2016 GL-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class seats up to seven in luxury and offers a choice between a frugal diesel or an enthusiastic gasoline engine. Manufactured in America, the three-row luxury wagon targets the U.S. market and has proven to be quite popular in the luxury SUV league. The GL-Class is intended more for all-weather traction than off-road capability.
Introduced for 2007, it was redesigned for the 2013 model year. There are no significant changes for 2016.
Four GL-Class trim levels are offered, each with a distinct powertrain. All have a 7-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC four-wheel drive.
Rugged good looks combine with flexible, abundant interior space. The GL-Class offers fine road manners. Air shock absorbers in a fully independent suspension ensure a gentle, almost pillow-soft ride. In some versions, an adaptive suspension is especially adept at minimizing body lean. Feedback could be better from the electric power steering, but it's not excessively light in feel.
An option package adds a low range and locking center differential, while ride height can be adjusted between 8.5 and 12 inches. A properly equipped model is rated to tow up to 7,500 pounds.
The least expensive and most frugal of the GL-Class is the smooth-running GL350 BlueTec. Its six-cylinder turbodiesel engine produces 240 horsepower, but a whopping 455 pound-feet of useful torque.
Not much higher-priced, the GL450 uses a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that develops 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet. The GL550 features a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 4.7-liter V8 rated at 429 horsepower. Topping the list, the GL63 AMG unleashes 550 horsepower from its twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8, promising 0-60 mph acceleration below five seconds.
The Mbrace2 connectivity suite links smartphones to the COMAND infotainment system and permits certain remote-control functions. Bluetooth and HD radio are also standard. So are a power tailgate, power third-row seats, and a sunroof.
On the safety front, the GL-Class offers lane-keeping assist, Collision Prevention Assist, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control.
GL350 BlueTec ($64,550) comes with MB-Tex (vinyl) upholstery, automatic climate control, heated power front seats, power third-row seats, a DVD changer with HD radio, COMAND interface, sunroof, and power tailgate. GL450 ($66,200) is configured similarly to the GL350 BlueTec, but with a gasoline V6 engine.
GL550 ($91,300) has a 4.7-liter V8 and a selection of active-safety features, as well as an 830-watt Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system.
GL63 AMG ($121,100) has the high-performance 5.5-liter V8 and nearly every feature that's optional on lower trims.
Safety features include front knee airbags and full-length curtain airbags, plus a rearview camera and Attention Assist. Collision Prevention Assist uses cameras to sense impending collisions and applies brakes to mitigate impacts or to stop fully, from below 20 mph.