In Search of the Best Midsize Luxury SUV

In Search of the Best Midsize Luxury SUV

Genesis GV80 vs. BMW X5 vs. Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

  • Genesis GV80 makes a bold entrance against established competitors.
  • BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE boast impressive interiors and performance.
  • Technology is front and center in all three models, and can make or break their rating.

The Genesis GV80 is the brand's all-new midsize luxury SUV. It competes directly with legendary brands that enjoy top name recognition and strong reputations. So how does the GV80 fit in? Recently, we lined it up against the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE to find out.

Out of the three, it's immediately apparent that Genesis wanted the GV80 to stand out. It has a striking exterior design and a long list of standard features that are appealing at its price. For the X5, it has a powerful six-cylinder engine as standard, plus a stately interior. And finally, the GLE takes technology and interior opulence to new heights in this class.

Choosing the best midsize luxury SUV of these three is no easy task. Shoppers who have long compared the X5 vs. GLE now have one more name to add to the list. The GV80 starts at a much lower price point than its new rivals, but that won't matter much if it doesn't meet such high expectations.

Genesis GV80 vs. BMW X5

The BMW X5 is an impressive luxury SUV, which we can attest to because we've included one in our long-term test fleet. Over the course of our evaluations, the X5 has earned praise for its agility and solid construction. But in the face of the ambitious GV80, there are a few areas in which the X5 comes off a bit old-fashioned.

The main takeaway from behind the wheel of the X5 is its strong and athletic drive. The standard six-cylinder engine provides plenty of power and feels playful at times — the GV80, with a standard turbocharged four-cylinder and optional turbo six-cylinder, simply cannot match these qualities. It relies instead on a supremely comfortable ride. The X5 feels a little more stiff, especially over bumps, but it's easy to drive around town and provides smooth gear shifts.

Inside, the X5 presents a more traditional idea of luxury style. The cabin is swathed in authentic woods, metals and leathers with little plastic to be found. It's a stately design, but it feels awfully safe. By contrast, the GV80 is less impressive with regard to materials but offers a more distinctive interior aesthetic. If you don't mind a bit more plastic, the overall richness is impressive at its price.

The X5 comes with twin 12.3-inch display screens: one in front of the driver and one mounted centrally in the dash. Both provide vibrant menus and maps. The iDrive infotainment system takes some time to learn, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is included. We prefer this setup to the GV80's. Its central 14.5-inch screen looks great, but it's mounted higher and out of the way. Buyers will have to upgrade to get a 12.3-inch driver display, too, and the infotainment system relies on the use of a confusing dial controller.

When it comes to daily living, the X5 delivers excellent usability. It offers 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space and a handy liftgate that folds down into a bench or workstation. The X5 can tow up to 7,200 pounds, which is excellent for the class. This is an advantage over the GV80, which has slightly more cargo space at 34.9 cubic feet but a lower maximum towing capacity at 6,000 pounds even.

These SUVs are closely matched, and each provides plenty of advantages. Many buyers may side with the GV80 based on its lower starting price and available four-cylinder engine to save at the pump. We give a slight nod to the X5 for its superior SUV functionality, plus the refinement of a tailor-made power suit. In both respects the GV80 falls just short.

2018 BMW X5

2018 BMW X5

BMW X5 vs. Mercedes-Benz GLE

Ali vs. Frazier. Rolling Stones vs. the Beatles. X5 vs. GLE. These two SUVs pioneered the midsize luxury SUV class, and their battle rages on just as intensely today. Unlike the other famous rivalries listed above, however, when it comes to the most current models there is one clear winner and one clear runner-up.

From the driver's seat, the GLE feels solid. It has excellent on-road stability and reacts quickly to both steering and braking commands. On top of that, the standard four-cylinder engine is decently quick. The GLE is not the sportiest SUV around, but it is consistent and predictable. We find this preferable to the X5, which can be endlessly modified depending on the many drive settings that you can choose.

Build quality is great — you will be hard-pressed to find more impressive stitching, fitment and comfort in a vehicle even approaching this price range. Compared with the X5, the GLE can feel a little showy. But the ultra-modern approach works. Everything is easy to find and operate, which isn't always the case in the minimalist BMW.

As with the X5, the GLE boasts two 12.3-inch screens as standard equipment. But unlike the X5, those screens are powered by Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system. We've found it easy to use and, most of all, gorgeous to look at. Navigation is standard, but the optional augmented reality feature makes turn-by-turn directions come alive.

