A plush, seven-seat SUV, the Mercedes-Benz GL is as luxurious as any vehicle in its class. In many ways, this massive SUV is as nice inside as Mercedes-Benz’s flagship, the S-class. The top-trim GL550 has standard keyless start, twenty-one-inch wheels, an AMG body kit, and a massive three-pointed star on the grille. The options list includes tech-savvy and creature-comfort items such as a rear-seat DVD system, heated rear seats, radar cruise control, and an off-road package. All GL models ride on an air suspension that is smooth without being floaty. There are three engines: two V-8s and a diesel V-6 that produces more torque than either of the gasoline engines with significantly better fuel economy. Both V-8s offer impressive power, but elsewhere in the Mercedes-Benz lineup they are being replaced with more powerful and more efficient engines. In a year or two, the GL-class will certainly be packing these new powertrains. Regardless, the turbo-diesel would be our first choice were we to buy a GL. Paired with the smart seven-speed automatic transmission, it is responsive and punchy, and from inside the isolated cabin it feels as civilized as a V-8. However, BMW’s X5 xDrive35d and Audi’s Q7 TDI are more affordable, torquier, and less thirsty. The GL’s advantages over those two are its larger cabin and butch looks, if that’s your thing.
Trim levels: GL350 BlueTec, GL450, GL550
Body style: SUV, 7-passenger
Engines: 3.0L turbo-diesel V-6, 210 hp, 400 lb-ft
4.7L V-8, 335 hp, 339 lb-ft
5.5L V-8, 382 hp, 391 lb-ft
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 143.4 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 7500 lb; cargo (behind third/middle/front seats) 14.3/43.8/83.3 cu ft
The relatively new GL-class receives minor updates for 2012, having received a face-lift last year. The rearview camera gets guidance lines, LED daytime running lights are now standard for all models, and there have been small changes made to the interior.
ABS; dual-stage front, front and second-row side, side curtain, and driver’s knee air bags; a tire-pressure monitoring system; and traction and stability control are standard. Blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera, and swiveling headlights are optional.
All: 12-17 mpg city/17-21 mpg highway
- Cavernous interior
- Sumptuous cabin
- Poised ride
- Coupe has humble roots
- Mediocre fuel economy
- Limited cargo room behind third row
The plus-size SUV.
- Audi Q7
- BMW X5
- Infiniti QX56
- Lexus LX570