2009 Mercedes-Benz GL Class Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 28, 2009

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is expensive, but it's very capable and family-friendly with lots of room, power, and safety equipment.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the new Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and brings you an expert opinion here in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com has also read reviews on the new Mercedes-Benz GL-Class to bring you the most useful observations and highlights.

The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class was introduced in 2007 as an upscale SUV with surprising off-road capabilities, a luxurious interior, fresh styling, and three-row seating—all for an equally remarkable price tag.

Joining the gasoline-powered GL450 and GL550 models for 2009 is the new GL320 featuring the German manufacturer’s BlueTec clean-diesel engine. The BlueTec engine, in conjunction with the new AdBlue exhaust treatment system, meets emission standards in all 50 states. The BlueTec engine gets 20 to 30 percent better fuel economy than its gas-powered counterpart and with ample torque for tow capability that's actually better than that of the V-8s. The 2009 GL320 diesel can run upward of 600 miles on a tank, securely devouring interstate at impressive rates in virtually any weather.

The turbocharged 3.0-liter direct-injected diesel produces 210 horsepower, and the starter V-8 is a 4.7-liter, with 335 hp and 13/18 mpg fuel economy. Next up is the 382-hp, 5.5-liter V-8 in the GL550. It delivers a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.4 seconds and fuel economy of 13/17 mpg. A seven-speed automatic is standard across the board.

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In terms of off-road gear, the GL has standard four-wheel drive, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, and a load-leveling suspension system. It can be ordered with an Off-Road package that includes a Class IV hitch, adaptive-damping suspension system, underbody skid plates, and locking differentials. Its maximum tow rating is 7,500 pounds. Handling is very well balanced in this full-size sport-utility vehicle. The air suspension is damped with ride comfort in mind, but the Mercedes-Benz GL still steers with precision and has strong brakes. A little less rocking motion side to side would improve on the good on- and off-road manners.

The tailored cabin has front-row seats with loads of foot and shoulder room. Adults will be comfortable in the second row—and even the third row, which folds itself out of sight at the touch of a button.

In regard to safety, the 2009 GL-Class provides as standard equipment active headrests designed to limit potential injuries from whiplash, first- and second row-side-impact and full-row curtain airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist. Pre-Safe, a safety system that senses collisions before they happen, is also now a standard feature on GL-Class models.

2009 GL-Class features include a power rear tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, multizone climate control, a DVD navigation system, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system, 19-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, and an upgraded surround-sound audio system. All three 2009 GL-Class models receive a new-for-2009 COMAND system featuring a large 6.5-inch display screen with a standard in-dash, six-disc CD/DVD changer and a Bluetooth interface.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Styling

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class combines a squared-off, rugged exterior with a smart and comfortable interior.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class stands out with its muscular but refined style and well-designed interior.

The Detroit News thinks “the Mercedes SUV is handsome…with triangular headlights, sharply chiseled front fenders and classic luxury SUV lines.” Cars.com calls the 2009 GL-Class “a work of sculpted muscularity,” with "a raked hood imparts a sporty appearance that is augmented by the muscular flared wheel arches." Car and Driver says the GL-Class shares very little with the M-Class SUV, though they’re built on the same platform: “The only shared sheetmetal is the front doors. The GL's styling is more conservative, with a tall, broad profile and much softer shapes than the ML's creases.” ConsumerGuide likes the Mercedes-Benz GL550’s "unique front-end experience, flared fenders, 21-inch wheels, and chrome exterior accents." Cars.com notes "less expensive GLs have 18- or 19-inch wheels."

Most reviewers consulted by TheCarConnection.com praise the interior of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. The Detroit News describes the cabin as “rugged-looking…[with] lots of updated materials, such as matte metal.” ConsumerGuide finds "high-quality materials, including standard real-wood trim, give the cabin a premium feel..." and adds "[while] most controls are logically placed...some have cryptic markings." Car and Driver differs: “the controls are mostly familiar, with two large gauge pods straight ahead, the same four-spoke steering wheel, and a familiar center stack.”

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2009 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Performance

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class utes accelerate and handle surprisingly well, and the diesel GL320 offers relatively good fuel economy.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class combines the capabilities of an all-terrain SUV with the power, ride, and handling of a luxury sedan, and it's overall one of the best-performing plus-sized SUVs.

Of the three engines available in the 2009 GL-Class, ConsumerAutoGuide.com says, “Both V8s deliver effortless thrust, and while the GL550 has more punch, the GL450 is plenty strong for any task.” They also note, “The 320 BlueTEC can feel slightly lethargic off the line, and some testers want quicker highway passing response, but its turbodiesel V-6 never feels underpowered.” Cars.com comments, “The new diesel six-cylinder performs like most diesels of its kind: burly and full of grunt early on, but loathe to produce much more power when you rev high.”

Edmunds.com observes that the GL320 "isn't nearly as quick as the GL 450," but it "provides massive low-end response and superior fuel mileage versus its gasoline counterparts,” and Car and Driver calls the turbodiesel "an impressive powerplant." Edmunds.com also thinks that in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, the GL550 “has the power to nip at the heels of more sporting luxury utes like the Range Rover Supercharged."

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com praise the GL’s transmission. Cars.com says, "Gear hunting is minimal...shorter ratios for each gear allow quick, confident bursts of power." Car and Driver puts it "at the top of the charts for seamless operation." All models are capable of towing up to 7,500 pounds. All 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class models are equipped with seven-speed automatics and the Mercedes 4MATIC full-time four-wheel-drive system.

