Owning a fast luxury car is the goal of every child who knows a thing or two about vehicles. As adults, though, our tastes are more discerning. We know the top-of-the-line cars are BMWs and Mercedes brands. Now we want specs, details, price comparisons, and the best deal we can get.
So are you a Mercedes or a BMW person?
When it comes to luxury cars, these are the only two that matter. Both automakers are known for their high-class, high-performance outputs.
Although they’re constantly parallel with their innovative technology, they’re two totally different brands. The nuances are subtle, but they’re there.
Ready to decide which luxury vehicle is right for you? Juggling between a Mercedes or a BMW? It’s a tough call.
With so many new styles rolling off the manufacturing line each year, it’s not an easy decision. But we’ve got the research you need to weigh the pros and cons and walk away confident in your final answer.
“Better” is Not an Option
The obstacle you’re probably facing is you’re trying to decide which one is better: BMW or Mercedes.
“Better” is not a term you should be using. It’ll get you nowhere. They’re both “the best,” so there is no way to answer your question.
Instead, you should be trying to narrow down the car that is “right” for you. This means you need to decide which priorities you are looking for, what you need in your day-to-day vehicle, and what you are okay with compromising on.
From there, you can research each component and make an informed decision.
Let’s look into the major categories that make or break a vehicle’s reputation: Safety/Reliability, Performance, and Style.
The fact is that brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz don’t make it to their place at the very top of the list of automobile manufacturers without being safe and reliable. So an analysis of this feature is going to pit the brands hood-to-hood with premium qualities beyond the basics offered by other automobiles.
Researchers and engineers in these two companies are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re constantly working, searching, testing, and releasing the newest, safest, and most efficient amenities available before any other manufacturer has it on their radar.
Sometimes these features are an asset; other times, they’re released before they have all of the bugs worked out of them. This can reduce the dependability rating of the brand.
While the quality is there, the dependability ratings of Mercedes-Benz vehicles tells us you’re probably going to be spending some time in the shop getting your car worked on. J.D. Power is the industry standard we turn to for research like this.
The goal of J.D. Power’s U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) is to compare automobile manufacturers with an industry average. In 2019, that average as 136 problems per 100 vehicles, which isn’t a great number itself.
But the 2019 study showed that the Mercedes brand average is 134 problems per 100 vehicles, ranking it right at the industry’s less-than-stellar numbers.
BMW, on the other hand, had a 2019 VDS rating of 122 problems per 100 vehicles, netting it an “above average” dependability rating.
However, both the Mercedes and BMW manufacturers are on target with fixing these bugs when it’s their fault. So the next part of this category analyzes the warranty on each brand.
When you’ve got a problem that’s not industry-created, you want to know it’s going to get fixed without costing you a fortune. We know that not all warranties are created equal and that it’s the fine print that often gets you in the end.
With BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the new vehicle warranty isn’t going to be your deciding factor. They offer the same warranties on all of their luxury models: four years or 50,000 miles.
However, the BMW brand does offer additional unlimited coverage options of a minimum of 12 years for corrosion perforation and rust. Mercedes falls short here again, not offering this package as part of their upgraded warranty.
As mentioned, sometimes trying to be the first to release an innovative technology means you don’t have time to tweak the problems. This can affect the overall reliability of a vehicle.
But BMW has released an APS (Active Protection System) that kicks into gear before the driver even knows there’s a potential issue. This safety feature steps into action when it detects that a collision is about to occur and there’s no avoiding it.
When the APS is activated, all seatbelts in use tighten up for resistance. The windows close automatically, and the braking system is engaged.
Mercedes-Benz offers something similar to this, called PRE-SAFE®.
Both of these systems up the safety ratings for BMW and Mercedes.
Once again, though, BMW pushes ahead by offering the Battery Safety Terminal, which Mercedes doesn’t have on hand. This system only activates after a crash has happened.
At that point, it disconnects the fuel pump, batter, and alternator to prevent further damage. It also unlocks the car doors and turns on your hazard lights for you.
If you have a family to protect, safety and dependability are your number one concerns. But who wants to drive a Mercedes or a BMW just for these features? The performance is where it’s at when the true differences start showing up.
Of course, the performance depends on the car you’re looking into, but overall, BMW has consistently released cars based on high-performing specs, like the 2, 3, and 4 Series, the X4, and the X5. Mercedes has only recently entered into the venue of pushing out high performers, but the S-Class, CLS, and SL are all solidly in this category.
Most of BMWs cars are lighter than a typical Mercedes-Benz vehicle, which makes them easier to maneuver around tight corners and with aggressive driving. When it comes to engine sizes, Mercedes-Benz tops the list, but remember that a larger engine without maneuverability can cause problems when you’re driving.
These larger, heavier engines mean that the Mercedes also requires more fuel, depending on the model.
