The Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7 are two stately SUVs that strike imposing figures on the road while carrying their occupants in the most luxurious off-road-capable vehicles the respective brands have to offer.
The GLS is around two years younger than the BMW, and there are hints that Mercedes took a look at the X7 before building their competitor.
The deciding factor of which one you’d take then mostly comes down to whether you’re an M or an AMG fan.
The X7 has a large front end that shows off the kidney grille and large intake vents, a split tailgate with chrome details, and swooping accent lines that run parallel with the long roof.
The 3.1-metre wheelbase allows for three rows of electrically-adjustable seating, and a third row provides passengers with armrests, cupholders, and USB ports.
An option to replace the middle row with two individual comfort seats is also available.
As standard, all variants of the X7 receive four-zone climate control, ambient lighting, and a panoramic glass roof.
Two 12.3-inch displays can be found up front – consisting of the fully digital instrument cluster and a central infotainment display.
The included BMW intelligent personal assistant also makes light work of interaction as it recognises voice inputs to utilise some of the vehicles features.
Attractive extras include the addition of a 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system, and the rear-seat entertainment professional option which adds two integrated touchscreens in the second row.
Of course, the best that the brand has to offer comes with an array of driving assist features.
Active cruise control as well as a reversing assistant come as standard.
BMW went through a lot of effort to give their customers a comfortable ride and every vehicle is fitted with adaptive suspension and air springs.
This also enables ride height adjustments of up to 80mm.
LED lights front and rear are fitted as standard across the range, and the optional BMW Laserlights illuminate up to 600 metres ahead.
The BMW X7 is available in three variants, with the most powerful being the X7 M50i.
This variant has a 4.4-litre, V8 petrol engine that generates 390kW and 750Nm of torque. This is enough to make it the fastest X7 to 100km/h – coming in at 4.7 seconds.
All engines are mated to an 8-speed steptronic transmission while the power is put down through the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
A choice between three trim packages then allows customers to tailor the interior and exterior design of their X7 to suit their tastes.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLS is one of the largest and most luxurious SUVs the brand has built.
The upright grille and light design on the front follow the design language of the Mercedes range, and a shoulder line extends from the rear door to the tail lights.
This gives the GLS an intimidating look.
A direct benefit from the long wheelbase is a more spacious cabin which comfortably accommodates three rows of electrically-adjustable seats, with a third row that can fit adults up to 1.94m tall.
A large Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) screen covers the majority of the dashboard, and a raised and widened centre console has been installed between the seats.
In addition, a rear comfort package can be optioned, which adds an MBUX tablet in the second row and wireless charging in the rear.
An optional Interior Assistant makes interaction with your GLS easier as it functions with movement recognition.
Mercedes-Benz stuffed the GLS full of driver assist features – the most notable of which is the Active Distance Assist.
This responds to hazards in the road, and adjusts the car’s behaviour accordingly.
Every GLS is also fitted with an air suspension system which keeps the vehicle level no matter the load on board, and it changes the damping characteristics of the suspension in real time.
This allows for extra quirks, such as a carwash function which moves the suspension to the highest position, closes all windows and mirrors, and circulates air inside the cabin.
An optional Off Road Engineering package can also be added, which allows the GLS to “rock itself free” when it gets stuck.
The SUV then comes in two variants, with the most powerful version the GLS 580 4MATIC.
This variant has an electrified 4.0-litre, V8 petrol engine that puts out 360kW and 700Nm of torque – with an additional 16kW and 250Nm of torque on tap via the EQ Boost function.
This is enough to take the GLS 580 to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds.
All models transmit power through the 9G-TRONIC gearbox.
The BMW X7 has a starting price of R1,825,600 and goes all the way up to R2,168,600 for the range-topping X7 M50i/d versions.
This gets you a 5-year/100,000km BMW Motor plan, along with 24/7 on-call services.
The GLS has a starting price of R1,842,000, but remains cheaper at the high end with a price of R2,025,000 for the GLS 580 4MATIC.
All Mercedes-Benz models are sold with a standard 5-year/100,000km Premium Drive maintenance contract.