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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
[GL320s are the] most efficient nonhybrid luxury crossovers on earth
Car and Driver
Most troubling, though, is the GL's poor reliability record.
Both V8s deliver effortless thrust
The 320...is strong around town and powerful enough for most families
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class utes are powerful, good-handling premium SUVs and, if you opt for the GL320 CDI, offer relatively good fuel economy.
Three engines are available in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. 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 GL 550. It delivers a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.4 seconds and fuel economy of 13/17 mpg. Last up is the diesel-powered GL320 CDI, which has 215 hp and ekes out 18/24 mpg fuel economy. A seven-speed automatic is standard across the board.
Edmunds.com thinks that in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, the GL550 “has the power to nip at the heels of more sporting luxury utes like the Range Rover Supercharged." ConsumerGuideAuto adds, "while the GL 550 has more punch, the GL 450 is plenty strong for any task." When it comes to the diesel engine, 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."
ConsumerGuide finds it's "slightly lethargic off the line," but Car and Driver calls the turbodiesel "an impressive powerplant."
All 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class models are equipped with seven-speed automatics and Mercedes's 4MATIC full-time four-wheel-drive system. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, praise is lavished on the transmission. Cars.com finds "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.
For the 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL450, 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." All models are equipped with air suspension that balances load forces while the off-road package employs additional active damping. Conversely for Mercedes-Benz, 2008’s top-line GL550 is equipped with low-profile tires that Cars.com says gives 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."
Handling is found to be better than expected for a vehicle as large and heavy as the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. As Kelley Blue Book explains, "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," writes Cars.com, and "at 39.7 feet, the GL's turning circle is competitive with its peers."
TheCarConnection.com’s editors choose the Mercedes-Benz 2008 GL-Class as one of the best in the full-size SUV class. Handling is very well balanced; the air suspension is damped with ride comfort in mind, but the Mercedes-Benz 2008 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.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class combines the capabilities of an all-terrain SUV with the power, ride, and handling of a luxury sedan.