BIG BENZ THAT DELIVERS
Size matters but new-look SUV is an impressive machine, CRAIG DUFF writes
SIZE rather than sumptuousness is the link between the newly renamed Mercedes-Benz GLS and company’s S-Class flagship.
This is a large luxury SUV with hugely impressive refinement in terms of noise body control but it simply can’t match the sedan’s benchmark levels comfort and convenience. Get over that expectation there’s a lot to like about big Benz.
It will genuinely carry seven adults and still have room for couple of cases, it rides goes far better than something this size should and it has a monstrous three-pointed star on the grille to let the world know this is an imposing vehicle.
This is essentially a facelifted version of GL range, but Mercedes has rebadged all its SUVs to tie them in with their hatch or sedan siblings: GLA to A-Class, GLC C etc.
As such, the changes are largely superficial on outside, though the interior a few new techno-toys keep abreast of competition, including touchpad top of dial used to control upgraded infotainment system.
The nine-speed auto helps quell fuel use in most situations but is also more than willing to hang on to a gear when the driver — or drive mode — is in right setting.
Steering is light at city speeds and belies fact you are piloting 2.5 tonne machine. The 12.4m turning circle isn’t going to be a high in tight backstreets but comparable with an Audi Q7.
Seven-seat SUVs should not able to run down road trains the ease of the GLS 500 Carsguide tested.
The official 100km/h time of 5.3 seconds is eye-opening but the twinturbo V8’s mid-range acceleration when looking to overtake is more impressive still.
Standard gear on 500 includes heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row pews, a digital TV tuner
sunroof. The seats are snug supportive but lack the pillowy headrests found on S Class. Still, this $162,000 SUV is $100,000 cheaper than an S500, so you can’t be too critical.
Accessing second row of seats is a cinch but it takes a little manoeuvring to slip into the back two seats. Once there, head and legroom is more reasonable, making GLS practical people-mover (as distinct from kiddie carrier) should the need arise.
Benz says standard has some off-road ability. Those who insist on taking a luxury car into scrub should option Off-Road Experience pack that uses the air suspension to help big SUV traverse serious obstacles. I’m guessing there won’t be huge take-up rate …
Fuel use is entirely dependent on the driver’s right foot. It is possible to come close claimed 11.3 litres/100km consumption — we saw 12.1 litres but more aggressive driving on winding roads can push fuel use into the high teens. The GLS 350d is sale for those who intended to log decent mileage in their SUV and its 3.0-litre diesel turbo uses a claimed 7.6 litres/100km.
Grip outstanding the wet you’d have to be maniac to find the limits on a dry road. You can feel weight wanting push straight on through the turns but it is tamed by suspension and all-wheel drive.
The fit finish as you’d expect in a car at this price loaded with active safety software from adaptive cruise control to active blind spot and lane-keeping assist, crosswind compensation, autonomous emergency braking, “intelligent” LED headlamps auto braking for pedestrians traffic passing behind the GLS when reversing.
The car hasn’t been officially crashtested yet but five stars is likely.
Call it what you like, the GLS delivers. versatility of big SUV is endears it: it can be a people mover, load lugger, light off-roader or the family taxi and performs each role with distinction.
The improvements may minor but they enhance what is an impressive machine.