Wheels (Australia) - - CONTENTS - CAMERON KIRBY

Big­ger, beefier third-gen puts a rocket un­der seven seats

Model Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d En­gine 2925cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v, turbo-diesel Power 243kW @ 3600-4000rpm Torque 700Nm @ 1200-3000rpm Trans­mis­sion 9-speed au­to­matic Weight 2490kg 0-100km/h 6.3sec (claimed) Econ­omy 7.7L/100km Price $153,300 On sale Now

MERCEDES-BENZ has taken the au­to­mo­tive phe­nom­e­non of ‘seg­ment creep’ to the ex­treme with its new GLS, stretch­ing the large SUV by 77mm com­pared to the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion and bring­ing its to­tal length to 5207mm. Of that ex­tra length, 60mm has been added di­rectly be­tween the wheels, for a wheel­base of 3135mm.

Why? To make the GLS one of the most prac­ti­cal ve­hi­cles for cart­ing a large num­ber of peo­ple (and their lug­gage) this side of a peo­ple-mover.

Pow­er­ing the GLS is a choice of two 3.0-litre straight-six tur­bocharged en­gines, which send power to all four wheels via a nine-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. The GLS 450 starts the two-vari­ant range at $146,500, pow­ered by an M256 petrol en­gine with EQ boost (fancy speak for a mild-hy­brid sys­tem) pro­vid­ing to­tal out­puts of 270kW/500Nm. How­ever, it’s the $153,300 GLS 400d that we have on test, pow­ered by the OM656 diesel, with claimed out­puts of 243kW and 700Nm – size­able in­creases of 53kW and 80Nm com­pared to the sec­ond-gen GLS 350d it re­places.

This is ex­pected to be the more pop­u­lar vari­ant, and ac­cel­er­a­tion is claimed to be a crisp 6.3 sec­onds to 100km/h – im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing the nearly 2.5-tonne weight of the ve­hi­cle.

Be­hind the wheel it’s easy to for­get you’re driv­ing a diesel, with nary a hint of the old oil-burner clichés present. It’s just the lowly red­line that gives the game away, and that prodi­gious low-end torque. The nine­speed ’box shuf­fles be­tween gears sub­tly, with­out con­stantly search­ing for the right ra­tio when you lay into the throt­tle.

Air sus­pen­sion is stan­dard, with

Merc en­gi­neers re­work­ing the front axle de­sign in an ef­fort to re­duce tyre noise and vi­bra­tions. As a re­sult, damp­ing is well sorted, the ride plush and cos­set­ing, with im­pres­sive body con­trol. In terms of broader dy­namic abil­ity, the GLS is able to be hus­tled at a pace that de­fies its im­pos­ing phys­i­cal stature.

The cabin is hushed at cruis­ing speeds, with im­pres­sive re­fine­ment keep­ing noise in­tru­sion from wind and road to a min­i­mum.

The di­men­sional ex­pan­sion hasn’t been in vain, with the GLS of­fer­ing supreme space in­side for both an­i­mate and inan­i­mate cargo. Sec­ond-row seats can slide fore and aft, with up to 87mm of legroom of­fered, which is ex­tremely gen­er­ous.

Boot space is, frankly, vast. Even with the third row of seat­ing raised, there’s 355 litres of lug­gage space, grow­ing to 890 litres with just two rows be­ing used. These are in­creases of 60 and 210 litres re­spec­tively com­pared to the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion GLS.

De­spite its al­most six-me­tre length, the big Benz isn’t un­wieldy, with an ad­mirable 12.5-me­tre turn­ing cir­cle, and enough park­ing cam­eras and sen­sors to land a lu­nar mod­ule.

The GLS has a tow­ing rat­ing of 3500kg, but you’ll need to fit the op­tional $1900 tow­bar pack­age be­fore you hitch a wagon to the rear. If you are a bit of a bi­tu­men-dodg­ing masochist, you can also tick the box for the $3500 off-road pack­age.

Op­tions like these could raise the price of the GLS even fur­ther above its ri­vals. This is the Mercedes’ only real down­fall, with higher pric­ing com­pared to BMW’s X7 and Audi’s Q7. But for the way GLS pairs prac­ti­cal­ity with lux­ury and driv­ing dy­nam­ics, that price pre­mium may be money well spent.

400d’s 90-litre tank means a cruisy 1000km-plus be­tween fills

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