Lexus RX 350 vs. Mercedes-Benz GLE350

By

Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.


, Contributing Editor - March 17, 2016

Lexus first launched its RX premium crossover SUV back in 1999, and it’s been updated periodically ever since. Over the years, it’s been the company’s most popular model. Now, for 2016, Lexus has given the RX 350 a startling redesign: way more curvaceous and contemporary—perhaps even adventurous—without losing any of its familiar refinement or comfort in the process. An expanded selection of safety features is available.

For the past two decades or so, the M-Class (also called ML) has been a familiar and highly regarded member of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. As of 2016, the M-Class nameplate is gone. Instead, that luxury-crossover SUV carries on with little change as the newly-renamed GLE-Class. Offered with a choice of gas, diesel, or plug-in hybrid powertrain, the GLE retains all the M-Class virtues, including a reputation for available safety features.

See a side-by-side comparison of the RX 350 & GLE350 »

What the Lexus RX 350 Gets Right

Now in its fourth generation, the Lexus midsize crossover promises greater interior space for five passengers, along with its intensely visual alterations. A new eight-speed automatic transmission works with the 3.5-liter V6, which generates 300 horsepower. Suspensions have been retuned to improve responses while retaining ride comfort, and a new adaptive suspension is available. On-pavement performance has taken precedence over off-roading. An F Sport option is offered.

In the more driver-focused cockpit, front occupants get a more open space, and the shift lever is no longer at the instrument panel. Fuel economy isn’t bad for this league, estimated at 20/28 mpg (city/highway), or 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops the figures to 19/26 mpg (22 mpg combined).

What the Mercedes-Benz GLE350 Gets Right

The GLE350 serves as the base model, with a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 developing 302 horsepower, mating with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Gas mileage is estimated at 18/24 mpg city/highway (but only 17/21 mpg with all-wheel drive). Road manners are impressive, and the GLE350 can also manage moderate trail treks—but not serious off-roading. The GLE350 is the only GLE-Class to offer a rear-wheel drive version, but most are likely to have 4Matic.

Four drive modes are available: Individual, Slippery, Comfort, and Sport. Unlike some multi-mode setups in such vehicles, the difference between Sport and Comfort is substantial. Overall, ride comfort ranks as excellent. Mercedes-Benz offers an optional Airmatic and Active Damping suspension. Inside, well-contoured and effectively supportive seats are softly cushioned for comfort.

Can a freshly-reshaped Lexus crossover outrank renamed Mercedes-Benz model?

Both of these contenders in the premium-crossover arena have been around for a long time, promising similar capabilities and comforts, but Lexus has given its entrant a stunning new look.

Our Verdict: Mercedes-Benz GLE350

Though improved in various ways, including technically, the RX 350 seems more focused on appearance than inherent practicality. Since these are SUVs, we’ll vote for the latter—but it’s a close call.

Take a closer look at the Lexus RX 350 »

Take a closer look at the Mercedes-Benz GLE350 »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.