Lexus LX VS Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
- Unquestionable presence
- Amazing off-road chops
- Loaded with gear
- Not very pleasant to drive
- Engine not as good as it should be
- Terrible media interface
- Stunning interior
- Superb space
- Comprehensive safety kit
- Unpleasant ride
- Four-cylinder diesel performance
- Challenging styling
Clearly the regular Lexus LX570 wasn't over-styled enough, because now there's this - the new 2019 Lexus LX570 S - which takes the brash big SUV from the Japanese brand and adds some extra brawn to its look.
It may be based on a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series but the V8 petrol-powered Lexus LX570 is a heavily styled heavy-duty SUV. This new version packs extra heavily-styled elements like 21-inch rims, an even more Storm Trooper-esque body kit and a bunch of other changes.
And while we know that this is a supremely capable off roader, this test was more focused on what it might be like for a city-slicker-cum-doomsday-prepper: someone who wants to know they can get out of trouble if necessary, but also wants a level of driveway desirability.
This special version will set you back a hairy $25,000 more than the regular LX570, though. Should you consider it?
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
But this new version - the 2020 GLE - is exactly that. It's new.
The exterior is new. The engines are new. The underpinnings are new. The interior - yep, you guessed it - new.
Let's find out.
If you're more interested in appearance, space and features when choosing your large SUV, the Lexus LX570 S may offer a lot of appeal to you. And if you actually plan to venture outside of the suburbs where you can explore the abilities of the vehicle's underpinnings, it could be right up your figurative alley... or down your goat track, as it were.
But in day-to-day driving it is let down by a lacklustre drive experience, underwhelming and thirsty engine and frustrating media interface. If you really don't need eight seats and the hardcore hardware, check out the Lexus RX350 L instead. You won't regret it.
Is this Lexus big and beautiful or brash and bloated? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
All told, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 2020 model is an improvement in many ways over its predecessor. It's safer, more high-tech, considerably more luxurious and practical inside, and offers better value, too.
But, in 300d guise at least, it's let down by a slightly underdone engine, and suspension that just doesn't do a good enough job on rougher roads. It's close, but not close enough to be best in class.
Maybe that'll be a different case for the higher-grade versions with the most high-tech engines and the tricky optional suspension... we'll have to wait and see.
If you can't find anything interesting about any new Lexus in terms of design you'd better book in at your optometrist.
The LX570 S is a vehicle that isn't backwards in coming forwards, with the model-specific body kit seeing new front, rear and side skirts, as well as a different mesh design for the huge 'spindle' grille. The 21-inch forged alloy rims are finished in gloss black, and like the regular LX you get LED headlights and daytime running lights, as well as LED tail-lights.
There is no doubt this is polarising - opinions were split in the office, with some finding the LX attractive, while others questioned if it was acceptable. I fall into the former camp - there's something ostentatious about the LX570 S that really appeals to me.
It's not just exterior trim changes, though - Lexus has fitted some performance parts to it, including performance dampers that are designed to make this big rig drive a bit smaller than it is. It still has adjustable suspension, though, so you can raise and lower it at will. It looks particularly menacing dumped on its guts.
It is arresting in its presence, and given that some customers buy vehicles like this as much to be seen as anything else, it deserves a decent score for its styling, even if it looks a bit like a lowered Subaru Forester, and has a really short wheelbase (2850mm) for the length of the vehicle (5080mm). It's boxy, at 1980mm wide and 1865mm tall.
The interior of this LX is pretty special, too - check out the interior pictures to see for yourself.
You can make your own mind up about the styling of the new GLE. It's certainly more aggressive than the model that came before it, and Benz claims that it's the most aerodynamic SUV in its class.
The models on test were all fitted with the AMG styling pack and the bigger 21-inch multi-spoke wheels, and from some angles it's a striking car. I particularly like the way the rear-end treatment has worked for the GLE: the triangulated tail-lights, the lower bumper and the rear glass all work together well.
