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The new Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class deliver slightly different interpretations of the premium seven-seat SUV formula.

17 May 2021


When it comes to the ultimate do-it-all family car, a seven-seater SUV seems like the obvious choice. With plenty of space for passengers or luggage, a seven-seater SUV is capable of talking every conceivable requirement of a family, large or otherwise.

The two newest premium choices in the market at the recently launched Audi Q7, as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. We put the pair head to head to see which one is the better choice for you.

Visual presence

The GLE has more road presence thanks to a sportier and muscular design
Visually, the GLE-Class is the more immediately striking car. With its more upright stance, muscular shoulders and short overhangs, the GLE is certainly the more muscular car with greater road presence.

The Q7 isn't soft by any measure. The lines across the car are cleaner and slicker and create a more understated look. That sense of professional slickness translates into the interior of the Q7 as well. It's expectedly high-tech and amply equipped, with plenty of digital surfaces that speak to the car's overall sense of quality. However, compared to the more extroverted two-tone interior of the Merc, the Q7 feels a little muted in comparison.

The GLE, like every other Mercedes-Benz these days, immediately grabs your attention with its penchant for bling. There's cool ambient lighting, the screen has more attention-grabbing graphics, and there is a greater immediate sense of luxury within the Merc.

Ease of use

The Q7 impresses with its third row functionality, with the seats able to be electrically raised or lowered
Of course, a seven-seater SUV needs to be evaluated on its overall functionality and flexibility.

Here, the Q7 definitely edges ahead. It feels like the car has been developed with the third row seats well-accounted for. The seats can be operated electrically via two sets of buttons found either in the boot, or just behind the second row seats.

When trying to access the third row, the Audi also makes things much for convenient. Yes, the second row seats are manually adjusted (while the Merc's are electric), but you can fully fold down and flip up the seat, which means the entry/exit aperture to the third row is reasonably large even for a full-sized adult.

You also get additional convenience features like the ability to lower the rear of the car for easier loading of the boot. However, a slight annoyance is that the boot tonneau cover can't be conveniently stored anywhere in the car when the third row of seats are up, whereas in the GLE there's a neat space underneath the boot floor to store it.

The Q7 (left) offers a much wider entry aperture to the third row of seats compared to the GLE (right)
The GLE slightly struggles when it comes to third-row usability. The electrically adjusted second row seats adds to the interior sense of quality, and access to third row is done via a single button press on the second row seat. However, the resulting aperture is rather small and tight. Okay for kids, but adults will require some gymnastic flexibility.

There's also a limit to how far forward the second row seats can be adjusted, which means that third row legroom is limited.

Out on the free road

The GLE's 3.0-litre powerplant delivers smoother and more refined power delivery
Both cars use similar powertrains. The Q7 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre engine producing 335bhp and 500Nm of torque, while the GLE-Class also utilises a turbocharged 3.0-litre engine that produces 362bhp and the same 500Nm of torque. Both also feature 48V mild-hybrid systems, though the integration of the mild-hybrid systems is slightly different for the two cars.

The Q7's powertrain has a distinct turbo kick, and this actually makes the car feel faster (even though on paper it isn't). The firmer suspension also makes more much better body control over bumpy roads, with the car remaining much more composed and assured. The Q7 also packs more driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

The GLE is the softer of the two (by quite a far bit). Through corners, there's definitely more body roll, and over bumpy roads, the GLE tends to rock left and right notably more so than the Q7.

The Q7's firmer suspension means better body control and ride composure over bumpier roads
Straight on, the steering (in comfort mode) is also a lot lighter and more vague than the Q7. It is only when you load up the steering through a corner that its starts to feel more connected and meaty.

However, where the GLE is more impressive its its overall cruising comfort. I actually prefer the powertrain in the Merc - while it doesn't have the distinctive turbo punch of the Audi, there's a better overall smoothness and just languid muscularity to the engine that's more in fitting with the car's personality. The torque fill provided by the mild-hybrid system helps create a much smoother and flatter torque curve. Also, the softer overall ride makes for more relaxing long journeys.

Choice with purpose

The Merc is priced at $412,888. The Audi is listed at $407,163 (both prices as of 13 May 2021). So, that's about $5k separating the two, which at this price point is basically negligible.

The GLE's cabin feels more luxurious and visually attractive
So which car should you get? Well, here it really depends on how you plan to use the car.

If you regularly need to utilise the third row of seats because you have a large family, then I think the Q7 works better. It's more fully realised and better designed as a seven-seater, with much better functionality across all three rows of seats.

It offers up greater flexibility in terms of how you use the car, whether it's for hauling passengers or cargo. There's easy one-touch operation to raise or lower the third row of seats, better third row access, and there's a little bit more space in the third row compared to the GLE-Class.

The Q7 is the better choice for drivers who regularly need seven seats, but otherwise, the GLE delivers a better five-passenger experience
However, for drivers who are using their large SUV as more of a 5 + occasional 2, the GLE might be the better choice. It delivers a more premium and comfortable experience for the five occupants, even if the third row passengers will suffer a little. I also personally prefer the Merc's softer overall ride, as well as the smoother drivetrain.

Ultimately, between these two cars, the key question you need to answer is this: just how often will you use the third row of seats? If the answer is anything more regular than "just occasionally", then you probably want the Q7. If not, then the GLE-Class will do the job.

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Car Information

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Price

: $418,922

Engine Type

:

V6 Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

2995cc

Horsepower

:

-

Torque

:

500 Nm / 4500 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Tiptronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

5.9sec

Top Speed

:

250km/h

Fuel consumption

:

10.6 km/L

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Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Mild Hybrid GLE450 4MATIC (A)
Rate it

Price

: $418,888

Engine Type

:

6-cylinder in-line Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

2999cc

Horsepower

:

270kW (362 bhp) / 6100 rpm

Torque

:

500 Nm / 4500 rpm

Transmission

:

9G-Tronic (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

5.7sec

Top Speed

:

250km/h

Fuel consumption

:

11 km/L

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comparison  merc  audi  audi q7  q7  seven seat  seven seater  suv  large suv  gle  gle-class  gle450