G-whiz, Mercedes-Benz has finally given its lineup of SUVs logical names. The list now reads GLA, GLC, GLE, and GLS to align with the A-, C-, E-, and S-Class sedans, coupes, and wagons. Their common “G” is inherited from Mercedes’ G-Wagen, the popular and hot-selling Geländewagen, a favorite of the moneyed and militaries for more than three decades.
As with some of the well-to-do set, the GLS takes on the new model moniker with a facelift and a little rework out back. With just a glance at the SUV’s nose, there was never any doubt the GLS is a Mercedes, but now it’s a bit more in your face. The star is larger with a bright surround, while the horizontal slats are slotted. Headlamps take on a somewhat feline look, and the scoops below them are reshaped. You have the option of a prominent chrome chin or no chin at all with just a large, black intake.
By comparison, the rear alterations are minor, a bit of work on the bumpers and making the taillights LEDs. You can spiff up the exterior with the likes of optional running boards and AMG alloy wheels.
With these changes, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS is more imposing, as you’d expect for what Mercedes boasts is “the only full-fledged seven-seater in the European premium SUV segment.”
To get a sense of its size, consider: the GLS550 is 1.9 inches shorter, 1.6 inches lower, and 2.5 inches narrower than a Cadillac Escalade on a wheelbase that is 5.1 inches longer than the Caddy’s. The German is 262 pounds lighter compared to the American SUV.
Those seated up front who know the old GL/GLS will find revisions, such as a center console updated with the possibility of a touchpad, while the 8-inch screen sits about right: high and just below the line of sight and with no serious glare problems. All this is in a nicely luxurious setting, with seats that have something of an overstuffed look to them, just enough brightwork to be attractive and not gaudy, plus a variety of materials and trims.
GLS drivers will find themselves behind a new three-spoke steering wheel, and should they be the sort who loves to push buttons and use switches, the interior layout will be pure heaven: We counted around 80 possible controls to manipulate. Some will see this as all the features they could want within easy reach. Others might find the layout a sea of similar size and color buttons with a typeface that’s a bit too small.
While the GLS will handle seven passengers, the interior is also designed to be a utility worker. Both rear row seatbacks are split, the way-backs folding electrically. The second row is divided 40/60, the seatbacks also foldable for a flat-load floor. With just the third row down, carrying capacity is upped to 49.4 cubic feet, but drop the second row too and you have 93.8 cu ft.
We recall when the diesel engine option upped a new car’s price, but the GLS350d is the least expensive in the lineup at $67,975. This diesel is a 3.0-liter, 24-valve turbo V-6 with 255 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm. Like any good modern diesel, it is both smooth and quiet. Inside you won’t hear the traditional diesel clatter. Stand next to the GLS350d, and the sound is so subdued it could be coming from an old-fashioned diesel car parked four or five parking slots away.
Mercedes pegs the diesel’s 0-60 time at 7.7 seconds, which in historical terms means this luxo SUV will outrun a classic 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. If you start from a standstill and nail the throttle, there’s a momentary pause followed by a momentary run-up of the turbo, and then the tach needle leaps to just past 4,000 rpm, the gearbox upshifts, and the needle whips to the right again. It’s fun and enough to make you chuckle.
There are two gasoline-fired versions offered, the GLS450 at $69,625 and the $94,775 GLS550. The 450 also has a 3.0-liter V-6, here with a pair of turbos, and 362 hp at 5,250-6,000 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 to 4,500 rpm. Opt for the GLS550 with 4.7-liter twin turbo V-8 and get 449 hp at 5,250-5,500 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque between 1,800 and 3,500 rpm.
Expect 60 mph in 6.5 seconds with the GLS450 and 5.2 driving the GLS550. We have mileage numbers of 17/22 mpg city/highway for the 450, while the EPA is yet to announce numbers for the other two. All of the models have a nine-speed automatic, 4MATIC all-wheel drive, and a top speed electronically trimmed to 130 mph.
Also on the standard equipment list is an air suspension plus electronic aids that have your back if you are sleepy, in a strong crosswind, nailing the brakes, or about to have a crash. Optionally they can also help you maintain your distance from the vehicle ahead, detect pedestrians, watch for cross traffic, help you parallel park, keep you in your lane of traffic, check your blind spots, and clean your windshield without all the messy spray thanks to Mercedes’ Magic Vision Control wiper system.
In more baby steps toward autonomous cars there are the connectivity capabilities of Mercedes Me Connect. This helps with everything from emergency needs to Remote Online, which uses your cell phone to keep you in touch with any number of elements. The system can, for instance, tell you where you parked your GLS, or how about this: You’re having dinner in Paris, and you suddenly wonder — as you often have — what the tire pressures are. Are the windows down? No need to worry, the answers are a phone call away.
We have a hard time imagining a GLS being used off-road, but there is an Off-Road Engineering option. This involves the intervention of the transmission and center differential for low-speed driving and gives the air suspension the ability to provide a 12.5-inch ground clearance and ford streams up to a depth of 23.6 inches. There’s a wisecrack here about breaching the fountain in front of a Nordstrom’s, but we’re not going there.
All these features come in handy when you’re just cruising, something the GLS does with aplomb. There’s a smooth, quiet ride, a comfy ambiance, and an excellent sound system.
Should you get on a twisty two-laner and want to enjoy the GLS’s other character, it can be rather satisfying. Remember you’re sitting tall in a large, 5,578-pound vehicle that wasn’t intended for Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg. Still, this big boy can be enjoyable. For non-slippery surfaces you have the option of Sport, Comfort, or Individual settings for the suspension. We found it best to just go with the Sport setting for all occasions, city or country, for ride or roughhousing. Steering effort suits the occasion, and while the GLS leans a bit more than we’d like, it’s all fun and quite controllable.
We’ve already mentioned prices, but those are only starting points. For instance, the GLS350d we tested came in at $76,100, and we’d hate to have to delete any of the optional features. The GLS550 rounded out to a little more than $102,000. The option list is, to say the least, extensive and tempting.
Mercedes tells us the non-diesel GLS models will be in dealerships later this spring while the diesels are on tap for summertime.
2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Specifications
|On Sale:||Late spring (GLS450, GLS550); summer (GLS350d)|
|Price:||$67,975 (GLS350d); $69,625 (GLS450); $94,775 (GLS550 4MATIC) (base)|
|Engine:||3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve diesel V-6/255 hp @ 3,400 rpm, 457 lb-ft @ 1,600-2,400 rpm; 3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/362 hp @ 5,250-6,000 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 1,800-4,500 rpm; 4.7L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/449 hp @ 5,250-5,500 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 1,800-3,500 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||17/22 mpg (city/hwy) (GLS450)|
|L x W x H:||202.0 x 76.1 x 72.8|
|Weight:||5,335-5,578 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH:||5.2-7.7 sec|
|Top Speed:||130 mph|