THE GRILLES. OH GOD, THE GRILLES. Haven’t you moaned and groaned about the size of the kidney grilles every time a new BMW drops? Haven’t we all said it’s too big, too in-your-face, too pandering to the tastes of the Chinese? But, pull out a tape measure, and turns out the BMW has a smaller grille than the Mercedes! If group tests were aced on the acreage of the grille, the GLS would win this test!
Fortunately tests aren’t (yet!) won on the size of the grille, and styling remains a matter of personal preference — so put away the knives when I confess my preference for the X7. In pictures it might be awfully in-your-face but on the road, wow, it turns heads. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it stunning but place the two behemoths side-by-side and it is the BMW that draws second glances. It screams money and power. It gets security guards to snap their heels to attention if your guard wore heels. You will not miss it for the world.
Not that the GLS will shrink into the background either, the sheer size of the big Merc ensuring a smart salute. That said the GLS is less polarising, more Mercedes and won’t offend any sensibilities. Truth is Mercedes knows the luxury car buyer best and the GLS’ styling will be more palatable to a wider audience. And in any case if you buy either of these luxury SUVs, you will be spending most of your time inside, and that is where the GLS scores. The cabin looks and feels ridiculously expensive, and with that massive slab of digital real estate — courtesy the 12.3-inch digital cluster carrying on into another 12.3-inch infotainment screen —equally at the cutting edge of technology. Both the screens are of a brilliantly high-definition clarity, have excellent graphics and there are plenty of ways to operate the menus — touchscreen, touchpad, steering wheel controls, even voice via MBUX. Space is incredibly vast, the panoramic sunroof is quite possibly the largest fitted on an automobile assembled in India and the Burmester sound system even pipes in the conversations of your kids in the third row so they don’t have to scream their lungs out to get your attention. The front seats are incredibly comfortable, cooled and heated, but I did miss seat massagers, and you don’t get an S-Class style business class seat for the second row. Mercedes makes a big deal of the nine USB ports in the GLS, but first you will have to throw away your regular iPhone cables and invest in new USB-C cables to use any of them. Which isn’t a problem in the BMW because of wireless CarPlay freeing you from the tyranny of cables. On the contrary if you have an Android phone it’s an even bigger problem because BMW doesn’t support Android Auto, be it via cables or wirelessly.
The all-important space. In isolation the BMW is vast, but in comparison to the Merc it doesn’t have the over abundance of space. However, you can get the BMW with captain’s seats in the middle which is not an option on the Merc. The X7’s layout is familiarly BMW and it too has two 12.3-inch screens that fanboys will insist is the better layout. But truth is the Merc does feel more lavish and expensive. Like the Merc, all the seats in the BMW are electrically controlled but the X7 does allow you to control all the seats from the driver’s side. And, as is the case with every BMW, feels more sporty.
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