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  • Writer's pictureMarc Gonzalez

Comparing Luxury PHEVs: BMW X5 xDrive50e vs Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e

Updated: Apr 9

Mercedes-Benz and BMW have been long-time rivals in every category, racing to surpass each other. We will compare their two midsize luxury SUVs, vying for the top spot as the best $100,000 vehicle. Without further ado, let's dive in: the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e, with an MSRP of $102,630, is built at the Tuscaloosa, AL plant, and the BMW X5 xDrive50e, with an MSRP of $102,500, is built at the Spartanburg, SC plant.  

Mercedes Benz GLE 450e
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld - GLE 450e

Design-wise, both vehicles have undergone some changes in the past few months. The Mercedes GLE has a more rounded shape with curves around the edges, while the BMW X5 has a boxy and imposing grille. 

BMW X5 xDrive50e
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld - BMW X5

The GLE has been left unchanged except for the LED headlights and the grille design, which has small Mercedes-Benz logos. Our test model had two distinctive features that improved the look: a roof rack and fixed aluminum running boards. The 21-inch wheels are an excellent addition; the only meaningful change in the back is the LED taillights.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e tail lights
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

The BMW X5, on the other hand, underwent extensive changes to make it look meaner. The Bavarian automaker completely redesigned the front bumper, headlights, and side air vents, giving it a fresh set of wheels for 2024. The split tailgate is still here, but the LED taillights have been updated for this latest edition of the popular SUV. 

When you compare these vehicles side-by-side, you can see the difference in design. The Mercedes GLE will appeal to certain individuals, whereas the BMW X5 will resonate with others. In our books, we're leaning towards the X5, but notice the GLE's undeniable allure. 

When you buy a six-figure car, you expect a certain level of comfort and luxury inside the cabin, and these two vehicles nailed it. In the Mercedes-Benz, the Macchiato Beige interior contrasts with the other interior panels on the dashboard and the doors. The power-operated seats are wide and comfortable: they are heated, ventilated and massaging, including the center and door armrests. You will find the Mercedes steering wheel with haptic feedback in the driver's seat. We prefer it when the steering has physical buttons, but we found this one user-friendly. The only element that stood out was the lack of a skip-track button, which is somewhat annoying. Also, the gear shifter is on the right stock on the steering wheel, and the window wipers and turn signals are on the left stock. It can initially feel strange; you get used to it quickly. 

Sitting in the X5, the Coffee Sensafin interior combines brown and black accents with brushed wood on the center console. (The photos below do not match the vehicle we tersted). It also offers power-operated, heated, and ventilated seats that are comfortable for shorter, longer drives. In the driver's seat, the large M-badged steering wheel feels great in your hands. It has physical buttons and paddle shifters on the back. Looking back on these two vehicles, the driver's seat is an excellent place to be; let's look next at practicality and technology.

The BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE deliver excellent interior rooms for five passengers, which is necessary for a road trip. The rear seats in both vehicles are spacious enough for three people, although the middle seat would work better as a center armrest for drinks and such because of the transmission tunnel that leaves a hump on the floor. Regarding amenities on the second row, both vehicles offer separate air vents, USB ports and heated outer seats. In the BMW, you can even find two small storage cubbies for small items. As for child seat installation, both vehicles make it easier for parents to install them quickly. The ISOFIX ports are identified on the seat backs, and the rear anchors are easily accessible, especially on the X5, where you will find three spots at different heights to attach the seat properly, something we've rarely seen in the past. As for cargo space, you will find plenty with the seats up; folding them increases the capacity up to 1800L of space, which is huge! The split tailgate on the BMW makes for a different approach in terms of space opening; while it's nothing new, it allows the trunk to open in tighter areas such as an underground parking garage.

ISOFIX ports Mercedes-Benz 450e
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld - GLE 450e ISOFIX

Regarding technology, the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE are equipped with a fully digital, customizable 12.3-inch gauge cluster with many graphics and helpful information such as trip info, tire pressure system and eco-driving indicator to maximize the range and fuel economy. Each one has a large and crisp display that doubles as a full-screen map; you also have a heads-up display for even fewer distractions while driving. Down the middle, in the Bavarian X5, you get a 14.9-inch infotainment screen, including the climate controls, updated for a more modern look. At first, you might need a couple of minutes to figure out how to find the radio station, the phone pairing menu or the trip information; then, the main menu will help you navigate the different tabs quickly. As previously mentioned, all the climate controls are displayed on the screen. Although we are not huge fans of this feature, it does work. Fortunately, thanks to the iDrive controller, you can still use a knob to set the desired temperature or fan speed. The controller can help navigate the menus and respond quickly to the user's inputs. That said, you will still find a few traditional buttons under the air vents, such as the on/off button for the radio with the skip track buttons and hazard lights, to name a few. On a different note, the climate-controlled cup holders are a nice touch; they automatically detect if your drink needs cooling or heating! On the Stuttgart-based GLE, the 12.3-inch infotainment display isn't the newest in the industry but is more user-friendly without lacking any information. Thanks to the trackpad on the center console, you can switch quickly between menus. You will find a row of climate controls under the air vents, which helps you set a desired temperature quickly; this will appear momentarily on the display. The downside here is, once again, the useless complexity of skipping a song; we would instead have dedicated skip buttons to make it more convenient. We did have climate-controlled cup holders, and both vehicles offer wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Augmented reality for navigation. A live camera shows where to turn with giant, video-game-like arrows. Overall, we found the Mercedes' infotainment system more convenient and has all the features you need from a vehicle at this price point. 

