Sitting at the top of the Munich brand’s SUV pack in the scale and luxury stakes, the X7 pertains to bring the palatial pleasantries of the brand’s flagship 7 Series sedan, but with the addition of all-terrain ability and more voluminous cabin space.
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At last, the German car maker can compete in the upper-large SUV segment where Mercedes has been largely unchallenged with its GLS offering, until now.
Now BMW has revealed the first juicy details regarding its newest and largest model to date, here’s how the range-topping X7 xDrive50i compares with the equivalent GLS 500 on paper.
Overall, the BMW is longer and wider measuring a whopping 5.15m long and an even 2.0 metres wide compared with the Mercedes, which is 20mm shorter and 18mm narrower. However, the X7 maintains a sportier stance on the road with a 1.8m height – nearly 50mm lower than the GLS.
The BMW also has the longer wheelbase at 3.15m versus the 3.08m Merc. Typically, a longer wheelbase frees up more space in the cabin but reduces the so-called ‘breakover angle’ which is a gauge of the car’s ability to avoid grazing its belly on obstacles when off road.
Speaking of which, the Mercedes has a ground clearance of 195mm, while the BMW sits 221mm above the road. That said, both models feature air suspension as standard, which can be raised or lowered according to driving conditions, including off-road scenarios.
Despite the differences in size, the pair is fairly evenly matched for heft, with exactly in the featherweight. The BMW tips the scales at 2460kg while the Merc is carries a little less at 2445kg.
As you might expect from such large vehicles, cargo capacity is generous. Both models offer seven seats but with second and third rows folded, the BMW load area can swallow a monstrous 2120 litres or 326L with the full seating capacity, while the GLS offers 2300L and 295L respectively. Both offer a compromise somewhere in between with just the third row folded.
Both models are powered by a turbocharged petrol V8 coupled to automatic transmissions and four-wheel drive.
For the GLS, Mercedes has fitted a 4.7-litre engine which produces 335kW/700Nm and can accelerate the big SUV to 100km/h from standstill in 5.3 seconds. That power and performance comes at a cost however, and average fuel consumption is rated at 11.3 litres per 100km.
The BMW X7 weighs in with a smaller 4.4-litre turbocharged engine but manages a similar power and torque figure of 340kW and 650Nm. Accelerating to the 100km/h benchmark takes 5.4s. Despite feeding fewer cubic centimetres, the BMW V8 is slightly thirstier than the Merc, using 11.4L/100km.
While the BMW has an eight-speed automatic, the Mercedes adds in one more ratio for a total of nine speeds.
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While the BMW is factory-fresh and completely new to the segment, Mercedes’ contender has been doing the rounds for a lot longer and, with only a facelift to keep it fresh, is showing its age in some areas.
Instead of conventional gauges, the BMW’s instrument cluster is a 12.3-inch fully digital display and is complemented by a second touchscreen of the same size for the central information and entertainment system. The Mercedes, however, has analogue gauges with a central screen that is only accessible via the Comand dial and switches.
Seven seats are standard in both models but BMW offers an optional ‘comfort seat’ option for the second row, which converts three seats into two luxurious spots.
Both models offer alloy wheels sized from 20- to 22-inches and, as is commonplace with the premium European brands, there is an extensive range of customisation options on offer for those with a larger budget to spend.
LED headlights are standard in both cases with adaptive beam technology, as is high-grade leather upholstery and a range of interior trims.
Mercedes’ Dynamic Select Controller offers six driving modes including an off-road setting, while BMW’s equivalent also has a number of driving modes including four all terrain settings for a wide range of challenging surfaces.
Read next: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 500 Quick Review
BMW’s relatively new iDrive operating system offers an ‘intelligent personal assistant’ which allows the driver to control many of the vehicle’s functions and features using conversational speech and hand gestures. Mercedes’ new MBUX system offers similar levels of interaction, although the GLS has not been equipped with this evolution as yet.
Mercedes has kept the GLS safety systems up to the minute and it’s on an even keel with the BMW when it comes to driver assistance technology. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-start traffic, driver fatigue monitoring, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alerts are standard fare for both.
For now, the 4.4-litre V8 version of BMW’s X7 is the range-topping option and the highest-performance variant. Mercedes however, offers a version of the GLS from the coveted AMG stable. With a 5.5-litre turbo V8, the AMG GLS 63 takes power and torque up to 430kW760Nm with a corresponding drop in acceleration to 4.6s, while fuel consumption rises to 12.3L/100km.
Both brands offer a more frugal six-cylinder diesel variant. The BMW X7 M50d produces a hefty 760Nm of torque but uses as little as 7.0L/100km, while the Mercedes GLS 350d develops 620Nm at a cost of 7.6L/100km.
BMW also offers a six-cylinder turbo petrol X7 to flesh out the middle of the range.
BMW is yet to confirm exact X7 local line-up details, including pricing but, as is typical for the German arch rivals, you can expect the X7 to align closely with its Mercedes equivalents.
The GLS range kicks off from $119,100 for the 350d, a Sport version of the diesel adds $19,000 to the asking price, the GLS 500 costs $165,500, while the AMG GLS 63 rounds out the range at $222,100.