When SUV meets Luxury Limousine – GL meets S! With the brand new GLS the latest Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup is now complete. Next to the entry models GLA and GLC and the classic GLE, which used to be the M-Class in the past, the GLS is the flagship of its class. It combines the benefits of an SUV with the luxurious driving experience of an S-Class. We drove out to Innsbruck to pick up the keys to the newest Mercedes-Benz SUV.
There are four different engines to choose from, the entry model being the GLS 350d 4MATIC, a 3.0l V6 diesel with 258 hp and 620 Nm of torque and three twin-turbo petrol engines with direct fuel injection: GLS 400 4MATIC, a 3.0l V6 with 333 hp and 480 Nm. GLS 500 4MATIC, a 4.7l V8 with 455 hp and 700 Nm. GLS 63 4MATIC, a 5.5l V8 with 585 hp and 760 Nm. We drove the GLS 500 4Matic during our test drive in the Austrian Alps.
The interior is as luxurious as you would expect it to be from a car on par with the S-class. With seven full-fledged seats that provide ample space, even in the very back or a massive load capacity of 2300 litres and maximum load compartment length of over 2 meters when you fold the back seats, the car provides enough space for a big family week away. The 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel in nappa leather with heating (which we loved when it was -15c outside) has been revised and modernized as well as the instrument panel. A new ionisation system further enhances the air quality inside the cabin.
One minor point we criticized other recently facelifted Mercedes-Benz for was the add-on look of the infotainment screen. With the GLS it seems Mercedes-Benz finally heard our prayers and semi-integrated the 7-inch (8-inch optionally available) infotainment screen in the dashboard, which looks much better now.
The optional 360° camera system works perfectly and is of great help when it comes to parking the luxurious SUV with its huge dimensions.
Remote-online-services that come with Comand online enable you to access vehicle information such as the current status of windows and doors, mileage, tyre pressure and other data from anywhere in the world.
When we were given the keys to the Mercedes-Benz GLS 500 4MATIC at the famous Bergisel ski-jump near Innsbruck, Austria, we were immediately impressed by the presence of the car. With 5.13 meters length and 1.94 meters width the car cannot easily be missed and especially the newly designed front with its steeper and wider grill and new headlights allow for a proper appearance on the road. One of my colleague consistently referred to the previous generation GL as the Beverly Hills Golf and with the updates I don’t think the GLS will loose this nickname.
Those customers who prefer a more sporty style can opt for the AMG Line exterior package with specific front and rear bumpers, running boards and wheel arch flares painted in the vehicle colour. The AMG line also includes 53.3 cm (21-inch) AMG 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels painted in titanium grey with a high-sheen finish and a sports braking system with perforated front brake discs and brake calipers with Mercedes-Benz lettering.
We first hit the Austrian autobahn, as this is the type of road the car will probably be used most on in Europe and in North America where its predecessor, the GL, already has been a huge success. With the Dynamic Select switch set to Comfort mode we were cruising along effortlessly and relaxed. After setting the advanced cruise control Distronic Plus to the speed limit of 130 kph, the car accelerates and brakes conveniently whenever there is a car in front, keeping safe distance.
Lane assist – or steering assist as its called now – even keeps you in the lane while going through corners. The car is capable of steering through corners hands free, as the car does all the work and this comes very close to autonomous driving. However after about 10 seconds hands-off a distinct beep and a warning in the dashboard will remind you to put your hands back on the steering wheel.
Other driver assistance systems include the Collision Prevention Assist, Brake Assist, Crosswind Assist, Attention Assist, ESP with Curve Dynamic Assist and Active Curve System. Mercedes also offers the optional Driving Assistance Package Plus, BAS Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist, Active Lane Keeping, Pre-Safe Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist amongst others.
The power is distributed to all wheels through a newly devoloped 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox (except in the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, where the AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic is still being used) which we could experience first hand and it is truly excellent. Contrary to most other manufacturers the gearbox is developed completely in-house at Mercedes. Quick gear shifts also help reduce emission and fuel consumption and the gearbox lets the GLS accelerate smoothly.
We found the power in the GLE 500 to be more than sufficient to propel the 2.4 ton car confidently on the autobahn and the mountain pass alike, as the maximum torque of 700 Nm is available already from as little as 1800 rpm.
Also we were thoroughly impressed by the total lack of noise and vibrations inside the cabin while going on the Austrian motorway. Never before have we been able to experience such a level of comfort and silence in an SUV.
Just at the beginning of the ski season we came to the Austrian alps to test the massive Luxury-SUV in some rather unusual terrain. The closed Timmelsjoch mountain pass, that connects Austria and Italy with its snow covered tarmac was the ideal environment to test the car’s handling on slippery ground, and especially to find out how the Dynamic Select setting “Slippery” works.
At times it was hard to comprehend how well the 2.4 tons SUV managed to accelerate and brake under those adverse circumstances. 4MATIC helped climbing up the snow covered mountain pass with ease and gave a sense of total control and stability we have hardly ever felt on ice and snow.
But even in Sport mode the car did an amazing job ascending the slippery roads, accompanied by a spectacular “swoooooooshhhh” sound under full throttle.
While we were ascending the twisty and icy roads of Timmelsjoch to up to 2474 meters at the peak the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, together with the flawlessly working 9G-Tronic gearbox and Dynamic Select set to Slippery mode the car felt like it was going on rails. A surreal feeling given the circumstances.
What about the competition?
The main competitors at the moment are the Audi Q7, Range Rover and BMW X5. The choice of the four is very much up to personal taste, but the GLS beats the Range Rover in terms of infotainment and assistance systems. The brand new Q7 might not match the GLS’s luxury appeal and street presence. Overall the Mercedes-Benz GLS stands out for its luxury, comfort and safety features. In the luxury segment it will soon get competition from Bentley with the Bentayga. But we heard there might even be a Maybach GLS in the works so don’t give up MB’s chances to dominate the luxury SUV market just yet.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS is a very interesting car; It combines excellent off-road capabilities – some might argue it is even better off road than the legendary G-wagon – with total comfort and luxury on the road. Its sheer size makes it the ideal choice for large families and yet despite the size and weight of the GLS it is surprisingly easy to handle.
Prices in Europe excluding VAT start at 62,850 Euro for the GLS 350d 4MATIC going up to 113,500 Euro for the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC. The first customer deliveries will start in March 2016.