Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d

A facelift keeps the big Benz tick­ing

Evo India - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Varun Kulka­rni

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

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