These two vehicles need massive power, and both are up to the task. Both offer many engine choices, depending on your needs. BMW offers the X5 with an inline-six cylinder engine on the base, the PHEV version, a V8 in its M50i variant, and a potent X5 M Competition model. Mercedes-Benz offers on the GLE-Class a choice of the four-cylinder engine on its base and PHEV variant, a six-cylinder on the standard 450 model and AMG GLE 53 and a V8 engine on the once-again incredibly powerful AMG GLE 63 S.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e 4MATIC SUV is powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine coupled to the plug-in hybrid electric motor and a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission. Its powertrain develops 381 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque from combined electric and gasoline-powered motors. In terms of acceleration, you can expect to get to 100 kph in about 6.1 sec, which is good for a family-oriented vehicle. All Mercedes GLE-Class are all-wheel-drive thanks to the 4MATIC system, which can send up to 100% to the front or rear axle, a nice piece of engineering. As for fuel economy and range, in full electric mode, the GLE 450e is rated to get to 77 km (48 mi); we got pretty close to this number (72 km) during our testing, with temperatures spanning from -5 to 5 degrees Celsius (23-41 F). This plug-in hybrid can be fast-charged at up to 60 kW. This will recharge its large 23.3 kWh battery pack from 20 to 80 percent in about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, our test vehicle did not have this option.

Charging port
Photo by Alain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld - GLE 450e

We highly recommend getting this neat feature for increased range, and since it's not a feature common to all PHEVs, it's a shame that it's not standard at this price point. That said, on a level 2 charger, we found that the vehicle takes about 4 ½ hours to charge to 100%, which is decent for roughly 77 km. As for fuel economy, you can expect about 9L/100km on the highway and 10L/100km in the city (26 mpg HWY / 23.5 mpg CITY), the average of a vehicle of this size. On the road, the car is stable, planted and comfortable. The independent suspension does an excellent job of mitigating road imperfections while feeling sportier when you select Sport mode. The electric motor has enough punch to move this 2,6 tons vehicle swiftly, all the way to highway speed. It isn't going to pin you to the seat, but it doesn't feel slow, either. You can also set the regenerative braking on Auto to reduce the brake pedal use, a feature found on other models from the German automaker. Mercedes did an excellent job refining this vehicle for driving around town. 

BMW charging port
Photo by BMW

As for BMW, the X5 xDrive50e is powered by a combination of a turbocharged, inline-6-cylinder engine coupled to an integrated electric motor inside the Steptronic eight-speed transmission. Its powertrain develops a hefty 483 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, combining for a 0-100 kph time of 4.8 seconds. All this power is distributed to all four wheels thanks to the xDrive, which quite effectively mitigates any oversteer in hard acceleration. The X5 has a strong urge to go fast on the highway. Although it's great for spirited driving, we noticed that the transmission sometimes fails to react smoothly during initial acceleration from a red light on dry pavement, which can be annoying. Surprisingly, it happens even in EV mode, although to a lesser extent. That said, the electric range of the X5 is rated at 64 km (40 mi) with a 25.7 kWh battery pack. That is a conservative number; during our testing, we were impressed that we could almost drive about 70-72 km (44 mi) without using a single drop of fuel at this time of the year. Like the GLE, it also takes about 4 ½ hours to charge 100 percent. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer fast charging. The fuel economy is even better on the BMW than the Benz since it is officially rated at about 10L/100km on the highway. Our testing found that the fuel consumption could go as low as 6.5L/100km. We averaged 7L, which is a significant upgrade over the gas-powered version. Driving-wise, as mentioned before, the transmission needs some reworking. The braking was slightly less firm than expected; we had to press somewhat harder on the pedal to reach a complete stop. That being said, the X5 is pleasant to drive on the highway thanks to its nicely-weighted steering wheel. Steering and handling are sharp, and this mastodon fully encompasses the Bavarian automaker's DNA of a driver's vehicle. Our test model also had adaptive air suspension, allowing you to lower or raise the car. BMW went in another direction with its new plug-in hybrid vehicle, making for a sportier experience. 

BMW X5 xDrive50e engine
Photo by BMW

We like this type of vehicle because it can drive in EV mode on a typical day for errands, and you don't have to skip a beat when you drive to the cabin on the weekend. The transition between gas and electric on the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e is nearly seamless, while the BMW X5 xDrive50e focuses on sportiness and driving experience. Both offer a classy experience, inside and out, while providing excellent interior room for all the occupants. To answer the 6-figure question of which vehicle to choose between the BMW X5 and the Mercedes, we recommend the Mercedes. Because it has a smoother driving experience and more user-friendly infotainment, it is essential to note that the BMW X5 is still a great vehicle. Ultimately, the Mercedes is easier to live with daily. If you are looking for better handling and a sharp-looking car, the X5 xDrive50e is perfect.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW have lent us this vehicle as a press vehicle for one week. We have no affiliation with Mercedes-Benz Canada and BMW Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion of the car referred to above.

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