Originally destined to replace the G series, the GL is too civilized to replace the aging G series when it comes to off road prowess. The GL joins the ranks of Mercedes produces that are built in the USA. Specifically, the Alabama plant that also produces the M and R classes. The mass produced, unibody for the GL is shared with those other two models, though on the road, the vehicles have a distinctively different feel which keeps the models separate at least for the person behind the wheel.

The engine choices for the GL are a 4.7 liter V-8 for the GL 450. A 3.0 liter turbo diesel powers the GL 350 Blue TEC. The top of the line GL 550 gets its motivation from. A 5.5 liter 382 HP V-8. All engines send their power through a seven speed automatic transmission. All models come with adjustable air bag suspension and all-wheel drive, regardless of the engine that is chosen.

While a fairly pricey entry into this segment, the GL accommodates with its luxury appointments, spacious cabin, and more carlike ride than some of the competitor’s.

Bodystyles: SUV
Engines: 3.0L V-6, 4.7L V-8, 5.5L V-8
Transmissions: 7-speed automatic
Models: GL350 BlueTEC 4Matic, GL450 4Matic, GL550 4Matic

There are only minor changes for 2011. The 382-horsepower GL550 gains a restyled front bumper. All models get a rearview mirror with integrated compass, what the company refers to as saddle-style second- and third-row head restraints, and the option of blind-spot assist. Another new option is the next generation of telematics, called mbrace, which includes safety and convenience features.

Boxier than the M-Class but not as cubic as the G, the GL is the largest SUV Mercedes-Benz offers, at 200.6-inches long, and comes with 19-, 20-, or 21-inch wheels and tires.

Three-row seating is standard, with the option of a power-folding third row; the cabin also uses real wood trim. A panoramic sunroof also comes standard. Options include three-zone climate control, rear-seat entertainment system, and much more.

The engine with the least horsepower is also the one with the most torque — the 3.0-liter turbodiesel’s 400 pound-feet of torque is nine more than the GL550 offers. Steering is linear in the GL, transmission is excellent, and the big SUV does surprisingly well in turns. It weighs nearly 5,500 pounds, yet only takes 6.5 seconds to reach 60 mph and requires 129 feet to stop from that speed.

Nine airbags are standard on the GL-Class — including three-row window curtains — as are stability control, traction control, disc brakes with ABS and brake assist. Also standard are Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system with active front head restraints.

GL320 BlueTEC 4Matic: 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway
GL450 4Matic: 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway
GL550 4Matic: 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway

  • Good handling
  • Fantastic, quiet diesel
  • Excellent acceleration
  • Useable third row

  • Not as off-road capable as competition
  • Confusing switchgear
  • Small side mirrors

Good compromise between track and trail

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  • Land Rover LR4
  • Lexus LX 570
  • BMW X5
  • Infiniti QX56

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