While Cadillac encrusts the Escalade in layers of glitz, and Infiniti starts to veer down that path, the Mercedes-Benz GL is happy to stick with tradition. A curve's been added here or there, but the 2013 GL ute is still the traditional piece it was all through the last few years, and that's the right place for it to be.
The Benz ultimate-luxury SUV has softened up its act a bit. It's still subdued, and quite angular, but especially on the front end, the GL's grown more assertive. The grille is more pronounced, and the glass area now tapers upward at the rear. LED lighting laces across both the front and rear ends. It's just as rugged as before, but maybe a degree or two less boxlike. Spotters will be able to tell the GL 350 and GL 450 from the GL 550 from the flared wheel arches, sill plates, and 21-inch wheels. GL550s also get twin exhaust pipes, but so do some of the lesser V-8 models--so be warned.
Inside, the GL reconfigures the look of the prior version into a neater order, while packaging in some new features. Most like the Infiniti, the GL has a matte-finish glow here too that avoids the blingy excesses. There's a standard seven-inch screen on the dash for infotainment, and the knob controller on its console runs those features through the COMAND operating system. Wood trim and leather upholstery warm up the cabin, and a range of optional upgraded trims change out eucalyptus or burl walnut for more exotic touches like olive ash wood and perforated designo leather.