Duel of the big three luxury diesel SUVS

Thursday December 03 2020

When you drive around the serene leafy neighbourhoods or the plushy hotel parking lots in Kampala, among ‘other cars,’ you will either see a 2007 3.0L Diesel BMW X5, Audi Q7 3.0L TDV6 or Mercedes ML 320 CDi. These three carry premium brand badges and represent the new age of luxury diesel sports utility Vehicles.

By Paul Kaganzi

BMW X5 (E70) released in 2007 is the second generation replacement of the E53 and comes with more prominent curves, better interior design and bolder performance from its new straight 6 cylinder 3.0 litre turbo diesel and 4.8 litre V8 petrol engines. The 2007 Audi Q7 is the first generation and is considered the hallmark of luxury and style. It comes from the same stables as the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne with a high price tag. 

Audi Q7 has a line up of power plants: the Fuel Stratified (FSI) petrol Injection 3.6 litre and 4.2 litre V8, the turbo diesel 3.0 and 4.2 litre V6 as well as the 6.0 litre V10. Mercedes ML 164,launched in 2005, is the second generation which offers 3.5 and 5.0 litre petrol as well as 2.8, 3.2 and 4.2 litre diesel engines. The three SUVs look like they mean business with their new look chrome ‘moustaches’ and face off in a short but intense duel. Let us see which one floors the other two on the Ugandan turf.


The BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML come to the fight with 3.0 litre turbo diesel engines, double overhead camshafts (DOHC), four valves per cylinder with common rail piezo diesel direct injection. These engines boast variable geometry turbo charging with intercooler (TDi) and meet Euro IV emission standards. This gives the trio a lag-less and better response to throttle, quieter with refined and subdued diesel clutter. The BMW, Mercedes and Audi SUVs provide equally impressive and close power and fuel economy. This is the age of the new diesel engines smoother, more powerful with cleaner emissions. 

When it is time to play, the X5proves to be nimble and leads the pack with better pulling power and faster acceleration of 0-100 KPH in 8.3 seconds while the ML follows closely with 8.6 seconds and Audi trails behind with 9.1 seconds. BMW X5’s 3.0 litre engine is slightly bigger, it tips the performance scales narrowly with better engine power and fuel economy in the urban traffic and on the highway.

 It is closely followed by the MercedesML. BMW’s line six engine works seamlessly with the smooth shifting 6-speed automatic transmission to make it more efficient than its V6 counterparts. ML 320 CDi with 7 speed automatic gearbox follows closely on the heels with better fuel economy than the 6 speed Audi Q7.


Handling and safety

The BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML are designed and built with the best safety, performance or handling enhancing features and technology available in Germany at the time. Anti-locking Brake Systems (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Programmes and Traction control, Hill descent control. These three SUV’s come with multi-link independent front and rear suspension to reduce body roll or sway when driving fast around sharp bends.

The BMW X5 feels more solid and firm on the road during extreme performance, driving fast through tight corners with limited body roll. This is attributed to BMW’s X Drive technology which integrates the all-wheel drive, better engine power and braking response to the body suspension and design. BMW puts these features at your disposal for sheer driving pleasure. 

The bigger Mercedes ML and the weightier Audi Q7 give a spirited challenge in the handling segment with the combination of electronic air suspension and the above dynamic safety electronics. When manoeuvring at high speeds, the Audi Q7 feels somewhat lofty because it is heavier while the ML slightly pitches in a rather uncomfortable way. The three rivalling models offer an array of safety enhancing features such as multiple airbags with intelligent seat, child door locks and ISOFIX child seat harnessing points, door side intrusion beams, crash crumple zones, electronic park assist and blind spot assist. 

They also have tyre pressure monitoring systems, roll over sensors which cut off power and fuel supply in the event of an accident, adaptive head lights which move with the steering, adaptive steering which stiffens when a driver over steers at high speeds. The driver and passenger safety standards on both cars are very high and competitively close. They all score highly in the safety segment.

Comfort and convenience

The BMW X5, Mercedes ML 320CDI and Audi Q7all score equally for offering high quality interior comfort and convenience features such as multi zone automatic climate control, six CD changers, optional DVD players, Bluetooth phone facility, leather interior, electrically adjusted doors, windows and seats, cruise control, trip counters, tyre pressure monitors, futuristic computer car status and interactive function display monitors with car service reminders. 


The Audi Q7 has a more spacious interior offering better legroom, headroom and shoulder room. However Mercedes provides more comfortable and thoughtfully built upholstery with more reasonable leg and head room than the BMW. The X5’s upholstery is designed for performance driving and is a little too firm, narrow and stiff for the tired office executive. The low profile run flat tyres on the X5 give passengers an uncomfortable and harsh ride on the Ugandan highway speed bumps. BMW X5’s and AUDI Q7’s centre console menu with monitors offering selectable information about vehicle settings, entertainment and service requirements give the two SUVs a futuristic touch.

Security and resale value

The BMW X5 2007 comes with no spare tyre or wheel changing tools. The run flat tyres on the X5 allow you to drive the vehicle at 80kph in case of a puncture. Audi Q7 and Mercedes ML routine service parts are readily available at a high cost with declared dealers and independent parts outlets in Uganda. The slow moving engine or body parts are not readily available but can be ordered. 

Mercedes Benz has a better parts presence both with dealership and independent shops. There has been an improvement of car repair facilities, the technical know-how and tooling to handle these cars.The three vehicle models have a security system with anti tamper or intrusion warning alarm and engine immobiliser. Mercedes has a better resale value because  the brand is a stronger status symbol and hasstronger after sales facilities.


Whereas the X5 scores two points for a slightly better engine performance and road handling, the gap is narrow. Audi Q7, BMW and the ML score three points each due to equally good credentials for safety, convenient features and security. Mercedes ML scores one point for better maintenance and resale value compared to its two rivals. The BMW X5 and Mercedes ML 164 tie with the same score in this contest.