Numerous comparisons between Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes (RANS) and large-eddy simulation (LES) modeling have already been performed for a large variety of turbulent flows in the context of fully deterministic flows, that is, with fixed flow and model parameters. More recently, RANS and LES have been separately assessed in conjunction with stochastic flow and/or model parameters. The present paper performs a comparison of the RANS k − ε model and the LES dynamic Smagorinsky model for turbulent flow in a pipe geometry subject to uncertain inflow conditions. The influence of the experimental uncertainties on the computed flow is analyzed using a non-intrusive polynomial chaos approach for two flow configurations (with or without swirl). Measured quantities including an estimation of the measurement error are then compared with the statistical representation (mean value and variance) of their RANS and LES numerical approximations in order to check whether experiment/simulation discrepancies can be explained within the uncertainty inherent to the studied configuration. The statistics of the RANS prediction are found in poor agreement with experimental results when the flow is characterized by a strong swirl, whereas the computationally more expensive LES prediction remains statistically well inside the measurement intervals for the key flow quantities.Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.