In profile, the GLE is quite challenging to look at. The rounded window-line is a bit awkward, and somehow the wheels just don't fit with the bulky guards (though I do like the way the AMG 21s poke out a bit at the back).
The front sees the diamond-style treatment to the grille for the AMG Line versions, but there's a lot of black plastic on the bumper, and the headlight shape gives it a bit of a droopy-eyed look. Is it just me, or is it a bit of a Bassett Hound?
It is a bigger car than before - 111mm longer (now 4930mm - and on an 80mm longer wheelbase, now 2995mm), and it's 15mm wider but 31mm lower - and it looks more substantial as a result. I'm just not sure it's pulling off its bulk as well as it could.
So the outside is pretty, er, interesting. We had comments from passersby to that effect, too, and in our comparison test it was the consensus of our team of experienced testers that the GLE had some challenging exterior design elements.
If you like equipment, knobs, dials, buttons, leather and wood, the LX570 S might be your dream vehicle.
And this version gets model-specific 'semi-aniline' leather-accented trim, alloy pedals and 'Shimamoku Grey' wood highlights. Now, that mightn't mean anything to you, and you might just think it looks like a woodgrain steering wheel - but would you change your mind if you knew it takes 38 days of Japanese craftsmanship just to do finish the steering wheel?
It looks plush - not modern or contemporary, as such, but neat. And if you want it, this spec is available with 'Garnet' burgundy leather trim.
The sheer size of the Lexus LX makes you think it should be super spacious, and ultra practical, but given the hulking mass of the thing, it's not as well packaged as it could be. Or maybe that should read: it's not as well packaged as we know Lexus could do with a new version of it.
That mainly comes down to the wheelbase being quite short, the fact it's built on a ladder-frame chassis, and that this generation of LX is actually pretty old - it first launched way back in 2007, and while it has been updated several times since then, the game has moved on for cabin practicality.
Even so, you can fit eight people in the LX, if the three in the third row aren't big and don't hate each other. For someone my size - 182cm with size 12 feet - the room is a bit limited; there's more space in the third row of a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger. But there are vents and cupholders, as well as grab handles - important if you actually plan to go off road.
In the second row there are vents, cupholders in a fold-down armrest which also houses the climate controls for the rear zones and the buttons for the heated and cooled second-row outboard seats, plus there are bottle holders in the doors, map pockets, and a bit more space for regular sized humans.
The electric slide adjustment for the second row can make it more accommodating in the third row if you need to, and there is a recline function, too.
This spec has two 11.6-inch display screens in the back with HDMI and auxiliary inputs, plus there are headphones for each screen and there's a 12-volt jack - but no USB points.
Up front there's a fridge between the seats. No, seriously, where you'd usually have a covered centre console there's a cool box that is good for half a dozen drinks and some sambos.
Plus there's the usual practicality measures you'd expect, like decent door pockets, big cup holders and some bins for odds and ends. There's a cluster of control buttons on the dashboard which can take a little bit of learning, and the array of control knobs between the seats means you have to watch yourself to make sure you don't twiddle the wrong one.
There's another controller there - the odd-bod unit that Lexus persists with to control the 12.3-inch media screen. This mouse/joystick style controller is so utterly frustrating to use that it verges on dangerous when you're trying to toggle between screens, because it takes too much concentration. Plus there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and you can't pair Bluetooth devices on the move, or input sat nav instructions at speed, either.
Thankfully, if you hook up your device via USB or wirelessly you can take advantage of the mammoth 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system which I think could be the best in the business.
Boot space varies on how you configure the seats. With the third row in place, there's 259 litres of cargo capacity, which is enough for a week's groceries (and the split tailgate makes it easy to load the bags in, too!).
With the third-row seats folded up out of the way - they electronically release and tuck to the sides of the cabin - there is 1220L of boot capacity. And if you lever the second-row forward there is 2074L of room.
There's a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor.
