New Range Rover vs BMW iX vs Mercedes G-Class
The iconic Range Rover has been renewed, but does this latest iteration have the right stuff? To find out, we’re pitting it against disparate luxury SUV rivals from BMW and Mercedes...
New Range Rover D350 HSE
List price £108,775
Target price £108,775
New iteration of Land Rover’s flagship luxury SUV promises improved comfort and efficiency without sacrificing its famous off-road ability. We’re testing it in its most powerful diesel guise.
BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport Edition
List price £107,305
Target price £106,241
Range-topping version of BMW’s electric luxury SUV has far more power than its diesel rivals, plus an impressive official range.
Mercedes G-Class 400d AMG Line Premium Plus
List price £123,500
Target price £123,500
Charming old-school 4x4 combines a luxurious interior with serious off-road skills, but it’s the most expensive here. Can it compete with its more road-biased rivals?
You could say that these cars depict the past, present and future of luxury SUVs. Each of them serves up the desirability and first-class opulence that buyers demand, and none would look out of place in a music video or outside the most exclusive designer store, but the way they do things couldn’t be more different.
The present is represented by our newest contestant: the Range Rover. It may look familiar, but it’s all new and armed with a longer list of promises than a politician’s election campaign, pledging greater refinement, interior comfort and driver appeal than its predecessor. We’re testing it in standard-length form with five seats, in mid-spec HSE trim, with the D350 diesel engine.
Standing for tradition is the Mercedes G-Class. However, its boxy looks conceal a sumptuous interior with plenty of technology. And although its underpinnings are a little rudimentary by today’s standards, if a feeling of invincibility forms part of your definition of luxury, this old-school 4x4 offers that in spades. We’ve gone for the most sensible model, the G400d diesel, and the only trim it’s available with: AMG Line Premium Plus.
And the future? The BMW iX is the most forward-looking take on the luxury SUV here, with its radical styling, electric propulsion and high-tech construction. This is the current range-topping xDrive50 version, which comes only in high-spec M Sport Edition trim. But can its brave new world beat time-honoured convention?
To find out, we’re subjecting all three to the equally challenging environs of busy city and rugged quarry. The car that best shrugs off both ordeals without passing the stress on to its occupants, wins.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Both the Range Rover and G-Class are powered by 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engines with more than enough power to satisfy most buyers. The Range Rover’s 345bhp output may be slightly higher than the G-Class’s 325bhp, but the latter scurries from 0-60mph quicker, in 6.3sec. The Range Rover isn’t too far behind, but its 6.6sec sprint isn’t helped by an eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s noticeably less punchy when changing up the gears than the G-Class’s nine-speed equivalent.
The iX is simply in another league when it comes to sheer pace. With a whopping 516bhp in total from its two electric motors, it rockets from 0-60mph in 4.4sec, despite being the heaviest car here. Factor in its instant power delivery and the absence of any gearchanges and the iX is effortlessly quick, whether you’re diving for a gap in town or sprinting down a motorway slip road.
The iX’s efficiency of 2.7 miles per kWh in our test equates to a theoretical range of 284 miles from a fully charged battery. That’s impressive for an electric car, but the two diesel contenders can take you a lot farther before you’re forced to stop and refuel; both offer a range of more than 500 miles. You can expect the battery range from the iX to wane in colder winter conditions, too.
Throw a few corners into the journey and the iX feels the most composed. Its firmer suspension and lower centre of gravity (due to its low-slung battery) help it to contain body lean better than either rival. It also generates the most grip, while relatively light yet direct steering helps you position the car instinctively.
There’s plenty of body lean in the Range Rover, but it’s not an excessive amount, so it avoids feeling overly top heavy. However, its light steering doesn’t gain much weight in corners, so there’s little sense of connection with the front wheels. While it makes low-speed driving effortless, it’s not the most confidence-inspiring set-up for a twisting country road.
With the least grip and the slowest steering response, the G-Class feels decidedly wallowy in this company. And because its electronic stability control is eager to cut engine power as soon as you attempt to push on, the G-Class is at its happiest at a slower pace.
The iX and Range Rover also have an advantage when it comes to low-speed manoeuvrability, thanks to four-wheel steering systems that trim down their turning circles. As a result, they’re a doddle to navigate around tight corners, reducing the fear of clipping any wheels or bumpers when threading through narrow streets or multi-storey car parks.
In fact, the Range Rover’s system is effective enough to shrink its turning circle to just 10.9m; for context, the much smaller Volkswagen T-Roc needs 11.1m. The G-Class, with its 13.6m turning circle, struggles in tight spots; expect a typical three-point turn to become a four or five-point one.
The iX and Range Rover both have air suspension. It’s superbly supple in the latter, although you still feel bumps through the seats as you pass over them. There’s also a hint of body float over undulating roads, but you can switch into Dynamic driving mode to firm up the suspension enough to reduce this, without resulting in a brittle ride. By contrast, the iX has the firmest ride in this group, but because it’s extremely well controlled, it always feels composed and never proves tiring.
Meanwhile, the relatively soft G-Class, which uses conventional springs, deals with bigger lumps quite well at slow speeds. However, the ride gets very busy on scruffy surfaces at higher speeds; you’ll be bobbing up and down in your seat with your head being thrown from side to side.
When it comes to noise levels, the iX has an in-built advantage because it’s electric, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it is the most hushed of our trio by a noticeable margin. There’s hardly any electric motor whine, while wind and road noise are so well muted on the motorway that you’ll just hear the odd muted thump from the big tyres.
Engine noise in both the G-Class and Range Rover is well suppressed by diesel standards, and while wind noise around the front windscreen is noticeable in the latter car, it’s far more pronounced in the G-Class due to its more upright glass. The G-Class also generates more road noise and transmits more engine vibration through its seats.
Head off the beaten track and the Range Rover is not only the most capable performer but also the easiest to set up for traversing rough terrain. Simply twist the Terrain Response dial to select the type of surface you’ll be tackling and the car automatically tailors its settings to maximise traction, comfort and performance. You can also adjust the differential locks (to further boost traction) and driving aids (such as cameras and wade sensors) via the infotainment screen.
The G-Class is a little less sophisticated, with physical buttons to lock the diffs and engage the low-range gearbox. And, with no air suspension, you can’t raise the ride height like you can in the iX and Range Rover. That said, the G-Class only occasionally scraped its belly on our off-road test route, whereas the low-slung iX felt out of its depth over rough terrain. Should you need to tackle a river crossing, the Range Rover’s 900mm wading depth beats the G-Class’s by 200mm.
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