2009 GL-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is the company's biggest SUV, a seven-passenger, full-size sport utility vehicle. Large and luxurious, the GL 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 7,500-pound towing capabilities that come with a full-size SUV along with the luxury and safety features they have in their other Mercedes vehicles.
For 2009, the new GL320 BlueTEC, an advanced clean diesel that meets the most stringent 50-state emissions limits, joins the GL-Class, delivering an EPA-estimate 23 mpg on the highway. Yet properly equipped, the GL320 BlueTEC can tow up to 7,500 pounds. (The BlueTEC replaces the previous GL320 CDI.)
All 2009 GL-Class models feature a new standard COMAND integrated accessory control system, which features a 6.5-inch color display screen; in-dash, six-disc DVD / CD changer; and Bluetooth interface. And for safety, the GL adds Mercedes' Pre-Safe system, which can sense an impending collision before it happens and take measures to protect occupants during those valuable seconds before impact.
While their names sound similar, don't confuse the 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class offers three models differentiated primarily by engines and features. The GL320 BlueTEC uses a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel with state-of-the-art emissions controls. The GL450 comes with a 335-hp V8 engine, while the GL550 uses a 382-hp 5.5-liter V8.
All GL-Class offerings come with a seven-speed automatic transmission, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, and Airmatic air suspension system. All come with seating for seven and with a third row that powers up or down at the touch of a button.
GL320 BlueTEC ($59,075) and GL450 ($60,075) are similarly equipped, with cloth upholstery, a power driver's seat, heated power mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles/lines/reservoir, reading lamps, burl walnut trim. A Premium Package ($6,600) includes Keyless Go, which allows the engine 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 harman/kardon Logic 7 surround sound system; DVD-based navigation; and other conveniences. Buyers can also choose a rear-seat entertainment system with two screens ($1,850) and full leather upholstery ($2,130). The complete list of options too long to repeat here.
The GL550 ($82,175) 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. Keyless Go has been added to its standard equipment for 2009.
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. GL models come 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 of 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.
New for 2009 is Pre-Safe, a system which can actually sense an impending collision. Introduced previously on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans, Pre-Safe automatically tightens the front seat belts and moves the front passenger seat to a position that can provide better protection. Side windows close to provide better support for the curtain air bags. If the system senses an impending rollover, the sunroof also closes.