Model for model, performance varies. The best way to really get a feel for which brand would be right for you is to compare similar vehicles. While we can’t hit on all of them, here’s a breakdown of apples to apples with some of the top selling models:
- C-Class Mercedes and BMW 3-Series: Horsepower is what makes these two otherwise similar models stand apart. The C-Class can put out 241 hp with 273 lb-ft of torque with a 9-speed automatic. The 3-series, on the other hand, starts with 180 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque in its 8-speed automatic.
- Mercedes GLA and BMWX1: SUVs are another ballgame entirely. Performance is important, but so is your fuel gauge. The GLA is more efficient than the X1, with 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway versus the X1’s 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway. The GLA also comes standard with an Active Brake Assist not found on the X1.
- Mercedes GLE and BMWX5: The major differences between these two SUVs are the price and towing capability, not the performance. If you’re looking to be able to tow a camper or trailer consistently, check out the GLE. It has much more maneuverability and can tote 6,600 pounds versus the X5’s 5,952 pounds. And at an MSRP of almost $5,000 less, the GLE wins the pricing game, too.
No matter how dependable a car is, no one is going to buy it if it’s ugly. There’s a long list of examples to prove that looks really do matter, like the Dodge Nitro and the DeLorean (only popularized because of its appearance in the hit movie “Back to the Future.”
You don’t have to worry about getting an ugly vehicle when you choose from a BMW or Mercedes. But you still have to decide which amenities and perks you prefer and which ones you can live without.
When it comes to a luxurious interior setting, the Mercedes-Benz models steal the show hands down. Full of leather, chrome, and wood, entering your vehicle is like stepping into another world where the outside environment doesn’t exist. Comfort and modern conveniences abound in a Mercedes.
BMW models tend to focus more on being ergonomically friendly. Everything has a place and it’s all conveniently located. You’ll find all of the buttons facing the driver’s direction for easy visibility. The radio can be changed, volume adjusted, and temperature controlled at the bare movement of a fingertip.
BMW also offers technology like the Display Key, which lets you pull in and out of your garage at the touch of a key fob button. Both the Mercedes and BMW have start and kill buttons for the engine to be activated and deactivated remotely, but this is standard in a lot of newer vehicles.
We all want a sleek vehicle envied by everyone, and the Mercedes and BMW offer this to buyers seamlessly. But the BMW tends to cater to a younger target audience, although both brands have begun expanding their markets over the past few years.
There’s a pretty defined exterior style for each brand. BMWs position their cabins towards the rear of the car, making the models forward-looking. Mercedes-Benz models tend to have longer wheelbases and a more streamlined shape.
The BMW design has adapted over the years from its original “sharknose” to today’s “kidney grill,” showing that the BMW brand itself is always moving forward.
The Mercedes brand tends to opt towards sleek luxury, with less sharp edges and lines and more elegance.
Luxury features can make or break the car you choose. Use this checklist of features available on the BMW and Mercedes to decide which amenities you absolutely must have, and which ones you’re okay with compromising on.
- Mercedes-Benz Technology and Comfort Features
If you’re looking at 2020 models and after, these features are available on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and other models:
- 3-inch touchscreen
- Navigation system
- Premium audio system
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Bluetooth streaming
- HD Radio
- USB ports
- WiFi hotspot
- SiriusXM satellite radio
- Wireless charging pad
- Voice Controls
- Leather upholstery
- Dual-zone automatic climate control
- Multi-contour front seats with massage
- Power front seats with memory
- Remote engine start
- Keyless entry and ignition
- Heated front seats
- Ventilated front seats
- Heated armrests
Other features are also available, but these are some of the most popular requests and upgrades.
- BMW Technology and Comfort Features
BMW wants to keep its spot at the top of the list of premium luxury cars, so the brand is always looking to make its current features even better. You’ll find amenities like these on most of the 2020 models:
- Advanced navigation systems
- LCD touch screen monitors
- Parking sensors
- Backup cameras
- Improved high-quality audio systems
- SensaTec premium vinyl upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Power adjustable front seats
- Tilt and telescoping steering wheel
- Ergonomically-centered buttons, knobs, and other features
- iDrive electronics interface
- Dual-zone automatic climate control
- Surround-view camera
- Automatic headlights
- Power-folding auto-dimming mirrors
- Drive memory functions
So which of these features are on your absolutely must-have list, and which ones are you on the fence about? Those may be your ultimate deciding factors when you choose between the BMW and the Mercedes.
It’s a Win/Win Situation
Either way you go, you can’t lose. Both the Mercedes and the BMW are incredibly sophisticated, high-class, and high-performing luxury cars.
When you decide which one is right for you, think about the features that are most important in your car.
Do you want a vehicle that you know is dependable, but you can sacrifice the performance and style? Would you prefer a car that’s high-performing, even if it is in the shop a little bit more?
Or do you want a model that has a seasoned mix of dependability, reliability, and performance, as long as it looks sleek and sexy?
The answer to these questions, combined with the knowledge of each brand that you now have, will guide you to the car of your dreams and the dealership you need to head to for your next luxury car.