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Car group tests

Mercedes GLE vs Lexus RX

With a new name and a revised diesel engine, the Mercedes GLE takes the premium SUV fight to the hybrid Lexus RX

Mercedes’ latest product range, including cars such as the GLC and GLE Coupe, kick-started the firm’s new naming convention, so it was only right that the old ML model would fall into line, too.

As a result, that car is now called the GLE (GL for off-roader, E highlighting that it’s executive size, like the E-Class saloon). And while it’s still based on the old ML, there are some subtle styling changes to take in and more important modifications underneath.

Best 4x4s and SUVs on sale right now

The first is the addition of Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, while the 350d V6 diesel model we’re testing here also boasts efficiency improvements to cut running costs. However, if you want a smooth, efficient SUV with enough power to make decent progress, there is another option.

LexusRX 450h does away with diesel power, instead combining petrol and electric motors to deliver performance and – on paper – penny-pinching fuel bills.

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It’s packed full of technology too, whereas the Mercedes’ older underpinnings are a little more obvious. So, despite the new name, is the GLE starting to show its age, or has the old dog been taught a few new tricks? 

Head-to-head

Off-road

Neither of our models is likely to venture too far from the tarmac, but if you want to explore off-road, the Mercedes is the more capable car. Lexus’ hybrid drive isn’t as well suited to slippery, rough terrain, whereas on the GLE, you can specify a £1,985 off-road pack that adds a locking centre diff, off-road driving modes and adjustable ride heights.

Hybrid benefits

The RX’s petrol engine makes for much lower CO2 emissions than the diesel Mercedes, but it also has decent performance thanks to a pair of electric motors. The engine only drives the front wheels to further improve efficiency, with the motors adding rear traction. However, the non-plug-in RX’s zero-emissions range is limited.

Design

Back-to-back, it’s easy to see that these two cars have their roots in different areas. The Lexus looks sportier, with a sleeker profile, whereas the boxy Mercedes sits higher. Alongside the sportier GLE Coupe, the GLE offers extra practicality. 

Verdict

First place: Lexus RX

For a hybrid, the RX’s real-world efficiency isn’t so impressive, but low CO2 emissions mean you can run a luxury SUV on a relatively small budget. It feels much more modern inside than the GLE, with superior build quality and more kit. It’s not quite as spacious, yet there’s plenty of room for the family, making it a nicely refined and luxurious 4x4 with adequate performance.

Second place: Mercedes GLE

The GLE’s powertrain oozes class and refinement, but the chassis really lets it down. It’s comfortable at cruising speeds, yet it quickly loses its composure on bumpier roads. And while the ride is soft, it often lacks control over even smooth but undulating surfaces. An old-school interior, less equipment and steep running costs seal the Mercedes’ fate.

Other options for similar money...

New: Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Price: £52,689Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 258bhp

Porsche’s entry-level Cayenne Diesel undercuts both the GLE and RX on price, but easily matches them for performance. It’s sportier to drive and doesn’t sacrifice practicality, yet does have a firmer ride. The Porsche badge adds appeal. 

Used: Range Rover SDV8 Vogue SE

Price: £55,000Engine: 4.4-litre V8, 334bhp

A similar budget will buy you a used Range Rover in well equipped Vogue SE spec with the powerful V8 diesel. The big Brit is a master of luxury and comfort, but even at this price, second-hand cars will have covered around 50,000 miles.

Figures

 Lexus RX 450h PremierMercedes GLE 350d 4Matic AMG Line
On-the-road price/total as tested£57,995/£58,640£56,285/£63,655
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£26,150/45.1%£23,600/41.9%
Depreciation£31,845£32,685
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£2,549/£5,099£3,911/£7,823
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,751/£2,918£1,698/£2,831
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost42/£1,264/D/£11045/£1,275/I/£225
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£275/£445/£275£39pm (3yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,890/2,790mm4,932/2,915mm
Height/width1,685/1,895mm1,796/1,935mm
EngineV6/3,456cc/elec motorsV6/2,987cc
Peak power 308/6,000 bhp/rpm 254/3,400 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 335/4,600 Nm/rpm 620/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission E-CVT auto/4wd9-spd auto/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel65 litres/space-saver93 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 453/924 litres690/2,010 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight2,100/615/2,000kg2,175/775/3,500kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.8 metres/0.33Cd11.8 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers10,000 miles (1yr)/5115,500 miles (1yr)/136
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.2nd/1st*12th/21st*
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars91/82/79/77/5 (2015)96/75/60/86/5 (2012)
   
0-60/30-70mph7.7/6.4 secs7.3/6.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.8 secs** 2.7/3.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 4.1 secs** 4.9/6.1/7.5/12.1 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 124mph/1,600rpm140mph/1,600rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 49.0/35.9/9.8m52.5/36.5/10.5m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mphN/A/N/A/62/70dB73/52/60/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range33.8/7.4/438 miles34.8/7.7/712 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined51.4/51.4/51.4mpg38.7/45.6/42.8mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined11.3/11.3/11.3mpl8.5/10.0/9.4mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket193/127g/km/22%218/179g/km/35%
   
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/cam10/yes/yes/yesSeven/yes/yes/yes
Auto/stability/adaptive cruise/AEB^^Yes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/£1,695^/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/£1,820/yes
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£645/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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