (city/highway) with 4Matic drive.

Ride quality rates as excellent, and can be altered by choosing from four drive modes: Individual, Slippery, Comfort, and Sport. Unlike some selectable-mode setups, there’s a significant difference between Sport and Comfort. Mercedes-Benz also offers an optional Airmatic and Active Damping suspension. Inside, well-contoured seats are softly cushioned and amply supportive.

Which midsize German-brand SUV is worth a closer look?

Basically, both of these models have been around a long time, seeking a similar audience.

Our Verdict: BMW X5

Leaning a bit more to the sporty side, the X5 gets our vote—but only barely.

Take a closer look at the BMW X5 »

Take a closer look at the Mercedes-Benz GLE350 »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.


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