Thank you for the regular motoring advice you provide through your column. I am planning to do a 2,000 kilometre road trip one way, so about 4,000 kilometres return, on good roads with my wife and two children. I need to choose between a 2016 Mercedes GLE 350d and a 2010 Range Rover Vogue Autobiography for the trip. The Range Rover though has a more commanding driving position and I think for such a long drive may be a wiser choice. The Mercedes is significantly newer and therefore more tech with niceties like adaptive cruise control and steering assist. That both of these cars are diesel in fuel consumption is not an issue. Which would you say is preferable in terms of safety and comfort?
Interesting choice you have to make. These are dilemmas a lot of us would like to have. So now:
We will use Euro NCAP standings since these are Euro trucks. The Range gets a score of four out five stars for adult occupant protection, which doesn't sound half bad, but woe unto any jaywalkers who stumble into the path of the L322 for they shall be introduced brutally to the full implication of a 1-star pedestrian safety rating. It is so ignominious that the full Euro NCAP safety report (which I have) included these two phrases in different paragraphs:
a)"… but, unfortunately, the level of protection given to pedestrians proved to be dire …"
b)" … three sites out of 18 tested on the vehicle's front gave any protection. This is dire, and Land Rover needs to improve matters …" Now, it's not a good look when your vehicle is described as "dire" twice in the same report.
The GLE is more meritorious. For one, it was tested more thoroughly and trounced the L322 in both adult protection (a near-perfect score of 96 per cent) and pedestrian safety (60 per cent).
Child occupant safety, which should be of particular interest to you, stands at 75 per cent while safety assistance is at 86 per cent.
This is such a clear win, I don't think I need to quote any phrases from the report. But I must say, it is a glowing report.
Range Rovers are known for their dominance of the luxury SUV market and with a good reason.
They are extremely comfortable owing to extensive use of air suspension.
Well, the GLE too packs air suspension, and it may be smoother than the Range Rover, more so given their age difference.
But what the Range Rover does to stay ahead is wage psychological warfare in the form of style. The L322's interior is a timeless classic.
It was upstaged by the less fussy and more luxurious accoutrements (or lack thereof since restraint is the epitome of class) in the L405 (the current successor), but while the L405 is classy, the L322 is classic.
There is a difference. In the L405, you could be in any of JLR's myriad presentations, an affliction that also extends to the GLE — you could be in a B Class for all you know.
In the L322, there is no mistaking that you are in a Range Rover.
You are right, the GLE is a lot newer and will therefore pack a lot more tech in it. While the Range Rover may have a more commanding driving position, it may not necessarily be a better drive.
You see, the L322 had a problem with its weight and height, which meant cornering was a bit of an adventure.
Body roll was a clear and present challenge once a corner appeared. It felt good driving a Range Rover because it was a goddamn Range Rover, not because the driving dynamics were any good.
[The 5.0 supercharged V8 version was especially fearsome to helm. Too much power, too much weight, too much roll, too much roar; it was a car of superlatives not all of which were good. I didn't like it that much. What I liked was the 44 litre diesel V8. That was an L322 that almost made sense and is something I would buy if my economic status improved but not enough to buy a brand new Range Rover.]
The Range Rover is overweight, but it is also over-talented for the task.
There are four of you and you will be driving on good roads, so you don't need the Range Rover's admittedly expansive resume.
The GLE is good enough — it's why it is made anyway, for tarmac, while the Range Rover is designed to crash through briar and traverse meadows with ease. It is thus overqualified for this trip.
I'm not sure you want a diesel Merc. Sure, there is torque aplenty and fuel economy is excellent, but all it takes is the smallest impurity in the fuel going into the tank — and there will be plenty of this if you are planning to do a 4,000km journey — to turn your road trip into a flatbed-infested nightmare.
The diesel Range Rover seems more suited on this end — and I've done plenty of road trips in diesel Range Rovers, but there is still a catch in there somewhere:
Land Rovers are known to take you places. They are not known to bring you back. At nine years old, you may be looking at something that is starting to show its knickers.
It is a huge gamble, especially on such a lengthy trip. The much newer Mercedes is safer choice as far as taking risks is concerned.
Just try and overlook the diesel and consider a petrol engine — the GLE350. It is smoother, quieter, faster and more reliable, a little thirsty but come on, you are cross-shopping a Range Rover and a GLE Mercedes so the fuel shouldn’t be a headache.