The Mercedes-Benz S-class is the global-summit delivery vehicle for diplomats and business leaders from around the world. Here in the land of the SUV, however, we need something bigger and taller to fit our collective driving psyche. The GL-class is our S-class, able to comfortably and luxuriously transport up to seven adults across vast Montana ranches or along Wall Street.
This is the first model year for the second-generation GL, which explains why we added the luxury SUV to our Four Seasons fleet. Unlike the homegrown Cadillac Escalade, the GL rides on a unibody platform, derived from the smaller M-class and stretched to accommodate three rows of seats. We chose the middle of three models, the GL450, at a $1500 premium over the "base" GL350 Bluetec turbo-diesel. The GL550 is a step up, adding equipment and boosting the GL450's 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8 by 67 hp for another $23K. The bat-guano-crazy GL63 AMG, with a 550-hp, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, was added to the lineup most recently and comes with a sticker price of $117,830. Cue Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
Key standard equipment for our steel gray (a $720 paint option) GL450 includes height-adjustable air suspension, nineteen-inch aluminum wheels, a power sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a CD/DVD player, a power liftgate, heated front seats, roof rails, and the Mbrace2 wireless connection, which includes a trial subscription.
We added a $1620 black leather interior (MB-Tex, Benz's euphemism for "vinyl," is standard), along with a panoramic sunroof ($1090), a heated steering wheel ($225), a trailer hitch ($550), blind-spot monitoring with lane-keeping assist ($850), a parking assistance package ($1290), and a lighting package with active xenon headlamps ($1290). The $5850 Premium 2 package adds (take a deep breath) auto-dimming sideview mirrors, navigation, voice control, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, SiriusXM satellite radio with a six-month subscription, multicolor interior ambient lighting, illuminated front doorsills, soft-close doors, and keyless entry and ignition. By bravely foregoing massaging seats and an appearance package, we kept the bottom line to $78,290.
Is it worth $100 fill-ups at the gas station to have all this in the S-class of SUVs? We've got four seasons to find out.