Rare beast shows more bite

The Advertiser - Motoring - - 4WD - PAUL GOVER

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.’’

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