In the European collaborative MEXICO (Model Experiments in Controlled Conditions) project, a series of experiments was carried out on a 4.5 m diameter wind turbine rotor to validate numerical diagnostics tools. Here, some of the measured data are compared with computations of the combined actuator line/Navier–Stokes (AL/NS) model developed at the Technical University of Denmark. The AL/NS model was combined with a large eddy simulation technique and used to compute the flow past the MEXICO rotor in free air and in the DNW German-Dutch wind tunnel for three commonly defined test cases at wind speeds of 10, 15 and 24 m s −1. Two sets of airfoil data were used. Comparisons of blade loadings showed that the AL/NS technique with the modified airfoil data is in better agreement with the measurements than with the original 2D airfoil data. Comparisons of detailed near-wake velocities showed good agreement with the measurements. Computations including the influence of the geometry of the wind tunnel showed that tunnel effects are not significant and the effect of the geometry of the wind tunnel only results in a speedup of 3% at a thrust coefficient of CT = 1.Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.