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Used test: BMW X7 vs Mercedes GLS interiors

Big and brash, the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS make no effort to hide their opulence, but which makes the most sense when bought used?...

BMW X7 2021 dashboard

Interiors

Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality

From the driver’s seat of either car, 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, the BMW X7 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. The ‘floating’ panel that carries the climate controls wobbles around like a dinghy in a storm if you press on it. Those flaws would irk you in a Mercedes 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 the materials feel top-notch and you simply can’t fault how it’s all screwed together.

Mercedes GLS 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.

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

BMW X7 2021 interior infotainment

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.

BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is unmatched. Its display is the same size as the GLS's and can be controlled through the touchscreen, by voice control, with hand gestures or, crucially, using a dial between the seats. Whether you’re driving or stationary, there isn’t an easier infotainment system to use.

The driver of either contender could almost feel as if they’re in a different postcode from their front passenger, and that anyone looking to move to the third row might need a visa to do so. Truly, these are two of the most spacious cars you can buy.

BMW X7 2021 boot

There are subtle differences between the space they offer, though. The X7 is a little better for width and head room up front, but you would never describe the GLS as cramped. Similarly, the middle row of the X7 is a fraction bigger in all directions, but again, passengers of all sizes will be comfortable in the GLS.

Both cars also offer middle-row passengers the luxury of being able to move their seats forwards and backwards – the X7 offers a little more adjustment here – and to alter the backrest angle to aid relaxation on long journeys. All that is done electrically, so there’s no faffing with levers. The GLS even gives second-row seats a massaging function – a feature that isn’t available in the X7, even as an option.

Neither car’s third row is a no-go zone for grown-ups. The X7 allows for a little more leg room back there, but even if the GLS’s middle-row seats are pushed back as far as they’ll go, adults will still be able to squeeze in for short journeys. It’s just that it's better if you do some negotiating with the person sitting in front of you to free up extra room.

Mercedes GLS 2021 boot

Both cars have gigantic boots. In five-seat configuration, you can fit 10 carry-on suitcases below the tonneau cover of each, plus an extra suitcase in the underfloor storage area. Even with all seven seats in use, there’s still almost as much room for luggage as you’d find in the boot of a Volkswagen Golf. You’ll struggle to find more luggage space this side of a van.

Perhaps the biggest difference between our contenders in terms of practicality is the fact that the X7 has a split tailgate, with its lower section flipping down to double up as a picnic bench or somewhere to take off your muddy boots. The GLS’s tailgate opens up in a single unit.


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