Volvo Cars of North America

The Mercedes-Benz GLE is a new name for the German automaker, but it is affixed to a familiar face. It is basically the old M-Class with a new name. Along with the Volvo XC90, the M-Class essentially created the luxury midsize SUV class.

The Mercedes M-Class (or ML-Class) entered the market in 1997 and turned the luxury SUV market on its head. Meanwhile, the Volvo XC90 joined the craze in 2002, offering safety above all else. Today, these vehicles continue to set the bar for performance, style, comfort, and safety technology.

The GLE is the winner of U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 Best Luxury 2-Row SUV for Families award. Meanwhile, the XC90 is the 2016 Best Luxury 3-Row SUV for Families award winner and was a finalist for the 2016 Best Luxury 3-Row SUV for the Money award.

But which luxury SUV is best for you? Read on to find out.

The Basics

Despite the new name, the GLE is essentially a face lifted M-Class. It will be joined by a coupe variant (like BMW X5 and X6).The GLE has everything that the M-Class had going for it, including a composed ride, powerful engines, upscale cabin, and ample cargo space.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 marks the first major redesign in the history of the model. It delivers incredible styling, a comfortable, stylish interior, a ton of safety features, and a refreshingly easy-to-use infotainment system.

The XC90 offers a third row, compared to just two in the GLE. Also, the XC90’s new infotainment system will be judged against Mercedes’ clunky COMAND system. But, the XC90 has below average reliability to consider. Let’s see how that plays into which model wins out!

Pricing

Winner: 2016 Volvo XC90

Base MSRP for the Mercedes-Benz GLE350 is $51,100. The Volvo XC90 undercuts that with a base price of $43,950. On the higher end, Mercedes offers the GLE550e Plug-In starting at $67,225. The comparable version of the XC90 is the T8 Twin-Engine Hybrid, starting at $68,100.

Fit the GLE550e with options such as the night vision package, panoramic roof, 20-inch wheels, interior sport package, Premium 2 package, parking assist, Airmatic suspension, and running boards, and the price jumps to $85,545. The XC90 T8 Hybrid, when optioned with the Inscription trim, Climate pack, convenience pack, vision pack, Bowers Wilkins, and air suspension will set you back $82,105. The most expensive option, the GLE63, starts at $109,300.

Safety

Volvo Cars of North America

Winner: 2016 Volvo XC90

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the GLE earns a score of Good on all tests, and is a Top Safety Pick. The Volvo XC90 also earns Good on all tests, but one-ups the Mercedes as a Top Safety Pick+ with the help of its high tech safety gear.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the GLE a 4-star rating for the rollover test, but was not tested for any other type of crash. The XC90 earns four start for the rollover test, and nets five-star ratings for overall, frontal, and side impact crashes. The XC90 features City Safety with pedestrian detection, as well as Braking in Intersection, which can tell if a car is approaching from the left or right in an approaching intersection even if you can’t see it coming.

Seat Comfort and Interior Refinement

Winner: 2016 Volvo XC90

The GLE scores an 8.6 in U.S. News & World Report’s luxury midsize SUV rankings, with critics calling the interior “very comfortable” with a lot of standard and optional features.

The XC90 is also lauded for its comfortable interior as well as its standard and optional features. But the interior design of the XC90 exudes luxury and the seats are good for long drives, earning a score of 9.0. Critics have even called the cabin of the XC90 “airy” and “beautiful.”

Interior Technology

Winner: 2016 Volvo XC90

Mercedes COMAND System is controlled by a central knob that works as both a dial and a joystick. It controls a screen with easy-to-read menu layouts and is easy to navigate with a little practice.

Volvo’s Sensus system has a large screen with smartphone or tablet-like layouts. It features an easy-to-use menu and responds quickly. It should come as no surprise that because of these traits, critics have considered Sensus to be one of the best infotainment systems in the class.

Cargo Space

Winner: 2016 Volvo XC90

The Mercedes-Benz GLE features 38.2 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 80.3 cubic feet with the rear seats down. Meanwhile, the Volvo XC90 has 15.4 cu ft. behind third row and grows to 41.8 cu ft. with that row down.

