Drag Race: Tesla Model Y vs. BMW X3 M vs. Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63

Drag Race: Tesla Model Y vs. BMW X3 M vs. Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63

The Fastest Small SUVs Go Head to Head

Who needs a family hauler that hauls likes a sports car? One on hand, nobody. But hey, don't neglect the other hand — the fun hand. If you have moved to a place in your life where you need room for people, child safety seats and luggage but also want to live in comfort, and do it quickly, congratulations, that's a great place to be. Why not make running errands as much fun as running races?

Luxury automakers have picked up on that, and now there's a surprising number of choices when it comes to fast SUVs. We chose three: the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63 S Coupe, the BMW X3 M Competition and the Tesla Model Y Performance. This trio is solidly putting the "sport" back in S-U-V. They're doing it with different powerplants too. There's a V8 with two turbos (GLC), a six-cylinder with another two turbos (X3 M), and then a pair of electric motors fed by a big battery pack (Model Y). All are all-wheel-drive. But which one does it best?

If by best, you mean quickest, the only way to find out is by racing them against one another in a three-way drag race. Line up, drop the flag, and floor it down the quarter-mile to see which crosses the line first. Then, because we can, we'll try it again from a roll. Winner takes all! Loser has to pick the kids up from school!

Jump to compare: Acceleration | Price | Horsepower & Specs | The Verdict: Edmunds Says

Drag Race: Tesla Model Y vs. BMW X3 M vs. Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63

Drag Race: Tesla Model Y vs. BMW X3 M vs. Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63

0-60 Times, Top Speed and More: X3 M Competition vs. AMG GLC 63 S Coupe vs. Model Y

Thanks to Edmunds' private testing facility, we were able to do some instrumented tests on our drag racers before we matched them up. That meant we had some idea of who should win and who might lag behind. The thing with racing, though, is you never know exactly what will happen in the heat of the moment.

X3 M Competition
We went into our challenge knowing that the BMW X3 M was a little behind the other two. It's not that it wasn't impressively quick, but it was slow to get moving, even with the launch control. Once it was rolling, the X3 blurred the scenery, but that sluggish start resulted in a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds. It then cleared the quarter-mile in 11.9 seconds at 116 mph. Sadly, our test track isn't long enough to test a claimed top speed of 174 mph, but based on the way it pulls at the top end, we believe it. Slowing down was, at least, easy and it always felt stable no matter how hard we mashed the brake pedal. Taking it from 60 to 0 mph required just 104 feet, which is shorter than either of its competitors in this test.

GLC 63 S Coupe
Initially, we figured the Mercedes would be the underdog because its advertised numbers were more conservative. We didn't test the 2020 on our track, but when we tested the 2018 AMG 63 S Coupe, we beat Mercedes' claimed 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds by a full second and ran the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds with a closing speed of 115 mph. Mercedes says if we wrung it all the way out, we'd hit 174 mph, which means a no-limits race against the BMW would be neck and neck ... and totally terrifying.

The Mercedes gets an edge because its launches are downright violent. The test team left a note referring to the GLC's launch control and first-gear-to-second shift as "bonkers," which is a technical term. When you're done with the fun, the Mercedes stops pretty well for its size, although not quite as crisply as the BMW, taking 108 feet to go from 60 down to a stop.

Model Y Performance
Finally, we have the Model Y. The Tesla doesn't have all the race modes and launch control settings that its German rivals do, but that's because it doesn't need them. Plant your foot on the accelerator, and whoosh, you'll go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and pass the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds at 115 mph. Tesla tells us that the Model Y would tap out at 150 mph, so if we raced a long enough track, it would eventually get passed. Stopping skills were on par with the Benz: 108 feet from 60 to 0 mph.

Going by the numbers, it seems Mercedes should have the race wrapped up. But that's not how it played out. We'll get to that. But first, are any of these quick SUVs any good as actual daily transport? And what does it cost to move a big machine down a quarter-mile in less than 12 seconds?

2020 BMW X3 M Competition
0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds (Edmunds testing 2020)
Quarter-mile: 11.9 seconds @ 116.4 mph
Claimed top speed: 174 mph
Braking: 60-0 mph in 104 ft

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 63 S Coupe
0-60 mph: 3.5 seconds (Edmunds testing 2018); 3.6 seconds claimed by M-B
Quarter-mile: 11.7 seconds @ 115.6 mph (Edmunds testing 2018)
Claimed top speed: 174 mph
Braking: 60-0 mph in 108 ft

2020 Tesla Model Y Performance
0-60 mph: 3.7 seconds (Edmunds testing)
Quarter-mile: 11.8 seconds @ 115.6 mph
Claimed top speed: 150 mph
Braking: 60-0 mph in 108 ft

2020 BMW X3.

2020 BMW X3.

Price and MPG Comparison: X3 M Competition vs. AMG GLC 63 S Coupe vs. Model Y

How much does it cost to get one of these ultra-quick luxury SUVs? Let's find out.