The cabin presentation and pragmatism is excellent in the new-generation GLE. There was an existing version on site for us to compare, and to say it's like night-and-day would be generous to the old model.
A lot of that comes down to the MBUX twin 12.3-inch screens on top of the dash - one for all the driver instrumentation and controls, and the other for sat nav, media, car controls and other settings. They look great, and there are multiple ways to control them: the steering wheel controls, the touch pad between the front seats, the screen in the middle is touch-capacitive, and there's the much-bragged-about “Hey Mercedes” voice control system.
But it's more than just the screens: the finishes and materials used in the GLE are exceptional. The plastics are excellent, the brushed aluminium treatment that runs the width of the dash with ambient lighting, the surrounds on the vents (oh, so many vents!) - it all works so well together. But the open-pore wood finish is my favourite element, adding a touch of ruggedness that's also plush and luxurious.
The test cars all had the high-end leather treatment and optional bolster-heavy seats, and they're okay, but a little fiddly to adjust. I guess that's the beauty of driver profiles - the car will remember your favourite settings and make the adjustments as you get in or out by detecting the key.
There's also excellent storage throughout - the door pockets in all four doors are huge, there are cupholders front and rear, and loose item storage is decent, too. Plus there are heaps of USB-C (fast charging) ports up front and in the back.
Speaking of the back, the cars at launch all had the seven-seat package, which might appeal to you, or not. It's more than just a couple of seats in the back row, because it includes electric seat adjustment for the second row, with slide and recline functions allowing you to prioritise second- or third-row space.
The space in the second-row with the seats set as far back as they can go is excellent. There's heaps of room for someone my height (182cm) to sit behind a similar sized driver with ample knee room, headroom and shoulder room. You'll be able to fit three adults across the back, or if you have kids, there are three top-tether points and outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchors, too. No child seat restraints in the third row, though.
Whether you choose the five-seat or seven-seat option, the boot space remains the same at 825 litres with five seats in play. All models have an electric tailgate, too.
And if you're curious about the third row, it should be fine for anyone shorter than 175cm for shorter drives. It's not super spacious back there, and should be considered a 5+2 option. Really need a seven-seat Merc? You could get a GLS if you can afford it, or go for a V-Class luxury van. Go on. Do it!
Price and features
It's hard to consider a car that costs $168,089 plus on-road costs as being anything other than expensive, especially when the flagship version of the donor vehicle it's based on costs about 30 per cent less, and some competitors are about half the price.
But you get a lot with the Lexus LX570 S. Like, a lot.
As well as all the hardcore LandCruiser off-road hardware and an extensive safety tech list (see below), and the model specific goodies like the intricate interior trim, body kit and bigger wheels, the features list is lengthy.
There's push-button start, keyless entry, leather seat trim all around, a 12.3-inch media screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming plus DAB digital radio and USB connectivity, a 19-speaker sound system, sat nav, auto-dimming mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats and outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, electric seat adjustment front and middle rows with electric folding rear seats, twin screens in the second row, quad-zone climate control and more.
There are only two colour choices for the LX570 S: 'Sonic Quartz' (the white you see here) or 'Starlight Black'.
One thing that's really neat about the new Mercedes GLE range is that the brand has decided to specify each of the models exactly the same - that makes it simple for consumers, because essentially you're just paying more for a better engine.
That means the extensive standard equipment list is the same whether you choose the 300d entry-level diesel model at $99,900 (plus on-road costs), the mid-range petrol 450 model at $111,341, or the current range-topping six-cylinder diesel 400d at $118,142.
That may seem like a pretty slim range, but you can expect Mercedes-AMG to offer two additional performance-oriented models - the GLE 53 and the GLE 63 S - in 2020. And, for context, the current BMW X5 ranges from $112,990 to $149,900, while the Porsche Cayenne lineup spans from $117,000 to $242,000.
