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Published January 30, 2022
BMW or Mercedes-Benz?
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You’re on the lookout for a used car and have decided to go with a high-end, luxury model. Two iconic German brands immediately spring to mind – BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
These two manufacturers have battled it out for decades, producing premium vehicles crafted with care, innovation and exacting standards of quality.
Here, we’ll compare the two industry leaders, examining their similarities and differences, and help you decide which is right for you.
Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz hail from Germany, but what else do you know about the premium automakers? Which came first, and have they always made cars?
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, better known as BMW, is based in Munich. It started life in 1916 as makers of aircraft engines. In the 1920s, BMW began producing motorcycles, and its first car came off the assembly line in 1928.
Things began to really take off in the 1950s with the sedan BMW 501. From there the range expanded to also include coupes and convertibles.
In the 60s, the New Class range of sports sedans firmly established the brand. Then came the 5 Series mid-sized sedan in 1972, still a firm favorite today and the first of their legendary numbered series.
Fast forward to the present and BMW is looking to the future, with the sub-brand BMW i making a range of acclaimed electric and hybrid cars.
The history of Mercedes-Benz stretches back into the 19th century. In 1886, engineer Karl Benz made history, creating the ‘Motorwagen’ – the world’s first motor car. The very first ‘Merc’ was unveiled in 1901, and eight years later the famous three-pointed star became the company’s trademark.
1926 saw the first Mercedes-Benz branded vehicles go on sale. Over the decades the manufacturer released many popular models, and created its S-Class designation for its best models in 1972. The S-Class remains the flagship Merc.
The luxury C-Class range began in 1993, and from 2019 onwards, Mercedes began making innovative electric cars with the EQ range.
Both BMW and Mercedes are renowned for high-class, high-performance cars – but due to the complexity of the engineering, this can mean expensive repair work should anything go wrong.
The J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study assessed 2018 models of the world’s most famous brands, noting number of problems per 100 vehicles. BMW came 11th with a score of 108 issues. Mercedes-Benz ranked 15th with 122.
So it’s very close, but BMW looks to fare best of the two for reliability.
When it comes to car safety features and technology, both the German heavyweights excel. BMW and Mercedes all regularly score four or five out of five in NHTSA safety ratings.
In BMWs, like the 3 Series, you can expect to find frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, rear cross traffic alerts and Parking Assistant Plus with surround view cameras. It’s not just technology that keeps BMW owners safe – these cars are equipped with tough body shells to protect drivers and passengers and have side impact protection.
As for Mercedes, C-Class models boast features including active brake assist, blind spot assist with exit warning assist and an advanced tire pressure monitoring system.
All luxury Mercs come with PRE SAFE technology, making them among the safest cars in the world. This includes night view assist, to make hidden dangers more visible.
Both BMW’s 2021 5-Series and the Mercedes E-Class are popular sedans, powered by turbocharged four-cylinder engines at entry level.
When it comes to MPG, BMW inches it, with 25 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on highways. The Merc manages 22 MPG in the city and 31 on the highway.
From its famous kidney grille to muscular aft end, BMWs exude quality on and off the road. BMW makes some of the most beautiful cars in the world.
As does Mercedes, of course. The company talks of ‘Sensual Purity’ in its design, which mostly means removing sharp edges and lines, creating smooth, elegant sedans, coupes and SUVs. Understated, but with a unique presence, Mercs truly stand out.
When it comes to interior design, BMW and Mercedes-Benz go all out with the wow factor, sculpting gorgeous, luxurious cockpits and passenger seats, with state-of-the-art infotainment systems.
Both brands feature heated seats, touchscreens, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and booming, high-quality speakers – nobody loses here.
BMW’s Series models, numbered 1-8, come as coupes and sedans of differing shapes and sizes. There are seven types of X Series crossovers and SUVs and the Z Series roadster, plus the BMW i sub-brand creating electric and hybrid cars, and BMW M makes high-performance versions of various BMWs.
Two compact SUVs that are often placed head-to-head. U.S. News certainly thinks the X4 is more reliable, scoring it 89 out of 100, with the GLC only scoring 78.
Both perform very well in the safety stakes, with almost exactly the same great suite of tech, although the X4 comes with blind spot monitor as standard, whereas it’s an extra on the GLC.
They also have very similar, powerful, potent engines, and are too close to call when it comes to MPG, but the GLC-Class’s infotainment system is perhaps more user-friendly.
The X3 is an SUV, whereas the C-Class is a sedan, but both feature the same impressive I-4 2.0 engine.
Mercedes-Benz creates a wider range of different vehicles – if you’re looking for an opulent hatchback, sedan, cabriolet, crossover, off-roader, SUV, electric, sports car, people carrier or truck, Mercs win out when it comes to variety.
However, if you’re buying with highway driving in mind, the C-Class gets 35 MPG and the X3 manages 29 MPG.
Both score 81 for reliability according to U.S. News. When it comes to safety features, the X3 does better for standard gadgetry, while brake assist, daytime running lights and blind spot monitors are optional on the C-Class. That may explain why the former is slightly more expensive, with an MSRP of $43,000 compared to the C-Class’s $41,600.
Whether you choose an X5 or E-Class may depend on the vehicle type you’re looking for.
The X5 is a sporty hybrid SUV, the E-Class usually comes as a sedan. Price may be a factor too of course, and at first glance the X5 is considerably cheaper with an MSRP of $59,400 against an expensive $107,500 E-Class for 2021 models.
Put another SUV against the X5 and the comparisons are even greater. Both score over 8 for performance thanks to large, strong engines, but the X5 slightly edges it. It’s also more reliable according to U.S. News, scoring 81 over the GLE’s 78.
But the Merc’s list of entertainment features is greater than the X5, including Wi-Fi hotspot. BMW fights back on the safety front – brake assist, auto-leveling headlights and cross-traffic alerts, while standard here, are optional extras with the GLE.