We square off two hard-hitting contenders in a constantly evolving segment

Midsize SUVs and crossovers are hugely desirable these days, even more so if they wear a premium badge like Mercedes’ all-new GLE does. But being so desirable also means that all manufacturers want as big a slice of the market to themselves as possible, and these models have become increasingly talented in recent years, so it’s a hugely competitive segment.

The GLE is all-new for 2019, so the engineers and designers behind it have had time to study the previous model and models already on sale, learn from them, and try to improve. Once such very talented rival is the Audi Q7 which, in its current generation (introduced in 2016,) is arguably one of the best vehicles in its class, even if it’s by no means a flamboyant effort.

Despite being direct rivals, the two adopt very different styles both inside and out, offering visually different solutions to the problem of creating a modern midsize SUV.

Exterior

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Exterior
- image 795100

Choosing either of the two based on the way they look on the outside is really a matter of taste as they couldn’t be more different.

The Audi Q7 is simple, restrained, and well proportioned, while the new GLE is definitely the more noticeable of the two.

The Mercedes has bulging wheelarches and quite a few swoops and creases, whereas the Audi is far more subtle.

In all fairness, though, neither vehicle is particularly dramatic to look at, hinting at the mature, conservative buyers they are both gunning for.

Front

left right

The front fascias of the two vehicles couldn’t be more different when it comes to design and styling. One is chiseled and squared off (the Q7) while the other has a more rounded, organic feel to it. Both have big grilles acting as a canvas to highlight their respective badges, although the Audi’s grille, which extends lower down onto bumper, is larger and more obvious.

Side

left right

Only from the side can you tell that the current GLA is visually related to its predecessor, as well as the older ML - the shape of the C-pillar is the giveaway, as well as the shape of all side windows. By comparison, the Q7 looks boxy, and a bit bland, but some may pass without even noticing it’s there instead of gazing away like you are more likely to see in the Mercedes. The latter is definitely the stronger design statement, at least from the side.

Rear

left right

From the back, the Mercedes appears wider and more tapered towards the greenhouse, emphasizing its planted stance. By comparison, the Audi looks more slab-sided and simpler, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its own visual charm. Thankfully, neither vehicle adopts the recent faux exhaust-like ornament trend plaguing the industry in recent years.

Interior

left right

Three years ago when it debuted, the Audi Q7’s interior was labeled as one of the best in any vehicle, with its blend of simple shapes that just work together, refrain from having too many buttons, and a twin-screen setup before they became as popular as they are now. Inside the Q7 is a supremely serene place to travel, and some may appreciate the minimalist approach more so than what Mercedes did with the GLE.

In the Q7, you can make the center infotainment screen silently slide into the dashboard, and you wouldn’t know it has one.

The GLE’s interior design, on the other hand, shouts about it having two massive 12.3-inch screens that are always visible no matter what you do. It’s definitely the more opulent looking of the two, and it too is considerably more minimalist in its approach compared to the previous GLE, even if its overall aesthetic feels just a bit busier than the Q7’s.

Drivetrain and Performance

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Drivetrain
- image 795115

Mercedes has, so far, only announced four- and six-cylinder engines for the GLE, badged GLE350, GLE450 and GLE 450 4Matic - only gasoline units thus far, although diesel and electrified powertrains have been confirmed. The smallest engine is a 2.0-liter turbo four-pot in the GLE350 - it makes 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Next up is Mercedes’ new straight-six which makes 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, and there’s also a mild hybrid version of it which boosts total output by 22 horses and adds another 184 pound-feet of torque.

This quickest version of the GLE sprints from naught to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds and all engine versions come exclusively paired with the brand’s new nine-speed self-shifter.

The maximum towing capacity of the 2019 Mercedes GLE-Class, when properly equipped is 7,200 pounds.

2017 - 2018 Audi Q7 Drivetrain
- image 610940

Audi offers the Q7 with diesel engines in Europe: a 3.0-liter with either 218 horsepower or 272 horsepower. There’s also an e-Tron variant which has 374 total horsepower from its 3.0-liter diesel engine and electric motor combo - it manages to sprint to 62 mph in 6.2 seconds.

Stateside, buyers can choose either a 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque or a larger, 3.0-liter V-6 with 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

At the very top of the Q7 range lies the SQ7 which again drinks diesel.

Powering it is a 4.0-liter V-with over 430 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque from as low as 1,000 rpm thanks to an electric compressor that helps build boost in the turbochargers very early on. It sprints to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds and tops out at 155 mph.

All versions of the Q7 come hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Audi Q7 features a maximum towing capacity of 7,700 pounds when properly equipped.

Final Thoughts

Mercedes GLE vs Audi Q7 High Resolution Exterior
- image 585675
The New GLE and current-gen Q7 are two completely different contenders for the same class crown.

They are both undeniably capable and well thought out, and splitting them on competence is probably quite difficult - the Mercedes does have the upper hand, being the newer vehicle developed after the Q7 came out, but the Audi is still too strong a proposition to ignore in this segment.

The Audi currently offers the more powerful engine, the V-8 diesel in the SQ7, but we’ve yet to see what Mercedes has in store for its hotter versions of the GLE. If it puts the 4.0-liter, twin-turbo, V-8 from its AMG offerings under the GLE’s hood, it will have the upper hand in terms of straight line performance.

Further reading

Mercedes GLE vs Audi Q7 Exterior
- image 795085

Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE.

Mercedes GLE vs Audi Q7 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 585697

Read our full review on the 2017 - 2018 Audi Q7.

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: