Rare beast shows more bite
IN A world filled with hulking SUVs, the Mercedes-Benz GL is a bit like a blue whale. It is an absolute giant, a little shy and rarely seen. The GL sits above the ML in the Benz line-up and comes with a LandCruiser-size body, seven seats, plenty of real-world off-road ability and potential as a towing machine.
Sales are relatively modest in Australia, at fewer than 400 last year, but it has just had a value tweak with the sort of specification upgrade that gives more for the same money.
It sits at the very top of the SUV world and it’s impossible to think of the GL and not also put the Toyota LandCruiser – or its Lexus-badged clone – into the same sentence.
There are also the Audi Q7 and a couple of others.
Benz believes the GL is worth a look by the people who buy into LandCruiser land, even if the price tag for a GL 500 will top $170,000 by the time you get it on the road.
‘‘The luxury isn’t just put on like a veneer over some sort of truck,’’ says David McCarthy, spokesman for Mercedes-Benz in Australia.
He says the GL hit its sales peak during its first year in 2007, but it is being revisited as a potential hero following the upgrade.
‘‘It’s been around for a while and it’s first year was its biggest year. But it’s just had a bit of an update and improvement and we want people to have another look,’’ he says.
‘‘The update is mostly about adding value.’’
The GL is a full seven-seater and has low-range gears, but it also gets a full leather interior, a boom-box sound system, electric assists on everything you like and plenty of safety, including a cabin packed with airbags.
The engine choices are a turbo- diesel and a V8, but the decision is obvious for most people outside ritzy zones in Sydney and Melbourne.
‘‘The majority of cars are delivered with the turbodiesel,’’ Mr McCarthy says.
‘‘It is bought as a family vehicle, and some off-roaders and grey nomads also like it.
‘‘If you look at its rivals, it has a small but loyal market.
‘‘It’s more capable off-road than almost all of its luxury rivals – and it’s great for towing.’’