Cars & Gadgets

Battle of the German Crossovers: Porsche's Cayenne, Audi's Q7, and Mercedes-Benz's GLE

Extra space for shopping bags and luxurious cabins are just some of the reasons we love crossovers.

Confused about the differences between an SUV and a crossover?

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably even by car manufacturers, one key difference between the two genres is that crossovers use a unibody construction similar to cars’ while SUVs are underpinned by more rugged ladder frames also found in pick-ups.

What’s not to love about crossovers? Their elevated ride height provides a good measure of protection from flash floods; their two-box design allows for carrying more passengers and shopping bags; plus the extra ground clearance and all-wheel drive will get you to places far beyond the end of the paved road. Throw in luxurious appointments and the cachet that goes with these marques and you get a driving experience that’s difficult to match. We’ve gathered here three of our favorite German luxury crossovers.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 250D 4MATIC

Mercedes-Benz boasts of having invented the premium SUV class when the German carmaker launched the first M-Class exactly two decades ago. That may be subject to debate but one thing is sure: the M-Class helped pave the way for numerous other entrants, making the premium SUV class an extremely competitive one today.

The first-generation M-Class was tainted by a reputation for poor reliability and subpar build quality but these issues were properly addressed by the time the second-generation M-Class came along.

In the middle of the third-generation M-Class’ life cycle, Mercedes-Benz revamped its SUV and crossover nomenclature, replacing the M-Class name with GLE-Class in 2015. The change in name also coincided with some upgrades.

The handsome GLE 250D 4MATIC we tested has a looming presence courtesy of the large three-pointed star adorning the grille; a tall, confident stance; beefy five-spoke 20-inch wheels; and a high beltline. The trademark forward-leaning C-pillar gives this SUV a very distinct look. The styling conceals its true size as the interior is much roomier than what the exterior would suggest.

Rich leather, soft plastics, and fine-texture vinyl finished in black dominate the cabin. Bezels, knobs, buttons, and accent pieces finished in silver provide a nice contrast.

A 2.1-liter motor developing 201 hp and 500 Nm of twist provides the motivation for the GLE. Compared to the Audi Q7 Diesel and Porsche Cayenne Diesel, the GLE’s engine displacement is 30 percent smaller. As expected, the GLE doesn’t accelerate with the same urgency as the Q7 and Cayenne but the 9-speed automatic does a good job of keeping the engine in the rev band’s sweet spot.

Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro


I was in the new Audi Q7 on my way to Baguio City one evening and while driving on TPLEX, a pair of bright lights approached me quickly from behind. Moments later, a heavily tinted Porsche Cayenne S in matte-black wrapping blew by on my left. It looked really menacing and sounded badass with its aftermarket exhaust system. I tugged on the Q7’s left paddle shifter thrice to drop three gears and mashed the accelerator to see if the diesel-powered Q7 could keep up with Darth Vader. Catch up and keep up we did but moments later, I eased off the accelerator and let Darth Vader drive off into the darkness. Thirty minutes or so later, Darth Vader drove into the Shell station at Rosario, La Union just as I was about to leave. Darth Vader was probably wondering why he didn’t see me pass him. Well, I didn’t; I just happened to make better time by taking the Urdaneta exit while Darth Vader took the Binalonan exit a few kilometers farther up north.

The second-generation Audi Q7 is based on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo platform on which the all-new Audi Q5, Bentley Bentayga, and the forthcoming third-generation Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg are also based. And like its cousins (except the Bentayga), one engine option for the Q7 is the 3.0-liter V6 diesel that enamored us earlier in the Touareg and Cayenne. Different tuning gives the Q7 diesel slightly higher performance figures than its Cayenne Diesel cousin: 272 hp, 600 Nm of torque, and a 250 kph top speed. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, of course.

Extensive use of aluminum and slightly smaller exterior dimensions make the Q7 lighter by over 300kg than the first-generation Q7. The new Q7 also looks edgier, thanks to angular styling, sharper corners in the headlight and taillight clusters, and an eye-catching hexagonal grille.


Audi’s flagship SUV is one of only a few premium SUVs to have seating for seven. That, plus the shared DNA with the Cayenne makes it a really tempting proposition.

Porsche Cayenne Diesel

If I were to drive just one vehicle every day for an entire year, I would pick the Porsche Cayenne Diesel. No vehicle comes close to the Cayenne’s ability to offer astounding performance on the race track (not that you would, but you could), take on not-so-light off-road trails, wade through flash floods up to 20 inches deep, or pull up to the country club driveway with just the right amount of swagger. It's like buying three luxury vehicles for the price of one.

Underneath the bonnet lies a 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine that has an output of 240 hp. If you find an open stretch of road, flooring the accelerator unleashes the relentless pull of 550 Nm of torque—while making you break into a silly grin. The Cayenne Diesel hustles from 0 to 100kph in 7.8 sec and on to a 218-kph top speed. Not bad for an SUV weighing just a little over 2,000kg.

This refined diesel engine could easily be mistaken for a gas engine with its low amount of vibration and clatter. Makes one wonder why all diesel engines aren’t built this way.

Myriad electronic driver aids allow the large Cayenne to behave like a tall yet nimble 911 around corners. For enhanced stability, our tester was equipped with air suspension that automatically drops the vehicle ride height by 0.87 inches once the vehicle hits 138kph. At 210kph, the Cayenne sits 1.25 inches lower than its normal ride height. The electronic damping control system meanwhile keeps body roll in check by constantly adjusting each shock absorber’s damping. Torque vectoring helps the Cayenne rotate around a bend by sending more torque to the outer rear wheel.


In off-road terrain, the driver simply selects the proper mode using the main off-road control on the center console to manage ride height, drivetrain settings, and torque distribution.

Stuck in traffic? The cabin is an awesome place to while away the time in. Practically every surface is a tactile treat while the instrument panel with five binnacles is a visual feast. Heck, even the new-car smell is very opulent.

About The Author
Eric S. Soriano
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