2010 GL-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is the marque's biggest vehicle, a full-size, seven-passenger sport-utility. Large and luxurious, the Mercedes 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 owners who want the off-road, seven-adult-passenger, and 7,500-pound towing capabilities of a full-size SUV along with the luxury and safety features they have in their other Mercedes vehicles.
The 2010 GL-Class has been lightly restyled with new bumpers, lighting front and rear, wheels and front skidplate. Cabins have been similarly updated for the 2010 model year while maintaining familiarity with Mercedes' line and the GL in particular. The diesel model has been rebadged GL350 BlueTEC (from GL320 BlueTEC) though the engine remains a 3.0-liter. The 2010 GL350 and GL450 come standard with run-flat tires.
All GL models come with a seven-speed automatic and 4MATIC full-time all-wheel drive that distributes drive to both axles equally, and all employ air suspension for good ride comfort on a variety of surfaces and level attitude regardless of load. A full suite of safety equipment is standard across the board.
While their names sound similar, don't confuse the GL-Class with the venerable G-Class or Gelandewagen meant for more severe off-highway travel. The GL shares nothing in common with the utilitarian G-Class beyond the 550's engine and the automatic transmission. The GL-Class shares its basic platform with the ML-Class and R-Class.
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is large and surprisingly capable off road yet feels reasonably 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 (as the G-Class uses). Mercedes says a GL-plus-driver is strong enough to tow a 7500-pound trailer, but verify tongue weights and ratings before making decisions.
Primary competitors include the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 which both offer a diesel engine option, as well as the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX56, Lexus GX460 and the Land Rover LR4. Especially for those interested in carrying adult-sized persons in the third row seat, the GL-Class offers a compelling argument of efficiency, space and features.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class offers three models differentiated primarily by engines and features. The GL350 BlueTEC uses a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel with 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The GL450 comes with a 4.6-liter gasoline V8 (335 hp/339 lb-ft), while the GL550 uses a 5.5-liter V8 (382 hp/391 lb-ft). 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.
GL350 BlueTEC 4MATIC ($59,950) and GL450 4MATIC ($60,950) are similarly equipped, with MB-Tex faux leather upholstery, dual-zone climate co troll, power driver's seat, heated power mirrors, heated windshield washer system, reading lamps, burl walnut trim, first-row moonroof, third-row panorama roof, rain-sensing wipers, HomeLink, cruise control, six power windows, and trip computer.
Options include leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, tow hitch, wood/leather or heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, Parktronic proximity sensors, running boards, lighting package (adaptive bi-Xenon headlamps with heated washers), dual-screen DVD rear entertainment system, LED daytime running lights), illuminated door sills, roof rails and metallic paint. Premium package 1 includes COMAND/voice recognition HDD navigation with Zagat guide, HD and Sirius radio, and personal electronic inputs, power folding mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering column and driver memory, power liftgate, 115v outlet, and auto-dimming mirrors, while premium 2 adds a harman/kardon Logic 7 sound system and Keyless go. Dealer accessories run gamut from child seats and roof racks to SD memory cards though they can be pricey (a 2GB card listed for $48 the same day an 8GB card could be purchased for $38 at retail stores).
The GL550 4MATIC ($82,850) comes with many above options as standard, including full leather, Parktronic, rear-view camera, premium audio, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, infrared-reflective glass, metallic paint, Adaptive Damping Suspension and Keyless Go. Options are limited to a chrome package, roof cross bars, trailer hitch, rear entertainment system, heated steering wheel (no charge) and rear seats, illuminated door sills, and an upgrade to Nappa leather upholstery.
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, adjustable headrests 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.
Added in 2009, Pre-Safe is a system which can sense an impending collision by myriad input factors. 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.