BIG BENZ THAT DE­LIV­ERS

Size mat­ters but new-look SUV is an im­pres­sive ma­chine, CRAIG DUFF writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

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.

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