Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 4.5L V8
Power:
429 HP / 516 LB-FT
Transmission:
7-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
5.5 Seconds
Drivetrain:
Four-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
5,578 LBS
Seating:
2+3+2
Cargo:
93.8 CU-FT (max)
MPG:
13 City / 18 HWY
Touring Michigan's Wine Country In The Biggest Of Benzes



Mercedes-Benz builds a beautiful GL-Class SUV with top-spec luxury amenities that is perfectly suited for the daily driving needs of a dad or a mom (68-percent dads, according to 2011 figures) and with what we can only believe is a very nice 362-horsepower V8 engine. What the company sent our way, however, was a heavily blinged, huge-wheeled, 429-horsepower pleasure wagon that is just as well-suited to creating babies as toting them around, should your amorous instincts be triggered by the pimp-level of your whip. The GL550 is the real deal, if the deal you're looking for involves carting kiddies and/or hauling ass. We really only had need of the latter during our one-week loan of the thing, sadly.

And so, while the GL and all seven of its seats is clearly designed for the needs of a family with children, we found ourselves slightly lacking in the kids department for the time of our test. (Your author is not a dad, though he does have a suite of corny jokes stashed away for when the time comes.) What we did have, what we always have, is a load of adult friends who like to be driven around in a big, "sweet" Benz.

In this case the adults numbered a total of six. A full four of them lived about 150 miles from our Metro Detroit base of operations, in the western corner of Michigan called St. Joseph. All of them were interested in finding a sucker buddy to drive them around on a tour of some local wineries. This would also prove an entertaining time to test the performance boasts of this remarkably rapid V8 sport ute, we thought. Plans were made, a weekend was selected and the GL550 showed up just in the nick of time for our fall tour.
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 side view2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 front view2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 rear view

The inherent impressiveness of a Mercedes is matched by the size, scale and design of this new GL.

The redesigned 2013 GL500 is a vehicle that is well suited to make a strong impression on folks of all kinds, whether they generally care about cars or not. For a start, there is still an undeniable cache associated with that Benz logo on the grille – something that is more easily sensed in the parts of Midwest America that don't see the three-pointed star quite so frequently. (The suburbs of Detroit don't flip for the big M-B quite so much as the sticks around St. Joseph, Michigan, for instance.) The inherent impressiveness of a Mercedes is matched by the size, scale and design of this new GL, which manages to look pretty rugged and refined at the same time. Those who know their off-roading stuff might laugh a little at the GL550's 21-inch five-spoke AMG wheels, but they really do give the SUV an impressive stance, and add quite a lot of overall gravitas to the vehicle. We actually think that the sharply creased bodylines Mercedes seems so fond of nowadays work a bit better when scaled up to GL size than they do on the smaller GLK. At any rate, the neighbors seemed to dig it.

(As for the off-roading, though we know the GL capable, we found about as much reason to test the capability as we'd expect most owners will on most days. There is a low-range, six terrain-based transmission settings and two locking differentials. Enough said?)

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 headlight2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 wheel2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 taillight2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 exhaust tip

There were zero rear-seat entertainment screens in our $100,115 Mercedes-Benz GL550.

And the neighbors never even got to go inside, where, at least in the front two seats, nearly every luxury doodad known to humankind is available with the touch of a finger. Seriously, while there's not a lot of groundbreaking technology immediately evident from the driver's seat, the German company did see fit to stock our GL550 with most all of its existing party tricks: heated/cooled/massaging seats, adaptive cruise control, night vision, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep monitoring, active and self-cleaning headlamps, a 360-degree view and backup camera with parking assist, a Harmon/Kardon surround sound audio system, something called "soft-closing" doors that we didn't even realize were there and so much more that it's as boring to list as we're sure it is to read.

Now, the four sots who had to suffer through our wine-touring extravaganza in the cheap seats (rows two and three) didn't have life quite so easy. Sure, there are some pleasantly leathered-up and heated chairs back there, and the third-row was accessible at the touch of a button, but there were zero TVs. Let us repeat that for effect: There were zero rear-seat entertainment screens in our $100,115 Mercedes-Benz GL550. Your author may not be a dad yet, but he knows enough about keeping the little people happy to understand that merely having two huge sunroofs in the rear quarters is not going to keep the rugrats at bay for long. It's not as if we at Autoblog stay up nights, pining for more in-car television. But at nearly $15,000 over the base price of the GL550, and with aging competitors like the Cadillac Escalade throwing screens around like Best Buy on Black Friday, their lack feels a little weak in this otherwise loaded-up vehicle.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 interior2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 rear seats2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 third row2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 rear cargo area

Mercedes estimates a 0-60 mile per hour sprint to take 5.5 seconds, which feels pretty conservative.