Standard equipment includes the company's MBUX multimedia system with dual 12.3-inch screens, LED lighting with adaptive high beam headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, 360-degree parking camera, colour head-up display, the company's 'Artico' leatherette upholstery with heated front seats, DAB+ digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There are multiple ways to personalise and customise your GLE, but one that's expected to attract a lot of custom is the “7 Seat Package” which adds third-row seats for people up to 180cm tall, and also incorporates electric second row seat adjustment (tilt and slide) and electric seat folding. The pack is $3900.
Other option boxes include the AMG Sport Package ($9900, comprising an AMG bodykit, panoramic roof, wireless phone charging and leather upholstery), the Night Package ($4800, adds black exterior accents), the Vision Package ($4200, including panoramic roof, wireless charging, 13-speaker Burmester sound system) and the Energising Package Plus ($6200, adding multi-contour front seats with massaging, heated armrests, air fragrances).
Engine & trans
Under the bonnet of the LX 570 is a thumping great 5.7-litre V8 engine producing 270kW of power at 5600rpm and 530Nm of torque at a high 3200rpm.
While those engine specs might be really enjoyable in a light, low, two-door coupe, the fact the peak power and torque comes in high in the rev range puts this vehicle at a disadvantage when you consider some German rivals.
A Mercedes-Benz GLS500, for example, has a 4.7-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 which just happens to have more power and torque than the Lexus, with 335kW at 5500rpm and 700Nm across a broad spread from 1800-4000rpm.
The LX570 employs an eight-speed automatic transmission, and it has the Toyota off-road hardware you'll want if you plan to take this bad boy off-road. That means there's a dual-range transmission with a low range transfer case, plus height-adjustable air suspension, a Torsen locking rear differential, and the excellent 'CRAWL' off-road system.
Towing specs are accounted for, too, with a 750kg un-braked towing rating, and the maximum 3.5-tonne capacity for a braked trailer.
If you're curious about the kerb weight of the Lexus LX570 S, it sits at 2740kg, and had a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3350kg, meaning that's the maximum permissible weight... if your family is big-boned, you mightn't be able to fill all eight seats.
Powering the Mercedes-Benz GLE is a selection of engines, with petrol and diesel offered.
The entry-level power plant is the 300d, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with 180kW of power (at 4200rpm) and 500Nm of torque (from 1600-2400rpm). It has a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive as standard.
The range-topping diesel is a thumper. It's the 400d, which runs a 2.9-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder with 243kW of power (at 4000rpm) and 700Nm of torque (from 1200-3000rpm). It also has a nine-speed auto and AWD standard.
The sole petrol model at launch is the 450, which employs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine with 270kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 500Nm (at 1600-4500rpm). It uses a nine-speed automatic transmission with AWD, but this version is the only one with mild-hybrid tech, using 48-volt EQ Boost tech to help add 16kW and 250Nm for short stints of added performance (0-100km/h in just 5.7 seconds, apparently), and allowing the engine to shut off under light throttle or lift-off situations.
If you plan to tow, there's a factory-fit tow pack available that allows 750kg unbraked and 3500kg braked towing across all grades. This pack is the one from the factory - remember that - and it costs $1900. If you instead fit one as an aftermarket fit, the figures are 750kg/2700kg respectively.
Does it really matter? If you're spending this much on a big SUV, you can't expect it to be miserly, and nor would you likely be too bothered about what it costs to refill.
Even so, the claimed fuel use figure - 14.4 litres per 100 kilometres - is high, and there's a pretty good chance you'll see higher than that regularly. And you need to run it on premium unleaded (95 RON).
In daily running we saw roughly 17.5L/100km around town, which settled to about 11.5L/100km on the freeway. If you do a lot of distance driving or country touring, and you're not in a hurry, you might find it to be decently efficient.
Hitch something to the back or head off-road and you'll see the 138-litre fuel tank capacity dissipate rapidly. There's a 93L main tank plus a 45L auxiliary.