Handling is very well balanced; the air suspension is damped with ride comfort in mind, but the Mercedes-Benz 2009 GL-Class still steers with precision and has strong brakes. A little less rocking motion side to side would improve on the good on- and off-road manners, though. Kelley Blue Book says, "Mercedes-Benz builds the GL-class using a unitized body and chassis. This offers...less weight, a lower canter of gravity, and...a more car-like ride." Steering performance is good: "The steering wheel's precise turn-in makes curvy roads a pleasure to drive," reports Cars.com, and "at 39.7 feet, the GL's turning circle is competitive with its peers."

All models are equipped with air suspension that balances load forces, while the off-road package employs additional active damping. Conversely for Mercedes-Benz, 2009’s top-line GL550 is equipped with low-profile tires that Cars.com says give it a "brittle ride quality [in that] you'll hear and feel every highway expansion joint, while potholes and speed bumps become a jarring, noisy experience." Available for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL450 is an off-road package that can, according to Cars.com, "raise the air suspension to yield 12 inches of ground clearance–[two more] than a HUMMER H2's." Car and Driver feels the GL "ride quality is creamy, surprisingly so for a vehicle that's extraordinarily responsive by large-SUV standards."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class seats seven in relative luxury, and available amenities leave little to be desired.

While not perfect, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class boasts comfortable seating for seven. Strangely, while the GL550 edition gets standard leather seats, the GL320 and GL450 come with vinyl seat. In a vehicle that’s pitched against the Land Rover Range Rover, leather seating is an unusual omission.

Seating comfort is a mixed bag, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Cars.com feels "the seats are too stiff," but ConsumerGuide thinks "the seats are supportive and generously sized" and Kelley Blue Book calls them "well-shaped and supportive." All 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUVs seat seven in a 2-3-2 configuration.

In regard to third-row seating, Cars.com describes it thusly: "the third row shines. Legroom and headroom are leagues better than the others', and the GL's seats sit high enough that passengers aren't watching their knees." The GL550's third row "boasts reading lights, overhead A/C vents, a fixed skylight and leather-wrapped armrests." Edmunds.com appreciates that "third-row access is also well thought-out." ConsumerGuide notes "only the right-side section of the second row slides forward for third row access, though it does create a large passageway." Finally, Cars.com says the third row "folds more or less flat, as does the second row, and the resulting load floor is free of any major gaps." Cargo volume "trails some of the GL's boxiest competitors [at 83.3 cubic feet]."

The Detroit News says “the third row has ridiculously small cupholders that you can't adjust. You load the DVDs for the entertainment system into a slot located under the right passenger's seat in the second row. And some of the seat controls are located in a panel that juts out from the bottoms of the front seats.”

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class provides average hospitality to its driver. Kelley Blue Book "remain[s] undecided regarding the shift lever being mounted to the steering column; it...is less-than-intuitive in its operation." Cars.com likes that the "wraparound dash and narrower seats could pass for those in a luxury sedan" and "the center controls look and feel high-quality.”

Cars.com finds two unsightly fit and finish gaps: "one around the glove compartment, the other bordering the steering wheel hub." They also note that "staffers...thought the tiny side mirrors were a joke." Cars.com also points out that Mercedes-Benz "touts the presence of cupholders designed to withstand the mass of 44 oz. drinks." That's good to know, if it's important to you. Thoughtful touches include leather-wrapped upper dash surfaces and "nearly every surface is soft to the touch, including areas...knees might knock against."

Edmunds.com reports that on the road, the GL is "quiet on the highway, with minimal wind and road noise,” and Car and Driver echoes the sentiment, saying "the GL is exceptionally quiet.”

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2009 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Safety

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class promises exceptional protection and has a wealth of protective features, but it hasn't been crash-tested.

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has crash-tested the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, but the vehicle does offer a comprehensive list of safety gear.

Standard safety features on all 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class vehicles include "three-row side curtain airbags and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the first and second rows." Also standard are "active head restraints, all-disc anti-lock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system,” says Cars.com. "Hill start assist, hill descent control and TeleAid are also included,” reports Edmunds.com

While auto-dimming rearview mirrors are optional, Safercar.gov indicates that daytime running lights, auto door locks, automatic crash notification, and tire pressure monitors are all standard in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

For those with small children, LATCH child-seat anchors are located on the outboard seats of the second and third rows.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Features

All 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class utes get a lengthy list of luxury features; options can push the SUV’s price well beyond $80,000.

If price is no object, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class offers features to satisfy the most options-hungry buyer.

A new feature for 2009 GL-Class models is the redesigned Mercedes-Benz COMAND system, which Cars.com describes as such: “The navigation system has also been enormously improved over its predecessor, with the latest rendition of Mercedes' Comand interface. Gone are last year's tacky graphics and annoying smart-key interface; now there's a handy directional keypad with shortcut keys to zoom in or out or go back a screen. The graphics, too, are first-rate.”

According to Edmunds.com, the GL320 and GL450 receive 18- and 19-inch wheels as standard, respectively, while the 2009 GL550 adds bigger wheels, unique front-end styling, Keyless Go technology, and running boards. All 2009 GL-Class models feature as standard equipment real wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats, the COMAND electronics interface, a power-folding third row, and an eight-speaker audio system with glove-box-mounted six-CD changer and auxiliary audio input.

Regarding optional equipment packages, Edmunds says customers have a choice of four packages for the two lesser-model GLs. The packages include features like memory seats, a power liftgate, a navigation system with rearview camera, a Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system with Sirius, three-zone climate control, and a heated steering wheel. Other features include rain-sensing wipers, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system, 19-inch wheels, and adaptive cruise control. Unique to the GL450 is the Off-Road Package.

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