Comparison test Mercedes GLE 500 e vs Volvo XC90 T8

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Powerful, quite expensive and refined: We compare the mighty plug-in hybrid SUVs from Mercedes and Volvo. Let’s see which is the best in the end: Mercedes GLE 500e 4Matic or Volvo XC90 T8.

Photo: auto motor und sport

It is somehow dissapointing when you hear the petrol engine for the first time in the currently most expensive Volvo, the XC90 T8, and realise that refinement and downsizing do not go together as well as the Twin Engine AWD emblem seems to suggest. You pay over 80,000 euros and get an engine that evokes no emotion. But that’s the sound of a two-litre four-cylinder engine that produces an impressive 320 PS and 400 Nm via a compressor and turbo, while a 65 kW electric motor in the rear drives the rear wheels inaudibly.

This is clever because there is no longer a drive shaft at the rear and the lithium-ion batteries (capacity 9.2 kWh) are now housed in the center tunnel. As is typical for hybrids, the two units work in a particularly powerful combination, in constant, unfortunately often inharmonious, jerky alternation, or individually, depending on the setting. On our test the electric range was only 21 km (43 km officialy).

Mercedes GLE 500e 4Matic is more refined

The GLE 500 e 4Matic, which is over 120 kilos heavier and constantly distributes its power equally between the axles, has an electric range of only 17 km, but offers a more convincing drive overall. After all, under its short front hood sits a three-liter V6 with 333 PS, which easily delivers 480 Nm at just 1,600 rpm. The biturbo engine, which still sounds pleasant even at high speeds, is supported by an 85 kW electric motor placed between the seven-speed automatic transmission and ICE engine. Since the changes between the drive types are smooth, cruising in the Mercedes is much more relaxed.

The 2.5-tonne Mercedes also performs slightly better in all disciplines. Especially from a speed of 160 km/h, the high-quality SUV remain silent, while the four-cylinder in the Volvo mobilizes its power with audible effort. One of the reasons for this is that its electric motor disengages at 170 km/h.

Volvo XC90 T8 is more frugal

At least its complex drive concept proves to be somewhat more economical, even if it is far from the  NEDC values. Extrapolated using the measurements from the Eco consumption rounds to an annual mileage of 15,000 kilometers, the XC90 is at 5.1 l/100 kph plus 14.4 kWh/100 km. The GLE is a little thirstier at 6.4 l/100 kph plus 14.3 kWh/100 km.  For comparison: a XC90 diesel D5 with 225 PS consumes 7.1 l/100 km. Thanks to its 80-liter tank, the GLE has a longer total range. Praiseworthy: Networked with the navigation system and radar sensor, the hybrid computer controls the optimal mix of the two drives depending on the route, traffic ahead and many other factors. For example, it recuperates in advance, supplies power when going uphill and refills the batteries as soon as it is worthwhile in the longer term.

Volvo Xc90 T8 has a bigger boot

However, the Mercedes carries its batteries (capacity: 8.7 kWh) in the trunk, which takes up a lot of space and reduce the boot volume from 690 to 480 liters. In addition, with the rear seats folded forward, there is a considerable step in the loading floor because the GLE is still based on the earlier ML, whose platform was not designed for electrification. In contrast, the passengers enjoy quite opulent space even in the rear.

With 13 cm longer, the Volvo XC90 T8 offers little more space, but despite the standard third row of seats in the rear, it has a bigger boot with 640 liter If the sufficiently comfortable seats from the 3rd row are in the position, there are still 262 liters left. Always worth seeing and typical of Volvo: the practical integrated child seat in the rear.

Another feature of the Swedes are the reduced operating concepts, which currently culminate in the 9.2-inch touchscreen installed on the top of the central console. Hardly any other system seems so subtle and well thought out, but at the same time requires enormous concentration with all the pressing and swiping.

Despite the air suspension (2,270 euros), particularly short jolts make the Volvo, which is fitted with 20-inch tires, unsettled and sometimes rattle the light steering. This implements course corrections surprisingly directly, but could provide more feedback.

The GLE, which is also equipped with Airmatic suspension, behaves completely differently. The 2.5-ton vehicle rolls smoothly and calmly over any road surface, which is a perfect match for the powerful, quietly V6. Since the steering is both more precise and bump-free, you can travel across country with much more stability and more enjoyment than in the more difficult-to-judge Volvo.

Volvo XC90 T8 has better brakes

The cheaper Mercedes (from 74,197 euros) seems to be a sure thing to win – if it weren’t for its weak brakes: 38.2 meters from 100 and 64 meters from 130 km/h with cold brakes are not top values for a hybrid weighing up to three tons. Even its exemplary large armada of assistance systems cannot make up for this shortcoming. After all, Volvo is not stingy either and equips the basic XC90 with ACC, active lane keeping, traffic jam assistant and traffic sign recognition.

In addition, the R-Design equipment line (3,700 euros) includes leather upholstery, four-zone automatic climate control, auxiliary heating, LED headlights and a panoramic roof, which would drive the price of the GLE to over 86,000 euros. So in the end, the XC90 wins, although the price is too high, especially for a four-cylinder engine.

 

Conclusion

  1. Volvo XC90 T8 AWD

More spacious, good brakes, economical – Volvo won. But is expensive, the comfort is only average and the hybrid system is not as refined as Mercedes..

  1. Mercedes GLE 500e 4Matic

The ride comfort is a perfect match for the excellent V6, which ensures good performance. What is missing to win is a large cargo area and stronger brakes.