Overall Rating: 8.5
From The Third Row: It's no rough-and-tumble Gelaendewagen, and we're happy for that.
Bottom Line: A nimble ride and elegant, tough styling help the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class charm the mud right off a Range Rover.
The Mercedes-Benz ML-Class is a pretty handsome, luxurious SUV with impressive performance on- or off-road; but even more impressive is the GL-Class. With just a little more length, it offers a usable third-row seat, and the boxier roofline and more traditional rugged look is altogether more flattering.
While the V-6-powered GL350 is perfectly fine for families who need to watch the bottom line, the GL450 is good for those who just must have a V-8, and there's even a special-lease hybrid version, the GL350 Bluetec is our pick of the lineup. The 50-state-legal clean-diesel engine makes 400 pound-feet of torque, which makes it even better for towing than the V-8 while better-rated at an EPA 17 mpg city, 23 highway.
Overall, the 2011 GL-Class offers lots of truck-caliber performance and space—plus a third row good for adults—without the need to settle for something quite as large as a Navigator or Escalade. "All the way back, the GL shines with a third-row bench that's one of the few in existence with adult-sized room," says companion site The Car Connection in its full review of the GL. And thanks to the tilt-and-flip second row, it's easier to get to the third row than you might think.