Utility is one area where the X5 holds the slimmest of advantages. It has slightly more cargo space (33.9 cubic feet) than the GLE (33.3 cubic feet). In fact it's hard to notice the difference. But the GLE edges out the X5 when it comes to towing, with a max towing capacity of 7,700 pounds to the X5's max of 7,200 pounds.

Both of these luxury SUV pioneers have transitioned gracefully from their original rugged days to the tech-savvy modern age. Over many miles of testing, we've found the Mercedes-Benz GLE simply goes above and beyond in a number of categories. While the BMW X5 is an excellent choice for any number of SUV shoppers out there, the GLE deserves your consideration first.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class

Mercedes-Benz GLE vs. Genesis GV80

It's awfully tempting to invoke the story of David and Goliath when considering the GV80 vs. GLE. Genesis plays the role of the plucky underdog, and Mercedes-Benz is cast as the imposing favorite. And certainly, the newcomer lands a few impressive shots. Ultimately, though, the luxury SUV market is not mythology, and we recommend the Mercedes-Benz GLE over the GV80 for the majority of buyers today.

The GV80 does quite a reasonable facsimile of the GLE driving experience. Both models offer a standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an optional turbo-six. And we even find the GV80 to be more comfortable, easily smoothing out bumps in the road before they disrupt your ride. But the GLE is simply more polished. It is more responsive and provides better insulation from outside wind and road noise.

Similarly, inside the cabin the GV80 seems to have aimed for GLE levels of modern style. Both offer a plush and palatial approach to their interior, with soft leather in abundance and snazzy metal accents. But the GLE is simply in another league in terms of quality of materials. There is virtually no hard plastic to be found, which cannot be said of the GV80. We also far prefer the Mercedes' intuitive hand controls and MBUX system over the confusing twists and tilts of the Genesis dial.

Techwise, the two SUVs are more similar than may first appear. We find Mercedes' standard dual 12.3-inch screens ideal, though the larger Genesis screen is also crisp and its optional 12.3-inch driver display features interesting 3D icons. Both the GLE and GV80 come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and we like each set of helpful driver assistance features too. Ultimately the clean menu interface in the Benz wins out, but the GV80 will impress too.

The GV80 comes with a healthy 34.9 cubic feet of maximum storage capacity behind its second row, which is ahead of the GLE at just 33.3 cubic feet. The GLE is stronger, however, offering up to 7,700 pounds of maximum towing capacity on some models while all GV80 versions have a rating of 6,000 pounds.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE wins our recommendation over the Genesis GV80, largely due to a sense of refinement and bravado the newcomer does not approach. It's why the GLE earned our designation as the Edmunds Top Rated Midsize Luxury SUV in both 2020 and 2021. However, in only its first year on the market, the GV80 has our attention. This properly buttoned-up SUV makes a serious impression and will feel right at home in tony neighborhood driveways across the country.

2021 Genesis GV80

2021 Genesis GV80

Edmunds says

Luxury SUVs intend to make a statement. And judging by the number of turned heads we noticed during our time behind the wheel, the Genesis GV80 does just that. It also backs up the showy interior with a pillow-soft ride and snazzy interior.

But the GV80 faces stiff competition. Based on our evaluations, the Mercedes-Benz GLE remains the No. 1-ranked midsize luxury SUV that we recommend for shoppers. It provides comfortable and spacious accommodations, plus an easy driving experience. Most of all, it introduces standard-bearing technology and wows with its luxury appointments.

In fact, our second-highest score in the midsize luxury SUV segment is the sporty-looking GLE Coupe. It relinquishes some space and utility, but it is also an excellent choice with many of the same benefits as the standard GLE. In third place, the Porsche Cayenne is unchallenged from a driving perspective. Its high starting price, however, makes it an outlier for most.

The BMW X5 comes in fourth place. There's no questioning the strong performance of its engine lineup or the quality of its interior appointments. However, the X5 has more minor issues than we expect, such as wide doorsills and aggressive seat shapes that require twisting to get inside. It also has a high starting price and precious few features that stand out and grab our attention.

Finally, the Genesis GV80 is our fifth-highest-ranked midsize luxury SUV. The crossover makes a grand debut, impressing us with its overall value among more expensive rivals. We even forgive some of its drawbacks — such as a lack of invigorating performance — because of its lower cost. But the GV80 is a noteworthy entry regardless of its price, boasting ride quality and available technology worthy of luxury buyers.

2021 Genesis GV80

2021 Genesis GV80

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