And hey, if fuel use does matter to you, check out the LX 450d with its strong 4.5-litre twin-turbo diesel V8, which claims 9.9L/100km.
Fuel consumption varies between the models, as you'd expect.
The 300d is the most frugal of the mix, with an official combined cycle fuel use claim of 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres. The 400d, with its bigger six-cylinder diesel, is said to use 7.7L/100km. The 450 petrol model has the highest claimed fuel use, at 9.1L/100km, and that's despite the fact it's the only version of this trio to bring electrification into the mix with the EQ Boost 48-volt mild hybrid system.
On test at the launch of the GLE we saw a displayed return of 9.4L/100km for the 300d model, but there was a fair bit of country road and highway driving in the mix.
All versions of the GLE are fitted with an 85-litre fuel tank.
Confused is the word that sticks out most to me as a descriptor of the drive experience.
It has all the off-roading hardware you could need under the skin, including adjustable hydraulic suspension so you can raise and lower it when you need to. But I'd be worried about damaging the Quagmire-esque chin of the LX570 S on rough terrain, so there was no off road review conducted of this spec.
But if you want to know how the Lexus LX fares off the beaten track, read our adventure review. Giggity.
As a daily driver, you'd probably be much better off getting a Lexus RX350 L if seven seats will suffice - because that is an inherently more enjoyable SUV to drive, even if it doesn't have the same level of street presence as this big bad boy.
Therein lies the issue. It is big, and doesn't hide its size well - a bit like an elephant trying to hide behind a bath towel in that regard.
The suspension in this spec is assisted by front and rear performance dampers to "improve body rigidity and steering stability", but a few of the reviewers in the office didn't find the latter to be the case. The steering is both heavy and lumpy, with a big turning circle and not a lot of linearity to the way the vehicle pivots.
The ride isn't great, either. The big rims feel heavy when you hit bumps, and while the car resets itself impressively fast if you pass over a speed hump or a road join straight on, when you hit a bump in a corner things feel flummoxed. And never, ever, does it feel sporty to drive.
The brake pedal feels over-assisted, so much so that I warned my partner she might feel car sick on the way home - that's because the mass of this big, heavy vehicle pitches fore and aft over its short wheelbase, and the action of the brake pedal is both grabby and squishy at the same time. It left me bemused.
The engine is refined and pulls decently, but it certainly doesn't feel fast or powerful, even under full throttle - that's an accusation that can be levelled at all of the large V8 Japanese SUVs, but not at the Europeans (Range Rover or Mercedes GLS, for instance).
You will find yourself pressing hard on the throttle pretty regularly, as it can be a little sluggish at low revs. Indeed, the engine does its best work above 3500rpm - that's not really where you want to be spending a lot of time in a family SUV. The eight-speed auto is smooth, though, and offers decent intuition at all speeds.
While the muted surrounds of the cabin makes for great cruising comfort, I would have loved if Lexus offered a sports exhaust for this model - it would certainly have added something positive to the drive experience.
The launch drive was limited to the 300d variant, though I did get a chance to sample the version with air suspension, as well as the model with the standard steel suspension.
Now, before we get too nerdy, this is an important element for a luxury SUV. Ride comfort is arguably as vital as effortless power. And, sadly for the GLE, neither model sets any benchmarks for suspension control and comfort.
The steel-sprung model doesn't have adaptive suspension at all, meaning that it can be bouncy, wobbly, unsettled and stiff all at the same time. The country road I sampled it on showed that the standard suspension offered up a quite nervous experience, never feeling as settled as a luxury SUV really ought to.
The air suspension version is definitely better, but still not as good as a BMW X5, Audi Q7 or VW Touareg. It lacks the body control and comfort that a true luxury SUV ought to offer.
Now, that might matter to you, or it might not. You might think the look of the car - with 20s, 21s or 22s filling the guards - is more important than how it deals with lumps and bumps. But it's our job to tell you how the land lies, and the GLE simply can't match the better SUVs in this segment as a driver's tool.
