- Interior is spacious, flexible
- Wide range of powertrains
- Still looks rugged
- Diesel fuel economy
- Top safety, infotainment features
- More all-weather than off-road
- V-8 versions' fuel economy
- Difficult COMAND system
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class wraps up to seven people in luxury, and offers a pleasant ride with either diesel fuel economy or willing gasoline power.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL, of all the full-size luxury SUVs, has some of the best road manners. Its electric power steering isn't full of feedback, but it's not loose or overly light. The independent suspension has air shocks that give it a pillowy ride, and some versions offer an adaptive suspension that counteracts body lean quite well. We'd normally prefer a more basic solution, but this way, a wider spread between comfort and sporty driving modes tailors the GL to more drivers.
The GL is built in America, where it sells very well. In fact, the three-row luxury bus is aimed squarely Americans. The German automaker's largest SUV, the GL shares its platform and assembly line with the two-row M-Class SUV, offering similar powertrain choices and features.
For off-roaders there's a package that adds a low range, a locking center differential, tuned traction and stability control, and adjustable ride height that lifts the GL from 8.5 inches of ground clearance to a full foot. The GL can tow up to 7,500 pounds, too.
The GL offers four powertrain options, all teamed to a paddle-shifted 7-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The least-expensive GL model, the GL350 BlueTec, runs a turbodiesel V-6 with just 240 horsepower but 455 pound-feet of torque for 0-60 mph acceleration in about 8.3 seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg highway—one of the reasons the smooth, strong diesel is a big-SUV favorite of ours.
Next up the ladder is the GL450 with the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that was added last year. This engine puts out 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty of power, and gets EPA ratings of 17 mpg city and 21 highway. That's not exactly efficient, but it has plenty of power.
V-8 lovers can still choose the GL 550 and its twin-turbo, direct-injected 4.7-liter. It makes 429 hp, pushing the SUV to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. As you can guess, highway gas mileage drops into the high teens in return. Meanwhile, the GL63 AMG, with its twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 pushes out 550 hp and delivers acceleration times of under five seconds.
The GL is a luxury SUV without question, but its exterior design is more subdued than many of the other vehicles in the class. The GL wears a mix of soft curves and long creases, giving it the attractive qualities of a crossover, but with a gloss that's decidedly rugged-looking.
Inside, wood trim and leather upholstery give the cabin a warm, rich feel. A knob controller on the center console runs the COMAND infotainment system, which is a bit less intuitive than those offered by rivals.
The GL's cabin is big and comfortable. In front, passengers can ride on ventilated seats with a massage function. The second-row seats can be heated. The best trick the GL has is its flip-and-fold feature. Not only do the power-folding third-row seats stow for more cargo space, but the second-row seats tuck away with optional power assistance. It's not as large as a long-wheelbase Escalade, but the GL's interior is just immense.
The GL also has tech features down. Mbrace2, Mercedes' connectivity suite, is standard across the board; it links smartphones to the COMAND system, which means you can search Yelp for a great meal or hit Google for web searches while on the road. It will also let you control the car remotely, locking or unlocking doors, and generally keeping track of your vehicle from a smartphone. Bluetooth is standard, as are HD radio, a sunroof, a power tailgate, and power third-row seats. Step up into more expensive models and the GL adds iPod connectivity, satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels, and a navigation system. Most of these features can be ordered as options on other models, along with push-button start, Harman/Kardon or Bang & Olufsen audio, a rear-seat entertainment system, and more exotic selections of wood and leather.
On the safety front, the GL is loaded with many of the latest Mercedes technologies. The usual airbags and stability control join a surround-view camera that adapts its display as you dial into a parking spot. The GL can also park itself, with available active park assist. Lane keeping assist nudges it back into a lane if you cross the median, and collision prevention assistance will bring the GL to a stop if it detects an obstacle in the road ahead at speeds of up to 20 mph. There's also adaptive radar cruise control and blind-spot monitoring.