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Car group tests

Mercedes GLS vs Audi Q7

Mercedes has rebranded its biggest seven-seater SUV to take on a new breed of luxury SUVs, but can it beat Audi's Q7?

Big luxury SUVs are becoming more and more popular, as car makers launch new models to tap into this lucrative market. And with high-end manufacturers such as Bentley, Maserati and Rolls-Royce stepping into the ring, the current crop needs a shake-up to remain competitive.

One mainstay at the premium end of the class is the Mercedes GL, and the vast seven-seater has been given a refresh as part of the brand’s SUV range expansion, so it’s now badged the GLS. Adding the S to the name is supposed to invoke the idea that the GLS is now the off-road equivalent of the S-Class limo, with a suitably upmarket interior and plush driving experience.

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Best 4x4s and SUVs to buy

However, for the GLS to stand out, it needs to be as comfortable as an S-Class and deliver immense driving appeal and practicality. For its first test, we’ve lined up one of our favourite SUVs, the Audi Q7. The Mk2 model isn’t as big as the Mercedes, but it’s lighter, more powerful, more efficient and cheaper to buy. The question is: has Mercedes done enough to keep the GLS on par with its luxury SUV rivals?

Head to head

Third row

The GLS’s extra length gives it a space advantage, and there’s plenty of room in the rearmost seats. Unlike in the Q7, you don’t have to slide forward the middle row to create extra legroom; in fact, you can’t, because the seats are fixed. You sit high up with a view of the cabin ahead of you, and the rear windows are larger, so it feels more spacious.

Efficiency

Our 350d is nearly half a tonne heavier than the Q7 3.0 TDI, so it’s no surprise that it trailed on economy. Still, the nine-speed box and stop/start have helped Mercedes reduce CO2 emissions in the GLS to 199g/km, compared to a frightening 261g/km for the original GL 320 CDI from 2006.

Options

A rear seat TV is a £2,495 option on the GLS, while a Bang & Olufsen sound system is £2,995. The Audi also gets a TV (£1,100), with a B&O set-up costing a whopping £6,300. You can add a tow bar to the GLS for £950; it’s priced £1,300 on the Q7.

Verdict

First place: Audi Q7

The Q7 isn’t as spacious as the GLS, but that will only be an issue if you need to use all seven seats on every trip you make. In every other area, it’s the Audi that has the advantage. It’s more efficient and offers similar performance and better handling, plus it has plenty of hi-tech kit. And as it costs significantly less to buy, you can splash out on options and still undercut the Mercedes on price.

Second place: Mercedes GLS

Rebranding Mercedes’ largest SUV as the off-road S-Class is a big step, although in a lot of ways, the GLS pulls it off. It’s luxurious and is easily the most spacious seven-seater around, while the Q7 only matches its plush ride if you add air-suspension. However, the GLS is closing in on the Range Rover for price, and its higher running costs mean the extra outlay is hard to justify.

Other options in this category

Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6 HSE Dynamic Price: £69,400 Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 306bhp

Range Rover Sport - front

Upgrade the Range Rover Sport to seven seats for £1,500, and it’s more expensive than the GLS, although the back row isn’t as spacious. Air-suspension means the Sport offers a great balance of comfort and handling, and running costs should be lower.

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Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription Price: £51,555 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 221bhp

Volvo XC90 long term - front/side

The XC90 undercuts both rivals here for price even in top-spec Inscription trim, while it’s a more spacious seven-seater than the Q7. There’s plenty of hi-tech kit, including a raft of advanced safety features, plus the car stands out with its design and plush interior.

Figures

 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI (272) quattro S lineMercedes GLS 350d AMG Line
On the road price/total as tested£53,840/£58,495£69,110/£70,435
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£23,959/44.5%£31,100/45.0%
Depreciation£29,881£38,011
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£3,216/£6,432£5,073/£10,146
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£2,203/£3,671£2,203/£3,671
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost41/£937/G/£18550/TBC/J/£270
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£318/£461/£199£30p/m (3yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase5,052/2,994mm5,162/3,075mm
Height/width1,740/1,968mm1,850/1,982mm
EngineV6/2,967ccV6/2,987cc
Peak power/revs268/3,250 bhp/rpm255/3,400 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs600/1,500 Nm/rpm620/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission8-spd auto/4WD9-spd auto/4WD
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel75 litres/£250^100 litres/space saver
Boot capacity (7/5/2-seat modes)295/770/1,955 litres295/680/2,300 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight2,060/880/3,500kg*2,455/795/3,500kg
Turning circle12.4 metres12.4 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/13115,500 miles (1yr)/136
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.21st/25th**12th/21st**
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars94/88/70/5N/A
   
0-60/30-70mph6.3/5.9 secs7.8/7.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th2.8/3.6 secs2.9/3.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th4.7/6.1/7.8/13.7 secs5.1/6.2/7.7/11.3 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph145mph/1,500rpm138mph/1,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph48.6/35.6/9.1m48.0/32.1/9.1m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph75/52/63/68dB68/46/55/62dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range31.4/6.9/518 miles26.7/5.9/587 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined44.1/50.4/47.9mpg34.4/39.2/37.2mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined9.7/11.1/10.5mpl7.6/8.6/8.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket241/153g/km/30%284/199g/km/37%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sens/360 cameraSix/yes/yes/£1,150Nine/yes/yes/yes
Auto brake/air-susp./adaptive cruiseYes/£2,000/£1,705Yes/yes/£1,695
Four-zone climate/leather/heat seatsYes/part/yesYes/yes/yes
Met paint/LED headlights/power boot£675/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Sat-nav/DAB radio/Bluetooth/rear TVYes/yes/yes/£1,100Yes/yes/yes/£2,495
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