Put down the second and third rows and cargo is 85.7 cu ft., making it one of the largest in the class. The XC90 also has innovative features like hands-free liftgate, a large rear opening, and can be equipped with air suspension that lowers the SUV with the push of a button to make it easier to load up large items.

Towing

Mercedes-Benz USA

Winner: 2016 Mercedes GLE

The GLE tops out at 7,200 pounds with optional receiver hitch, while the Volvo XC90 will tow no more than 5,000 pounds.

What that translates into is that the GLE has the ability to tow a large, 29-foot trailer. Whereas the XC90 can tow no more than a 17 to 19 foot trailer. However it should be noted that you should not tow right up to a vehicle’s towing limit.

Fuel Efficiency

Winner: 2016 Volvo XC90

For the XC90, the base T5 FWD puts up fuel economy numbers of 22 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The T6 AWD will return 20 mpg city and 25 highway while the T8 hybrid is rated at 25 mpg combined and 53 mpg-e

The GLE350 returns 18 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway. Moving up to the GLE450 will get you fuel economy of 17 mpg city and 22 highway. The V8-powered GLE63 gets 13 city and 17 highway, while the diesel gets 22 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.

The GLE550e hybrid gets a combined 21 mpg, and 43 mpg-e.

Performance

Winner: 2016 Mercedes GLE

The Volvo XC90 is available in T5, T6, T8, and hybrid models. The T5 has a 210-horespower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The T6 combines a turbo with a supercharger to make 316 horsepower. The T8 employs a hybrid setup, putting out a combined 400 horsepower.

Meanwhile, the GLE has a wide selection of engines to choose from, starting with the 302-horsepower GLE350 and the 329-horsepower GLE400. The diesel GLE300d makes 201 horsepower but 369 pound-feet of torque. The GLE550e hybrid makes a combined 436 horsepower and does zero to 60mph in 5.2 seconds (the fastest non-AMG model). Meanwhile, the range topping AMG models include the GLE63 and GLE63 S, making 550 horsepower and 570 horsepower, respectively.

The AMG GLE63 S will get from zero to 60mph in a ridiculously quick 3.9 seconds. You have to pay top-dollar for this power, but no XC90 is catching it.

Off-Road Performance

Mercedes-Benz USA

Winner: 2016 Mercedes GLE

All but the base GLE350 come standard with 4Matic four-wheel drive and several drive modes. An available off-road package adds a second off-road mode which increases ride height and tunes the two-speed transfer case to optimal off-road motoring. The GLE is also available with additional skid plates.

Meanwhile, the XC90’s all-wheel drive focuses solely on road performance in any condition. Power can be split to wheels individually, delivering composed and safe road manners. But if you plan on getting dirty, the GLE has more standard and available gear for you.

Reliability

Winner: 2016 Mercedes GLE

According to J.D. Power, the XC90 has below average predicted reliability. It is the first completely new version of the XC90 in years and packs a ton of completely new infotainment tech, which could lead to its low rating. The XC90 is backed by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Though described as only Fairly Good, the predicted reliability of the GLE is actually stronger than that of the XC90. 

The Winner Is …

2016 Volvo XC90

The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class owns the power and performance department, on and off the road, and also delivers a bit more peace of mind when it comes to reliability. But the XC90 is more competent everywhere else.

The XC90 starts at a lower base price and is still less expensive with options, and we didn’t even count the pricing of the AMG models. With fuel-efficient engines across the line the XC90 will cost less at the pump.

Thoughtful features, like the stunning cabin design, easy-to-use infotainment system, and ample cargo space help to push the needle towards the XC90. It is one of the best-looking luxury midsize SUVs out there right now, and it backs up those looks with serious substance. 

Top Ten Luxury Midsize SUVs

Ranking

Model

MSRP

1

2016 Tesla Model X

$80,000

2

2017 Audi Q7

$54,800

3

2016 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

$77,200

4

2016 Porsche Cayenne

$58,300

5 (Tie)

2016 BMW X5

$54,700

5 (Tie)

2016 Lexus RX 350

$41,900

5 (Tie)

2016 Lexus RX Hybrid

$52,235

8 (Tie)

2016 Acura MDX

$43,015

8 (Tie)

2016 Volvo XC90

$43,950

10 (Tie)

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

$64,950

10 (Tie)

2016 Lincoln MKX

$28,260