While we're on the subject of disappointments here, the GL's trick fold-down second-row isn't quite so slick in practice as it would seem from the options list. Two of the members of our tour – both moms, for added credibility – initially loved the auto-folding second row; seeing how easy it made access to the way-back. However, putting the second row back up, as well as operating the headrests that self-stow in the automated process, proved pretty high-effort. Not a big deal for your big strong test driver who has use of both of his hands, but a pain in the rear for a parent one-arming a child, our similarly tied up while trying to get the show on the road.

Thankfully, with the backseat letdowns mentioned, the rest of the GL550 experience was, in a word, lovely. The twin-turbo V8 is a far cry from "nicely spirited" engines we've sampled in other large SUVs, and is actually right in range of some of the higher performance off-roaders we've tested. A whopping 516 pound-feet of torque is available at a low 1,800 rpm, which allows for this very large vehicle to make some very quick starts and passes. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 mile per hour sprint to take 5.5 seconds, which feels pretty conservative to us, honestly. The GL550 is fast enough that we're already wondering what kind of silliness will be in store when the AMG guys have their way with the SUV, sometime in the first quarter of 2013.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 engine

Everyone felt that riding around in a big Mercedes beat the hell out of doing it in a slow tour bus.

Most GL550 owners will learn to appreciate all that power when on the highway, we don't doubt, which is really where this brute feels the most at home. Considering the big wheel/tire package and that bluff front end, noise, vibration and harshness at freeway speeds are kept nicely in check. The GL may not ride with the same hushed interior as its S-Class cousin, but it does a passable impression, which is saying quite a lot. High-speed ride and handling are both first rate, too. The GL's combination of stability, nicely weighted steering, power and Benz's Distronic adaptive cruise, all come together to make this SUV a dead-simple way to crush hundreds of miles without pain. Our trip from Detroit to Lake Michigan was dispatched with such rapidity (and a pretty reasonable 17.5 miles per gallon according to the GL's economy computer) that we were almost surprised when we arrived. (Again – no kids.)

And what did our crew of rummy drunks think when they tumbled out of the GL550 after a day of wine tasting? (Don't worry, the driver stayed painfully sober.) With the previously stated complaints about access noted, the opinion, to a person, was that the GL was the bomb. Third-row occupants had plenty of room for their grownup legs and arms, no one complained of sore necks or stiff backs after the trip and everyone felt that riding around in a big Mercedes beat the hell out of doing it in a slow tour bus. Many bottles of wine were purchased and stowed neatly in the back, and a good time, frankly, was had by all.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL550 rear 3/4 view

Mercedes-Benz hasn't yet figured out the type of technology needed to turn your pouting toddler into a wine-sipping pal, but the truth is that no matter the age of the humans you're transporting, the job will be handled in style and comfort if a GL550 is your steed. Better yet, the driver won't go blind with boredom while piling up the miles.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 71 Comments
      NightFlight
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Mercedes estimates a 0-60 mile per hour sprint to take 5.5 seconds, which feels pretty conservative." That's ultra conservative. The GL450, as tested by Car and Driver ran 0-60 in 5.7 seconds. This thing is likely in the VERY low 5's. I've you've got the money, this is the ultimate family cruiser. Brutally fast for its size, yet it has all the amenities of an S Class with the same comfort. Nothing else in the segment even comes close to what the GL offers. I'd even take the GL over a Range Rover....
      Arch
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yes, this is the best 7-seater SUV out right now. Stop comparing it to an Escalade,
      MJC
      • 2 Years Ago
      I also can't believe the Escalade comparisons. This is an entirely different class of vehicle.
        Jonathan Wayne
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        That is BS, I know dozens of 8 and 9 figure guys that own Escalades and many of them own multiple Escalades. If this was not in the same class, then they would not be buying them.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jonathan Wayne
          @ Jonathan Wayne "....and I am positive has much more money than you" Oh wow, good for him! While I am sure he does have more money than I personally do, I find it funny that you make such assumptions about me knowing nothing about my background or family. Palm Beach means nothing really means nothing. Escalades aren't classy, neither are huge mansions in Palm Beach. Old money vs new money might not mean a lot to you, but old money doesn't throw money around and look like an arrogant prick. There is nothing classy about a rebadged Tahoe/Suburban that is used mostly by driver services. I'll say it again, money can't buy class.
          Jonathan Wayne
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jonathan Wayne
          My buddy is pretty old money and I am positive has much more money than you, he owns a $25 million vacation house in Palm Beach on Ocean, that is about as old money as it gets, and he has an Escalade, his brother has one and his father has one. BTW old money vs new money means crap to car manufacturers, all money spends the same. Pretty sure Bentley and Rolls Royce are not complaining about all the singers and pro athletes that buy all their cars.
        Brent Booth
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        Full size 7 passenger SUV's... competing....I totally see how you would be confused...
        blkpantha
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        since when
          jonnybimmer
          • 2 Years Ago
          @blkpantha
          Since the Escalade has been a reworked Suburban.
      joejoe509
      • 2 Years Ago
      Correct me if I'm wrong but if there were an S-Class wagon, this is basically it. I'm not usually a MB fan, but given the chance to purchase a 100K+ SUV, this or the ML would be pretty high up my short shopping list. VERY nice. Mercedes Benz, you've definitely gotten my attention with this one...
      Feurig
      • 2 Years Ago
      As an MB salesperson, I can state with 100% confidence that the rear seat entertainment package is much more abundant in GLs than many of the features on this test mule, like night view assist, distronic-plus, and the rear seat comfort package. Also, most people get GL450s and they usually run about $75000 with quite a few standard features.
      Tina Dang
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yes! I absolutely love this SUV, my favorite 3-Row SUV of all time. While I agree those screens should be standard on the 550 and 63 AMG, the overall package is extremely impressive, especially that engine and those numbers. Great Job MB!
      Mark_H
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Thankfully, with the backseat letdowns mentioned, the rest of the GL550 experience was, in a word, lovely." Glad to know $100K can still buy a nice car.
      Richard
      • 2 Years Ago
      Smartly optioned (can't justify the B&O stereo...) I come up with $92k for a 550Gl, with an invoice around $86k I would pay $88k in mid 2013 when the 2014s are coming.,
        Ivan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Richard
        HELLO RICHARD, CONTACT IVAN AT MB OF FORT WASHINGTON, I'LL MAKE YOU A DEAL ON THE GL550!
      Vinuuz
      • 2 Years Ago
      The new Escalade is coming soon. I bet it would beat the GL on every comparison, yet the Merc will sell more!
        Merc1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vinuuz
        And actually it won't beat the GL because its a Chevy with better leather and wood, as it has always been. M
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vinuuz
        [blocked]
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vinuuz
        Yeah, the new Escalade is coming soon. I am sure it will smoke the GL in all of the comparison tests just like the current one did. http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2007-audi-q7-vs-2007-cadillac-escalade-2006-infiniti-qx56-2007-lincoln-navigator-2007-m-b-gl450-comparison-tests Oh, wait a minute, it didn't even come close. "Despite its flash, the Escalade doesn't stray far from its trucky ancestors. Interior space, and the usefulness of that space, is disappointing. At $66,110 as tested, it seems ambitiously priced."
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          @ Greg The Navigator was very disappointing. Just like the Escalade, it is just another off the shelf product with a slightly upgraded interior. There isn't anything special about a Navigator or a Escalade. I am saying that as a pretty big Ford fan as well.
          Greg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          The Lincoln Navigator really got dogged in that comparison test too. What was FoMoCo thinking when they designed that 2007 Lincoln Navigator???
        Tina Dang
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vinuuz
        Ok.......
        superchan7
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vinuuz
        You may want to check out an actual GL (or maybe even an acutal Mercedes-Benz). Although I'm not really into SUVs or even Benzes in general, there's something MB is good at, and it's called craftsmanship. Here's a clue: the GL doesn't share a steering wheel with commercial trucks.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @superchan7
