New Mercedes GLS vs BMW X7: interiors

The glitzy new Mercedes GLS promises to be as luxurious as it is practical, but does that make it the ultimate seven-seat SUV? First it has to beat BMW's updated X7...

Mercedes GLS 2021 dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

Haul yourself up into the driver’s seat of either car and you’re presented with an interior that, at first glance, sparkles with top-end luxury. However, while the Mercedes GLS is likely to turn more heads in a showroom showdown and some will prefer its ambience, it’s the BMW X7 that is the better built of the two.

Yes, there are some nice materials on the GLS’s dashboard, but there are also plenty of scratchy plastics, most noticeably on the doors and the backs of the front seats, and the ‘floating’ panel that carries the climate controls wobbles around like a dinghy in a storm if you press on it. These flaws would irk you in a £30,000 Merc A-Class family hatchback, let alone in this near-£100,000 SUV.

By contrast, the X7 has the build quality to match its sleek-looking black trim and glitzy ‘crystal’ gear selector. All of the materials feel top-notch and you simply can’t fault how it’s all screwed together.

BMW X7 2021 dashboard

Both cars have very commanding, fundamentally sound driving positions, but the GLS offers a little more seat adjustment and allows you to sit lower, if you choose to, than you can in the X7. Still, with electric seat adjustment, four-way lumbar support and extendable under-thigh support provided in both, you’ll find it easy to get comfortable in either car.

As a bonus, the GLS offers a massage function as standard, and it’s vigorous enough to have you feeling like you’re in a luxury spa retreat. The X7’s optional massaging function, meanwhile, is less intense.

In place of conventional dials, both cars provide 12.3in digital instrument panels. The GLS’s is the better of the two, giving you more choice as to what information is displayed, and its bright graphics are smarter and clearer than those on the X7’s darker display. You might find that the GLS’s steering wheel cuts off a bit of the screen, though, depending on your driving position.

You’ll enjoy a great forward view from both cars, and although they’re very big indeed, parking isn’t the kerb-scraping, dent-threatening ordeal it could be. That’s because parking sensors, 360deg cameras and self-parking functions are all standard. And both cars have adaptive LED headlights that are powerful enough to turn night into day.

Infotainment systems

Mercedes GLS

Mercedes GLS 2021 touchscreen

The GLS has a 12.3in touchscreen, and its operating system is fairly simple to use. However, navigating through its functions using the trackpad between the front seats is a less intuitive process when you’re on the move than the rotary controller makes it in the X7. The GLS’s infotainment graphics are a bit more visually appealing, though, while the standard speakers are great; handy, because the only way to upgrade is by stepping up to a £170,000 Maybach GLS.


BMW X7 2021 touchscreen

BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is unmatched. Its display is the same size as the GLS's and can be controlled through the touchscreen itself, by voice control, with hand gestures (although this is more of a gimmick than a genuine help) or, crucially, a dial between the seats. This means, no matter whether you’re driving or stationary, there isn’t an easier infotainment system to use. It’s packed with features and has a logical layout, although setting up wireless smartphone mirroring can be a bit fiddly.

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