As an aside that would otherwise go unheard, I’m putting out blogs of my work versus my own thoughts, as they are two different things.
My original text, before edited:
Germanic SUV’s are a market that give an urban parent or grandparent a safe and luxuriously solid capsule for their family. With the introduction of the Mercedes ML in 1997, and the BMW X5 in 1999, these two vehicles have lead to a competitive assortment of all-weather gadgetfests though out the automotive landscape. Each currently offer gas and diesel six-cylinder engines, as well as turbocharged V8’s of different outputs.
Mercedes keeps with its familiarly supple, but highly engineered products in their second oldest SUV moniker, the ML. Offering rear-wheel or 4Matic all-wheel drive, the ML350 is a more willing partner for those who may want the capability for towing up to 7,200lbs and off-road shenanigans as there are optional tow and off-road packages the BMW doesn’t offer. Base prices of the ML sit under the X5 which may be an initial point of interest, but examine the features closely and you’ll see that things like real leather and memory seats/mirrors are only optional on the Mercedes, but standard at BMW. Memory features are handy for quick vehicle-swaps between parents during school-run duties. While the Mercedes makes no qualms of its SUV-ness with its off-road capabilities, the BMW X5 is instead labeled a “Sport Activity Vehicle.”
Being an SAV doesn’t make the BMW X5 a less capable machine, but it’s not going to be a utilitarian off-roader so much as an on-road lifted wagon more for driving enthusiasts. Indeed, the BMW is a tighter fit inside, with the interior passenger volume a whole 30cuft smaller than the ML, but at least offers a third row of seats making the X5 a seven-seater. Want a Mercedes SUV that seats more than five? The larger, more expensive GL is the only choice at Benz to offer that, these days (the E-Class wagon offers a rear-facing backseat suited only for children).
The adage of “there’s no replacement for displacement” is nullified in the case between the X5 xDrive35i over the ML350, as the 3.0L inline-six of the BMW has nearly 30lbft of torque (300lbft to be exact) over the larger 3.2L V6 of the Mercedes. Thank you, turbo. What’s more, the BMW has a more flexible powerband holding peak numbers over a more rpm. Danke turbo, again. BMW also gives buyers and eight-speed automatic (unless you have the XDrive35d Diesel model, bolted to a six-speed auto) to help put that power to even better use.
The Mercedes does have a larger interior, can be had with better off-road and towing options, and appears to be a less expensive choice, but for a lot of the pluses outside the spaciousness, the options add up. When all is said, the X5 is smaller and equipped with better powertrains to be a drivers family vehicle with no options really needed, which helps it succeed at its intended purpose more readily.
My real thoughts:
Like with the Forester/CR-V article, SUV’s aren’t my forte. It is well accepted that the BMW is the German SUV for drivers while the ML is for those who want comfort and offroad ability, and a third contender– the unmentionable-at-the-time Porsche Cayenne– is a mix of the two but at a price. But otherwise, what I wrote is actually how I felt. Why Mercedes still only seats five in the ML is beyond me.