In Depth

Mercedes-Benz G-Class vs. Range Rover: which is the best luxury SUV?

The German SUV has had a hi-tech overhaul but can it dethrone its British counterpart?

There’s only a month to go before Mercedes-Benz’s new G-Class SUV hits the showrooms and there’s one question on all the critics’ lips. How does it stack up up against its key rival – the Range Rover?

The G-Class, originally known as the G-Wagen, has had only a handful of changes since it first launched back in 1979. While sportier and more luxurious versions of the SUV have been created in the car’s four-decade history, the G-Class has lagged behind its rivals over the last few years.

All this changed at the Detroit Motor Show in January when Mercedes-Benz took the covers off an all-new version of its G-Class SUV. 

Despite retaining many elements of the original car’s boxy design, the latest model comes equipped with hi-tech features and numerous chassis improvements. These innovations have been plucked from the German carmaker’s range of opulent saloon vehicles. 

But the G-Class SUV faces stiff competition from Britain’s Range Rover, which has long been considered the best off-roader money can buy.

Here’s how the two compare and which will be crowned king of the luxury SUVs:

How much do they cost?
Mercedes G-Class 2018

A Range Rover in entry-level Vogue trim will set customers back £81,900, which is cheaper than the Autocar’s estimated on-sale price of the G-Class G350d at £94,000. 

Both models can be specced well-above the £100,000 mark for those with money to spend. The most expensive Range Rover on offer at the moment is the long-wheelbase SVAutobiography at £168,570. 

Meanwhile, range-topping G63 models fettled by Mercedes’s performance arm AMG undercut the SVAutobiography by £43,265. 

What are they like inside?
Mercedes G-Class 2018

Though the new Mercedes off-roader’s exterior looks, which hark back to the original G-Class from 1979, are “endearingly retro, Auto Express describes the car’s cabin as “thoroughly contemporary.”

Buyers get the same “vast cross-dash touchscreen infotainment system” as the company’s latest saloon and hatchback models, the magazine notes. This includes a “state-of-the-art sat-nav” and digital dials to control the infotainment system. 

The Range Rover is hardly lacking in hi-tech gadgetry either. 

Drivers get a three screens in the off-roader, comprising of a sat nav screen above the centre console, a climate control menu below it and a digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, says Top Gear

There’s plenty of “glam” in the Range Rover, too, as passengers in the rear are treated to reclining chairs, a “gesture-controlled” sun blind and overall “top-quality materials” throughout the cabin, the website says. 

What are they like on - and off - the road?

It’s unlikely that those who opt for the G-Class will “use the car to anything like its full terrain-conquering potential”, but Autocar says the SUV’s diesel motor is more than up to the task of the demands of off-road driving. 

Mercedes has also worked hard on improving the car’s handling over its predecessor, and the differences are noticeable, the magazine adds. The G-Class is “still very much a car with a high and peripatetic centre of gravity”, while bumps and potholes can also send jolts through to the cabin. 

The Range Rover may have the G-Class beat on handling and ride comfort. “The Range Rover has been designed to cope with surfaces that resemble the moon, so even the worst British roads don’t pose much of a problem”, says WhatCar?.

Air suspension is standard across the Range Rover lineup, providing a “mix of supple ride and body control” that surprises even the most luxurious saloon car, adds the reviews site. 

The Verdict

It appears that Mercedes-Benz has upped its game with the new G-Class. 

Autocar says that the ride and engine improvements culminate in a driving experience that, “for the first time in a 40-year existence, the G-Class is something normal people, doing normal things, could happily live with.”

Granted, the Range Rover is a more “comfortable” and “sophisticated”, but the G-Class is no longer the “stupid” option out of the two that it once was.

“For a select few, there is nothing quite like the G-Wagen”, says Auto Express. Thankfully, the new car in G350d trim gives drivers “bags of old-school appeal, matched to decent performance along with reasonable efficiency.”

While the G-Class’s retro charm cannot be matched by its rival, the Range Rover’s lavish interior and smooth ride quality suggests it stays at the top of the luxury SUV pile.

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