Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d
A facelift keeps the big Benz ticking
II KNOW THE GL better than the back of my hand. I’ve driven it to the Sahara, on the slopes of a Nicaraguan volcano and even to Vandana supermarket in Pune. I’ve spent serious man hours behind its wheel and slept like a baby on its rear seat and that is why I know that the GLS is an improvement on the GL. Not a huge improvement mind you, just enough to stretch its shelf life till Mercedes-Benz develops an all-new one.
So what’s new in this one? Well, the name for starters. The GLS comes from Merc’s new naming system and since the GL is the S-Class of the SUV range, it becomes the GLS. The 350 stands for a creamy, excellent and extremely waftable V6 and the ‘d’ is for diesel, stupid.
What you should know is that the facelift brings with it a couple of important updates. The GLS now gets five selectable driving modes that affect the way the transmission, suspension and steering behaves. You get Comfort, Sport, Slippery, Individual and Off-road and I’ll get to the nuances in a bit. The cabin also gets a nip and tuck along with some new equipment, full LED headlamps included, and it all comes for `80.38 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune)
When you use that foot board and haul yourself up into the driver’s seat, you are greeted with the same high quality, double-stitched leather interior that you got in the old GL. The difference here is that the GLS gets a standalone 8-inch infotainment screen on the centre console and Merc’s latest COMAND system with its slicker graphics. There’s the de-facto new steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, 360-degree cameras and an auto park assist. It also has the ability to make you very lazy – the third row folds electrically as do the butterfly windows for the third row and the tailgate.
The engine remains the same as before – it makes 258bhp and 620Nm of torque and it is a very sweet motor. What helps it here is that it drives all wheels via Merc’s 9G-Tronic torque converter automatic. The two extra ratios over the old gearbox in the GL gives it some pep in the sense that where the GL was a bit slow to downshift and take off, the GLS is much quicker at responding to your requests for bursts of power. The engine is very refined as always, will propel the GLS to 100kmph in around 8 seconds which, isn’t as quick as a Q7. Ignore the numbers however and you will find that it performs very well for a 2.4-tonne SUV and the engine seems to have great reserves of torque, no matter what speed you are at.
Like the GL, the GLS rides really well and in ‘comfort’ mode, it’s like a couple of marshmallows slip into the suspension struts. At low speeds this is brilliant because the GLS irons out everything (except really sharp bumps) but, adds some float and wallow into the equation. I preferred the individual mode with the steering set in ‘comfort’ and the suspension and engine set in ‘sport’. This way, there’s no unnecessary weight to the steering, the suspension is comfortable but tighter and the engine responds quicker.
Other reasons that make the GLS stand out over other seven-seat luxury liners is the sheer space inside. The cabin is huge and even the third row is comfortable enough to seat two adults over short journeys. The middle row (where most GLS owners are likely to spend time) is more comfortable than the Q7’s so if you plan to be chauffeur driven all the time, this is a good bet.
The GL has always been an elegant and comfortable Benz and the GLS is no different. Sure, it doesn’t feel as cutting edge as the new Audi Q7 and the interiors now remind you of a leather bar as opposed to the Volvo XC90’s touchscreen everything, but what you do get with the GLS is a big, gentle and relaxed giant and that is exactly what makes it special.
The new nine-speed automatic makes the GLS a bit quicker to respond to throttle inputs
Top: Most of the cosmetic changes are to the nose. Left: Cabin gets mildly refreshed and more equipment. Below: Cool graphic that displays different info depending on what driving mode is selected
1: Hardly any difference to the rear except for the LED taillamps. 2: Badge shows Merc’s new naming scheme. 3: Drive mode selector