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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Lexus RX 450h Premier||Mercedes 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%|
|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/cost||42/£1,264/D/£110||45/£1,275/I/£225|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£275/£445/£275||£39pm (3yrs)|
|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/4wd||9-spd auto/4wd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||65 litres/space-saver||93 litres/sealant|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||453/924 litres||690/2,010 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||11.8 metres/0.33Cd||11.8 metres/N/A|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs||3yrs (unltd)/3yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||10,000 miles (1yr)/51||15,500 miles (1yr)/136|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||2nd/1st*||12th/21st*|
|NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars||91/82/79/77/5 (2015)||96/75/60/86/5 (2012)|
|0-60/30-70mph||7.7/6.4 secs||7.3/6.8 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/1,600rpm||140mph/1,600rpm|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||N/A/N/A/62/70dB||73/52/60/69dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||33.8/7.4/438 miles||34.8/7.7/712 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||193/127g/km/22%||218/179g/km/35%|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/£1,820/yes|
|Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go||£645/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes|