2008 GL-Class New Car Test Drive
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL is the company's biggest SUV, a seven-passenger, full-size sport utility vehicle. For 2008, a GL550 with a larger engine joins the Mercedes-Benz GL320 diesel and Mercedes GL450 gasoline models.
Large and luxurious, the GL-Class full-size SUV is built in the United States alongside the M-Class mid-size SUV and the R-Class touring wagon. The GL is designed to appeal to Mercedes-Benz sedan owners who want the off-road, seven-passenger, and 7500-pound towing capabilities that come with a full-size SUV along with the luxury and safety features they have in their other Mercedes vehicles.
While their names sound similar, don't confuse the new GL-Class with the venerable G-Class or Gelandewagen. The GL shares nothing in common with the utilitarian G-Class. The GL-Class shares its basic platform with the ML-Class and R-Class.
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is large and capable off road yet feels surprisingly car-like on the road. That car-like feeling comes in part because it is built around a unibody architecture instead of traditional body-on-frame construction. Mercedes says the GL is strong enough to tow a 30-foot boat, a trailer carrying three horses, or a large travel trailer, but verify tongue weights and ratings before making decisions. All GL-Class models come with a seven-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. All seat up to seven people.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class offers three models differentiated primarily by engines and features. The GL320 CDI uses a 3.0-liter turbo diesel, the GL450 comes with a 335-hp V8 engine, and the new GL550 uses a 382-hp 5.5-liter V8 found in $100,000 coupes.
All GL-Class offerings come with a seven-speed automatic transmission, the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, and the Airmatic air suspension system. It comes with seating for seven and with a third row that powers up or down at the touch of a button.
The GL320 CDI and GL450 models are similarly equipped, although not all options are available on both models. All models have a power driver's seat, heated power mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles/lines/reservoir, reading lamps, burl walnut trim, and so forth.
Options include Distronic radar-controlled cruise control; a rear-seat entertainment system with two screens; Keyless Go, which allows the car to be started as long as the key is inside the vehicle and locked/unlocked with touching the key; Parktronic, which uses sonar to detect obstacles near the vehicle; a power rear tailgate; harman/kardon Logic 7 surround sound system; and DVD-based navigation.
The GL550 comes with full leather, Parktronic, rear-view camera, premium audio, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, infrared-reflective glass, heated steering wheel, heated front and middle-row seats, and Adaptive Damping Suspension.
Safety features that come standard include eight airbags, including side airbags for all four outboard first and second-row seating positions as well as side curtain airbags that protect occupants in all three rows. It comes with active front head restraints, LATCH tethers for child safety seats, and three-point safety belts for all seating positions; make sure everyone in the vehicle always wears those seat belts because they're your first line of defense in a crash. Active safety features (to help you avoid a crash) include an Electronic Stability Program, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist Plus, and four-wheel electronic traction control. Optional safety features include Parktronic and a rear-view camera, each of which can help alert the driver obstacles or people, including children, behind the vehicle. The last time we checked, the GL-Class did not come with child locks on the rear side doors.