X3 M Competition
The X3 M Competition ($83,845 MSRP as tested) takes the Competition part of its name seriously. It has almost no body roll in corners because of its stiff performance suspension. The trade-off is a harsh ride when you aren't in the twisties. It's a good thing the rest of the interior is big and comfortable. BMW reports there's 62.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the X3 M.

Inside you'll find the same infotainment system as the one in the standard X3. It has crisp graphics and a fairly intuitive and easy-to-use control knob. Wireless Apple CarPlay is included, and wireless charging and onboard Wi-Fi are options. Unfortunately, the system doesn't support Android Auto smartphone integration currently.

When it comes to fuel economy, the BMW sucks down the gas as quickly as it covers ground. The EPA says you can expect 16 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

GLC 63 S Coupe
All that leather, wood and integrated tech doesn't come cheap. Our AMG GLC S test vehicle checked in at $89,630. For that money, you get the new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) voice command system, which is programmed to be so receptive to natural speaking patterns that it can even tell you jokes. We didn't ask for any jokes on track, though — this race stuff is serious. You can also use Siri or Google Assistant through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are now included as standard features.

There's a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment display and multiple console and steering wheel control buttons. So unlike the Tesla, you aren't captive to a screen. As you might expect, the Mercedes is the height of comfort. But cargo space suffered because we tested the GLC Coupe, which has a slimmed-down roofline compared to the regular GLC. It offers only 36.1 cubic feet even with the seats down. The big V8 is no fuel-sipper either. The EPA estimates you'll get 18 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

Model Y Performance
We used our long-term Model Y Performance with the Performance package, which had an MSRP of $68,700. The Model Y is stylish and roomy and in Performance trim, as mentioned, extremely quick and dynamic. The Performance upgrade does lower range. In our long-termer we observed electrical consumption of 28.4 kWh used per 100 miles on our real-world drive loop, which is a bit more efficient than the EPA's estimate of 30 kwh used per 100 miles.

The Model Y seems like the smallest of our three SUVs, but the cabin is spacious. And if you include the front trunk, it actually boasts the largest cargo capacity at 68 cubic feet. The interior is comfortable but plain, and it's dominated by the giant touchscreen, which is Tesla's calling card.

Your comfort with a total lack of buttons and knobs may vary, but our testers find the touchscreen distracting. And Tesla stubbornly resists giving you Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. The main complaint, though, about the Model Y is ride quality. In the Performance trim, the optional sport suspension and large wheels make for a stiff ride.

The appeal of the Model Y depends on your priorities. If you want speed and performance, the Model Y is a relative bargain compared to other high-performance SUVs. But if you're going for luxury, the Model Y is sparse on amenities.

2020 BMW X3.

2020 BMW X3.

Horsepower and Curb Weight: X3 M Competition vs. AMG GLC 63 S Coupe vs. Model Y

We've talked performance and price. Now let's get to power. What makes it possible to move two tons to triple digits in less than 12 seconds?

Both the BMW X3 M Competition and the Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S Coupe make 503 horsepower, but they get to it in different ways. The BMW uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder backed by an eight-speed automatic. Mercedes goes with a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 backed by a nine-speed auto.

The Mercedes has the advantage with torque: 516 lb-ft compared to the BMW's 442 lb-ft. It also weighs less, tipping the scales at 4,524 pounds to the X3 M's 4,549 pounds. Tesla doesn't provide an official horsepower rating like the other two. But factoring in its 4,419-pound weight and 11.8-second quarter-mile time and extrapolating out using some drag-racing math, we'd put forth that our Model Y Performance is cranking out about 530 hp. Advantage to Tesla on both weight and power. Crazy, huh?

All three SUVs have all-wheel drive, so we weren't expecting traction to be an issue. However, we did find that launch technology was a major factor in how close the races were. The Tesla moves out easily and builds speed as it goes. If it offered a more powerful launch control option, it would be unbeatable. But as it was, the Mercedes, with its aggressive jump-starts, managed to come close to the Tesla on a few runs.

The BMW was hampered by its slow starts and trailed the other two in every matchup. When we skipped the dead start and punched it from a roll, the other SUVs had to grab gears while the Tesla simply put more power down and was gone, gone, gone. Not even close.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class.

Edmunds Says

This isn't one of those mealy mouthed competitions where it's too close to call. The Tesla Model Y destroyed the other two. Absolutely dominated the racing in every way. Does that mean it's the best choice? Well, yeah, if all you want is to drag-race SUVs. But we all found the Mercedes Benz's V8 roar and shock-and-awe launches to be the most viscerally enjoyable, and the X3's impressive handling was noticeable on the curvy return road.

Going quick in a small luxury SUV is silly, but it's also amazing that we have so many choices to do so. Everybody needs a little silliness in their lives sometimes, and with an 11-second SUV, you can have it and get your errands done at the same time.

2020 Tesla Model Y.

2020 Tesla Model Y.

LATEST SUV REVIEWS & RATINGS