Once upon a time, BMW M and Mercedes-AMG battled it out with sedans and coupes. However, as with any war, new battlegrounds emerge, and the current fight is taking place in the crossover space. Both M and AMG now offer high-performance versions of almost every SUV in their respective parent companies’ lineups. The E63 and M5 sedans have been fighting for supremacy for years, and now the redesigned Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and BMW X5 M are preparing to enter the fray. These crossovers pack powerful twin-turbocharged V8 engines, advanced suspension technologies, and an array of tech features. It seems that even though the theater has changed, the battle between these two German giants remains relentless.
This particular battle took place in various locations, with the 2020 GLE63 being tested on the stunning roads of southern California’s Angeles Crest Highway. The 2020 X5 M was then put through its paces on serpentine mountain roads and stark deserts in Scottsdale, Arizona. Both vehicles were pushed to their limits in a 24-hour period.
Let’s start with the engines, which are the heart of these high-performance SUVs. Both vehicles are equipped with twin-turbocharged V8 engines, but they differ in terms of character and mechanical setup. The Mercedes features an EQ Boost system, an integrated starter-generator that virtually eliminates turbo lag. It adds 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque to the GLE 63 S’s total output of 603 hp and 627 lb-ft. This allows the GLE 63 S to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in an estimated 3.7 seconds. On the other hand, BMW hasn’t electrified the X5 M Competition’s engine, but it still manages to produce an impressive 617 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. Despite having less torque, the X5 M Competition matches its rival in acceleration. The engines have different characteristics, with the BMW revving up to its redline of 7,200 rpm and feeling more suitable for a sports car. The GLE, on the other hand, feels like a muscle car with its powerful and torquey engine. The sound of the engines also differs, with the GLE’s AMG V8 producing a burly, menacing roar compared to the more purposeful sound of the X5 M’s engine.
Moving onto the suspension, BMW M opted for a more aggressive setup with a double-wishbone front suspension, a multi-link rear suspension, and adaptive dampers. The X5 M also features an active anti-roll bar system, the latest xDrive all-wheel-drive system, and an M-specific electric-power-steering system. On the other side, the AMG GLE is equipped with a four-corner air suspension with adaptive dampers, active anti-roll bars powered by a 48-volt electrical system, a fully variable all-wheel-drive system, and a limited-slip rear differential. The GLE’s setup offers a more comfortable ride, thanks to the air suspension and advanced anti-roll bars. It remains composed and quiet, even on rough roads. The X5 M, on the other hand, has a firmer suspension that struggles to cope with bumps, but it offers impressive cornering capabilities and seemingly limitless grip. The downside of the X5 M’s suspension setup is its steering, which lacks feedback and feels heavy at low speeds.
In terms of technology, both vehicles come with all-digital cabins, but BMW M and AMG have tweaked the systems to suit their high-performance missions. The AMG setup is clean and user-friendly, with dedicated controls for driving modes and adjustable systems. The X5 M, however, has a steeper learning curve with its unique control layout. The GLE 63 S’s setup allows for quick on-the-fly adjustments, while the X5 M offers customizable presets with its M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel.
Inside, both vehicles offer comfortable and highly adjustable seats, with heating, ventilation, and massage functions. The X5 M’s seats are particularly impressive and offer a wider range of adjustments. The GLE’s AMG-spec steering wheel adds a touch of sportiness, while the X5 M’s new shifter design is a bit perplexing. The Mercedes has a cleaner and more intuitive interior setup overall.
When it comes to pricing, both vehicles exceed the six-figure mark, with the GLE 63 S starting at $113,950 and the X5 M Competition at $114,100. Even with options, the price difference is minimal, with the GLE 63 S costing slightly more at $133,075 compared to the X5 M Competition’s $128,245. The X5 M Competition offers optional extras like a higher top speed and a day of high-performance driver training.
In conclusion, choosing between these two performance SUVs is a tough decision. The GLE 63 S offers a better balance between comfort and capability, making it a more practical everyday vehicle. Its advanced suspension and smooth ride give it an edge in terms of everyday usability. On the other hand, the X5 M Competition is more aggressive and dynamic, with impressive cornering capabilities and an engaging driving experience. However, its firm ride and lackluster steering might be less practical for daily driving. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and priorities.