SUVs

How the 2019 BMW X5 stacks up to the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLS-Class

BMW's fourth-gen X5 is ready to take on the Q7 and GLS-Class, but which is the better luxury three-row?

BMW

The 2019 BMW X5 aims to improve on its predecessor in every way, with a bigger body, a fresh interior design and a huge roster of new tech features. Will that be enough to make the X5 a more compelling pick in the three-row luxury SUV space than the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class? Let's see how the three of them compare to find out.

Before getting started, one caveat: though the X5 is all-new this year and the second-gen Q7 was introduced for the 2016 model year, the GLS-Class is significantly older and is expected to be redesigned soon. That helps us understand why it's not necessarily the leader in terms of tech.

Aesthetics

The Mercedes GLS looks and is the big boy of the segment; it is, after all, the only one of this trio that comes standard with three rows, rather than offering buyers a choice between two or three. At 201.6 inches in length, it's longer than the Audi and BMW (by 2.0 and 7.3 inches, respectively). Styling-wise, it manages to break up its large slab-sided design with nice chrome accents, eye-catching lighting and some appealing character lines. While not gorgeous, the GLS is still one of the more attractive entries in its class.

The Audi Q7 is unerringly smart and tidy in its design, but perhaps just a little too understated. Though its taut, tight lines are very modern, the Q7 is too similar to other Audi SUVs and, ultimately, doesn't have a lot of flair or panache setting it apart from all the other luxury models in the parking lot. That's not to say its design isn't appealing, just that it errs too far toward the side of anonymity.

As to the 2019 X5, well, at first glance it doesn't look too different from its predecessor. But nice design touches like a new character line along the bodysides, a restyled fascia with reshaped air inlets and new LED taillights all freshen the look of BMW's big SUV. It is also the smallest of this trio, even though every exterior dimensions has increased compared to last year's X5.

Drivetrain

The new X5's two engine options compare quite favorably to the ones in the GLS-Class. The X5 xDrive40i has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 335 hp and a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, while the GLS450's twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 delivers 362 hp and gets it to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds. Moving up in terms of performance, the X5 xDrive50i extracts 456 hp from its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, getting it to 60 in 4.6 seconds. The GLS550's twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 is a close match at 449 hp and 5.2 seconds. In both cases, the GLS's extra size and weight versus the X5 hinder its acceleration performance; the GLS550 weighs 5,578 pounds to the X5 xDrive50i's 5,170.

The Audi Q7's engine choices are one size down, displacement and cylinder-wise, from the other two. The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 252 horsepower, giving a 7.1-second run to 60 mph that's far behind the performance of the GLS and X5. The upgrade pick is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 333 hp. Though an excellent engine, and able to propel the Q7 to 60 in 5.7 seconds, it's really only on par, performance-wise, with its rivals' entry-level engines, the xDrive40i and GLS450. If it's pure speed you're after, the Q7 might disappoint.

In terms of maximum performance, the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 is also on offer. Packing 577 hp, it will likely have a competitor in the form of the inevitable BMW X5 M (the outgoing one made 567 hp) – but we'll have to wait some time until that go-fast SUV variant debuts. The Q7 doesn't offer a performance variant in the US.

Interior

The X5's interior has been redesigned throughout and looks far fresher as well as more modern than the outgoing model. New climate-control switches go along with a redesigned shifter and drive-mode selector, and the feeling of airiness should be improve thanks to a panoramic sunroof that's now 30 percent larger. We'll have to get inside an X5 in real life, however, to judge how much space is offered in the optional third row of seats.

Audi's interiors remain some of the best in the business, and the Q7 is no exception. Light, spacious and filled with high-quality trim pieces, it's a lovely place to spend time, with pleasing-to-the-touch switchgear. As we've reported before in reviews, the third row is "best suited to children or pets," so anyone regularly transporting lots of passengers may be better suited elsewhere.

The GLS-Class looks tidy, smart and organized inside, with lots of high-quality touchpoints, leathers and wood trim available. Yet its age shows a little in its staid dashboard layout, with an unappealing smattering of buttons below its relatively small (8.0 inches) infotainment display. On the other hand, its third row provides lots of headroom and just-enough knee room for adult passengers.

2019 BMW X5

The 2019 X5's interior has been completely redesigned and now features twin 12.3-inch screens.

BMW

Technology

The X5's tech quotient is high thanks to a new, standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster paired with a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Features include navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a long list of active-safety features like lane-keep assist with a traffic jam assistant. BMW didn't specify whether the X5 would offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, but so far the automaker only offers the former type of phone connectivity.

The Audi Q7 is similarly a tech powerhouse, boasting its own digital instrument cluster (called Virtual Cockpit) and a big infotainment screen, albeit with a remote controller rather than touch operation. Its list of tech and infotainment features largely aligns with what's on offer in the X5, although it offers Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay. Virtual Cockpit is a must-have option, and the MMI infotainment system is one of our favorites in terms of its performance and functionality.

Though it has a relatively small screen and no touch functionality, the GLS does offer most of the tech available on its rivals: navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot -- though only two USB ports. But the system looks, feels and reacts more slowly than we've come to expect in 2018, and can't match the wow-factor of the larger displays in the Audi and BMW. We expect the next GLS-Class will leapfrog forward and pack all the latest Mercedes technology (likely including the new MBUX infotainment system), but for now the car's infotainment features don't impress us as much as those in the Audi and BMW.