          @ kcroc10077 I am German, but even in Germany where MBs are used as taxis, Germans understand they are still a luxury vehicle. Germans don't really care about other market segments they sell in, because they realize what they are capable of. Germans aren't bothered that when they take their S Class in for service, they might be sitting next to someone who brought in their 12 year old A Class. Only Americans care about such silly things.
          superchan7
          • 2 Years Ago
          @superchan7
          Right, in fact lots of parts in MB cars are shared with each other. My example, however, points out that you don't see a commercial Sprinter steering wheel hanging out in a luxed-out GL. Similarly, all the other parts in a Mercedes-Benz interior are well-made and will look and feel that way to its passengers. The GL is not a rebadged or restyled anything. The extra money goes into the exclusive body style and craftsmanship. I don't like oversized SUVs and I'm not even a Benzo fan, but I will call out a nice piece of work when I see it. Unfortunately, the 'Slade is far from one. It doesn't even have its own body style, only a giant chrome grille and chrome dubs.
          kcroc10077
          • 2 Years Ago
          @superchan7
          Let me preface this by saying I don't know *but* the GL might share all sorts of parts with commercial vehicles. Let's not forget that in much of the world the full line of MB vehicles are sold/operated including garbage trucks, delivery vans, city buses, cranes, dump trucks etc. Mercedes has purposefully crafted an air of exclusivity to the vehicles in North America. I am not saying that they aren't well made but I am saying they aren't the bespoke, exclusive, luxury only marque that they show to North America.
        PDKid
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Vinuuz
        Between GL and Escalade, care to guess which one will end up in the ghetto in 3 years with gaudy 24" rims?? The 36-month residual on the GL is in the 50's and gets as high as 57% for the BlueTec model. The Escalade resid value for the same period is in the 40's....that's some evidence of the public's perception of these brands.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PDKid
          Thanks for posting some facts.
          nsk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @PDKid
          To your question, the answer is both. Sure there are more Escalades, but that's because Cadillac sells more Escalades than MB sells GLs. As to residuals, that's only half the story. In-house finance companies are largely extensions of marketing departments (see BMW). Don't put too much credence in those figures.
      Travis Kleckner
      • 2 Years Ago
      In regards to the TVs...I'm guessing that most kids of parents driving a 100K SUV are each going to have their own iPad to watch whatever they want. We've already discovered that with a 2 and 4 year old that generally works better.
        Brent Booth
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Travis Kleckner
        Just like an MB / German car- EVERYTHING is optional... Even the base GL @ $62K uses VINYL seats (MB Text = vinyl)
          Richard
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Brent Booth
          yes I have found the base Ptex situation a bit odd...
      mbukukanyau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Would someone please explain to me why I would buy this over a 2013 GMC Denali 8 Seater?
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mbukukanyau
        I see that you are trolling, but I'll play anyway Tows more Far, FAR, FAAAARRRR more luxurious Handles better Far more powerful More torque ~3 seconds faster 0-60 Dealer service It isn't a GMC I could probably list a dozen other reasons, but I won't waste my time.
        James
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mbukukanyau
        Someone can't afford this car.
        raughle1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mbukukanyau
        Umm... Because you don't live in an alternate universe where people cross-shop expensive German cars and Chevys?
      turkeythundergod
      • 2 Years Ago
      The GL is a stretched ML, and bother are related to the platform of the new Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer. Not the same mind you, but Chrysler did take a few tips from the Germans that are evident in my JGC Overland. That said, this review comes off as the author's first time driving a real luxury car. Things like night vision, massaging seats, etc. are fairly commonplace and have been around for probably a decade or more. The Rear DVDs are optional, but tend to be very common. As others have noted, the GL450 is the common one (the diesel is fairly common as well), the GL550 was originally designed as a quasi-AMG model - with the GL63 on the horizon it doesn't make a whole lot of sense other than offering a power boost for people who have the means to afford it, but don't want the performance of the AMG model (and likely the even higher cost and less comfortable interior). Regardless, it's certainly a looker. The GL has always been a fantastic looking vehicle, and a great vehicle overall. It's been the top selling big luxury crossover for just about forever now, despite stiff competition from Audi. I don't see that changing any time soon with this new vehicle, it looks fantastic. A few gripes (minor things really). The tow hitch looks unfinished compared to the hitch on an Escalade or even my Grand Cherokee, like it was an aftermarket add on. The extremely large headrests for the 3rd row... why? The previous generation had much smaller ones that would allow you to actually see out the back with the 3rd row in place. It looks like the pano roof has those stupid mesh type covers, as opposed to an actual solid cover, I hate those. They give you the option of all the sun coming through, or slightly less of the sun coming through and look cheap and unfinished. Give me a hard cover, and let me choose between all of the sun and none of the sun. If all of the sun is too much, I will close the shade or tint it on my own. Normally I'm not as much of a fan of the two piece style pano roofs, but in this vehicle I get it - the kids in the back can open/close theirs at will while up front it can be operated separately. For my money though, I'm still gonna get the diesel. Performance may not be as quick as this thing, but it still gets around town well enough, has great residuals, lower operating costs, and (comparatively) great fuel economy.
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