Certified Benz & Beemer Compares 2014 Mercedes Benz M-Class VS 2014 BMW X3 Near Phoenix, AZ

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2014 Mercedes Benz M-Class

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2014 BMW X3

Safety Comparison

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes M-Class have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The BMW X3 doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

The M-Class’ front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The X3 doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes M-Class are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW X3 doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The M-Class offers optional PRE-SAFE Brake, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The X3 doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

An active infrared night vision system optional on the M-Class helps the driver to more easily detect people, animals or other objects in front of the vehicle at night. Using an infrared camera and near-infrared lights to detect heat, the system then displays the image on a monitor in the dashboard. The X3 doesn’t offer a night vision system.

The M-Class’ optional blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them and moves the vehicle back into its lane. The X3 doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

The M-Class’ driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The X3 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the M-Class and the X3 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, plastic fuel tanks, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding and available all wheel drive.

The Mercedes M-Class weighs 529 to 970 pounds more than the BMW X3. The NHTSA advises that heavier vehicles are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and its standard front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the M-Class its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2014, a rating granted to only 28 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The X3 has not been fully tested, yet.

Reliability Comparison

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 11th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 8 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 18th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are more reliable than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in reliability, above the industry average. With 18 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 16th.

Engine Comparison

The ML350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 62 more horsepower (302 vs. 240) and 13 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 260) than the X3 xDrive28i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The ML350’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 2 more horsepower (302 vs. 300) than the X3 xDrive35i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6 cyl. The ML550’s standard 4.7 turbo V8 produces 102 more horsepower (402 vs. 300) and 143 lbs.-ft. more torque (443 vs. 300) than the X3 xDrive35i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6 cyl.

The M-Class’ 3.0 turbo V6 diesel produces 195 lbs.-ft. more torque (455 vs. 260) than the X3 xDrive28i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The M-Class’ 3.0 turbo V6 diesel produces 155 lbs.-ft. more torque (455 vs. 300) than the X3 xDrive35i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6 cyl.

As tested in Consumer Reports the ML350 is faster than the X3 xDrive28i:



Zero to 30 MPH

2.5 sec

2.9 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.8 sec

7.3 sec

Quarter Mile

15.2 sec

15.8 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

93 MPH

91.4 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

The M-Class has 6.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the X3 (24.6 vs. 17.7 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

For better stopping power the ML550’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the X3:




Front Rotors

13 inches

14.8 inches

12.9 inches

Rear Rotors

12.8 inches

13 inches

12.9 inches

The M-Class stops shorter than the X3:



60 to 0 MPH

121 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the M-Class has larger standard tires than the X3 (255/50R19 vs. 245/50R18). The M-Class’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the X3 (265/45R20 vs. 245/50R18).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the M-Class has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the X3. The M-Class’ optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 19-inch wheels optional on the X3.

The M-Class has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the X3, it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The M-Class offers active sway bars, which help keep it flat and controlled during cornering, but disconnect at lower speeds to smooth the ride and offer greater off-road suspension articulation. This helps keep the tires glued to the road on-road and off. The X3 doesn’t offer an active sway bar system.

The M-Class has a standard automatic load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The X3 doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the M-Class’ wheelbase is 4.2 inches longer than on the X3 (114.8 inches vs. 110.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the M-Class is 1.3 inches wider in the front and 1.3 inches wider in the rear than on the X3.

The ML350 4MATIC handles at .85 G’s, while the X3 xDrive28i pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the X3 xDrive28i (27 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.8 seconds @ .61 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the M-Class Airmatic has a 2.7 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the X3 (11.2 vs. 8.5 inches), allowing the M-Class to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis Comparison

The design of the Mercedes M-Class amounts to more than styling. The M-Class has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .35 Cd. That is lower than the X3 (.35 to .36). A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the M-Class get better fuel mileage.

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC is quieter than the X3 xDrive28i (69 vs. 71 dB).

Passenger Space Comparison

The M-Class has .4 inches more front legroom, 1.2 inches more front shoulder room, 1.6 inches more rear legroom and 2.4 inches more rear shoulder room than the X3.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the M-Class’ rear seats recline. The X3’s rear seats don’t recline.

Cargo Capacity Comparison

The M-Class has a much larger cargo area with its rear seat up than the X3 with its rear seat up (38.2 vs. 19.4 cubic feet). The M-Class has a much larger cargo area with its rear seat folded than the X3 with its rear seat folded (80.3 vs. 56.5 cubic feet).

The M-Class’ cargo area is larger than the X3’s in almost every dimension:



Length to seat (2nd/1st)



Max Width



Min Width






Ergonomics Comparison

The M-Class’ optional easy entry system raises the steering wheel when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The X3 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The M-Class’ front and rear power windows all open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The X3’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully.

To better shield the driver and front passenger’s vision, the M-Class offers optional dual-element sun visors that can block glare from two directions simultaneously. The X3 doesn’t offer secondary sun visors.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the M-Class has standard extendable sun visors. The X3 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The M-Class’ optional air conditioned front seats cool the driver and front passenger and help take the sting out of hot leather in Summer. The X3 doesn’t offer air conditioned front seats.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the M-Class offers an optional Distronic Plus, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The X3 doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

To help keep rear passengers entertained, the M-Class offers optional rear seat controls for the radio which can play a separate audio source. The X3 doesn’t offer rear seat audio controls.

The M-Class offers an optional 115 volt a/c outlet in the cargo area, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters which can break or get misplaced. The X3 doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

The M-Class’ optional Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The X3 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages Comparison

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the M-Class is less expensive to operate than the X3 because typical repairs cost much less on the M-Class than the X3, including $212 less for a water pump, $427 less for an alternator, $130 less for front brake pads and $362 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations Comparison

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Mercedes M-Class and the BMW X3, based on reliability, safety and performance.

Strategic Vision rates overall owner satisfaction with vehicle quality. With a Total Quality Index of 906, Strategic Vision rated the Mercedes M-Class 8 points higher than the BMW X3 for 2012.

The Mercedes M-Class outsold the BMW X3 by 35% during 2013.

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