This year’s New York auto show saw the world premiere of the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLS, with the news that the big luxury SUV is, well, bigger than ever. A 2.4-inch wheelbase stretch sees overall length grow by a similar amount, to 205 inches; the new vehicle is also wider, but the roofline has been lowered to improve aerodynamics and its overall proportions.Styling is much of what you’d expect if you’ve seen any Mercedes launched in the past few years. the twin-bar grille carries over, but as with the also new-for-2020 GLE-class, the headlights and grille opening have been squared off, the taillights slimmed, and the daylight opening reshaped. The overall effect is to visually reduce the GLS’s bulk, and that’s always a change for the better.
The interior also reflects the updates we’ve seen in other Mercedes models of late, with the addition of the MBUX touch-screen interface and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Mercedes’ Interior Assistant supports gesture and voice recognition, the latter with “Hey, Mercedes” digital-assistant functionality, similar to Siri and Alexa. The increased body dimensions translate to more back-seat space with easier access, and the panoramic roof has 50 percent more viewing area.
The GLS gets two new powertrains, both with Mercedes’ EQ Boost mild-hybrid system. The GLS450 is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six that produces 362 horsepower, while the GLS580 gets a 483-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. Both engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic and 4Matic all-wheel-drive, while the 48-volt EQ-Boost system can add 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft for extra push on demand. The lineup roughly mimics that of the GLS’s newest competitor, the BMW X7, which also offers a turbocharged inline-six and a twin-turbo V-8.
The 48-volt electrical system allows the fitment of E-Active body control, a fast-acting air-spring system that allows the spring and damping forces to be independently controlled at each wheel. Among other things, it also means the GLS can bounce itself free should it get bogged down in sand or mud.
As you’d expect, the GLS is home to a plethora of available driver-assistance technology. Active Steering Assist has been modified to work in some situations where road lines are unclear, and to function on tighter curves, giving the GLS semi-autonomous capability. The adaptive cruise control can adjust itself to changing speed limits, and Active Brake Assist will stop the GLS if the driver is about to turn into the path of oncoming traffic. There’s also a “Carwash” button that calms the car’s sensors for a drive-through wash with one touch. And as you can see from the photos, it will be available in a fetching shade of green.
Mercedes has not yet announced pricing, but it has said that the bigger, better GLS will arrive in U.S. dealerships by the end of the year. And if it’s not enough for you, it’s this new GLS that will spawn the forthcoming Mercedes-Maybach SUV due early next year. For more on what’s to come from Mercedes, see our deep-dive story on the brand’s 2019–2022 plans.