The Europeans take their luxury SUVs seriously. In addition to coddling passengers around town, they have to perform in the wild alongside the most rugged 4x4s. This no-compromise philosophy has given us exquisitely trimmed, go-anywhere vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GL450 and the Land Rover Range Rover.
Both SUVs were redesigned for 2013 to ensure they remain in lock-step with their heady mission. How does each fare in a head-to-head comparison of virtues?
Why We Like the GL450
Although the new GL looks familiar enough, it's been reworked from the tires up. The Mercedes-Benz is slightly bigger than before, with plenty of room for seven passengers, 93 cubic feet of cargo space, and a newly available power-folding second-row seat. Daimler has succeeded in making the interior environment significantly more inviting. Sharp angles have been smoothed out, and warm-toned wood abounds. The expanded slate of safety and convenience technology offers everything you'd expect in a flagship luxury sedan.
An all-new twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 with 362 horsepower takes the GL from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and enables it to tow up to 7,500 pounds. All models carry the familiar 4MATIC all-time four-wheel drive system, which can be supplemented by an off-road package consisting of adaptive suspension dampers, front underbody protection, and a six-mode terrain selector.
Why We Like the Range Rover
The Range Rover now wears an all-aluminum body for reduced weight, resulting in improved efficiency and acceleration. New electronic displays bring the five-person interior fully up to date without spoiling the classic British ambiance of fine wood and leather.
The 375-horsepower 5-liter V8 is paired with a new eight-speed transmission, a setup that brings the Range Rover to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and returns 20 mpg on the highway. All models feature full-time four-wheel drive with low range and Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which optimizes the SUV's traction for each of five driver-selected conditions. The Range Rover can pull up to 7,700 pounds and handle 72 cubic feet of cargo.
The old English craftsmanship of the Range Rover is something special in the market, which is why it's always been a favorite of the connoisseur class. Those folks might not care that the Mercedes can handle more passengers and cargo, but the majority of full-size SUV buyers will.
Our Verdict: Mercedes Benz GL450
In addition to everything else, the Mercedes offers the luxury of space.