There is another level of suspension which the CarsGuide team (myself included) hasn't yet had the chance to sample - the E-Active Body Control system, which includes curve-tilting so it can make the car feel level through corners, and a system that'll scan the road ahead to predict bumps and lumps and prime the suspension to deal with it. That system is $13,000... and, while I haven't sampled it yet, it's my hope that it makes all the difference to the GLE.
So, what about the other driving elements? Well the steering is light and accurate, and decently responsive at low speeds or highway pace, and you're never left guessing as to what'll happen.
The engine, too, is decent - a 2.0-litre with 180kW and 500Nm is nothing to be sneezed at - but in a vehicle this large, with a kerb weight of 2165kg, and with a nine-speed automatic taking care of forward progress, it can be a busy engine.
That's because the transmission will shuffle between ratios when you encounter a hill as it doesn't quite have the grunt to simply stick in a gear and tug you along. It's not that big of a deal, and the transmission is smooth enough and pretty hard to catch out, but it is a little less effortless than a six-cylinder would no doubt be.
All in all, I was left wanting more from the drive experience. Maybe the higher-grade models with the highest-grade suspension will prove a better flag waver for the new-generation GLE.
The Lexus LX hasn't received an ANCAP crash test safety rating, but the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series that it's based on scored the maximum five-star rating in 2011 (and that score applies to all models sold from 2015 onwards, according to ANCAP).
It comes well specified in terms of safety technology, with a configurable surround-view camera and reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a head-up display, trailer sway control, adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning and pedestrian detection.
There's a lane departure warning system that works at speeds over 50km/h, and while it can intervene with 'slight pulls' on the steering wheel, it won't hold the vehicle's position in the lane like some other systems.
The LX also has auto high-beam lights, LED headlights and daytime running lights, as well as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
There's an array of airbags - dual front, dual front knee, dual front side, dual rear side, and full length curtain, for a total of 10. And if you need to fit baby seats, there are two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether points in the second row, but none in the third row.
As you'd expect, the Mercedes-Benz GLE has achieved the highest possible five-star ANCAP safety rating under the stricter 2019 criteria. Indeed, the GLE was given the best ever score for child occupant safety.
The GLE is loaded with the safety technology and equipment you would expect. There's auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist (with active lane assist - it will merge into the next lane when you indicate), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera with reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, semi-autonomous parking, and driver fatigue detection.
The GLE has nine airbags (dual front, front side, driver's knee, rear side, full-length curtain).
All GLE models have three top-tether restraints for child seats, and dual ISOFIX anchors in the second row. The seven-seat model has no third-row child restraints.
Lexus doesn't offer a capped-price servicing plan for any of its models, which leaves it as one of the only brands left without such a plan.
And we've been told that a LX570 model will cost you about $615 per visit, and it needs two services per year, with intervals set at six months/10,000km. Expensive.
The four-year/100,000km warranty Lexus offers is below par, too. But you do get roadside assist, and Lexus is renowned for its high standard of customer care - it even offers a collection/delivery service to customers when its time for a service.
If you're curious about LX570 problems, issues, complaints, recalls or reliability concerns, check out our Lexus LX570 problems page.
Mercedes-Benz stands by its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, stating at the launch it has no plans to extend it to match what most of the mainstream brands now offer (five years). But it's not alone in the luxury segment in that regard.
The big point the company's local reps made was that they're trying to lower the cost of ownership for customers through servicing packages. You can pre-pay them, or you can pay as you go (PAYG).
The GLE requires maintenance every 12 months or 25,000km. The pre-pay option is $2700 for the first three years/75,000km of maintenance or, if you decide to PAYG, the costs are $850, $1200 and $1250 (totalling $3300 over the same period). It makes sense to pre-pay then, and you can bundle the cost into your finance, too, so you'll notice it less.
There is three years roadside assist included at no cost if you buy the car brand new, as it coincides with the warranty period.