2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

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2021
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2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
October 31, 2020

Buying tip

The optional Active Body Control works best in high-power versions. If you’re looking for a GLS450 or GLS580, stick with the standard setup that’s just as plush and a little more predictable.

features & specs

AMG GLS 63 4MATIC SUV
GLS 450 4MATIC SUV
Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC SUV
MPG
14 city / 18 hwy
MPG
20 city / 24 hwy
MPG
NA
MSRP
$132,100
MSRP
$76,000
MSRP
$160,500

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class manages to feel worth every dollar the automaker charges for its sublime ride, luxurious interior, and prodigious power.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class is a high-end luxury SUV, one that favors opulence over affordability. Shop the GLS against the Land Rover Range Rover, BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, and Lexus LX 570. 

Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class a good SUV?

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Undoubtedly. The GLS is among the best ways to spend around $100,000—maybe a little less or maybe a lot more, depending on which one you go for. We rate it at 7.4 out of 10 on account of its lavish interior, its impressive performance, and its sublime ride quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class?

This year, Mercedes bolsters the top end of its lineup with the most luxurious SUV to ever bear the three-pointed star. The new GLS600 Maybach wears a special grille and comes with an interior decked out with all the leather Mercedes could throw at it.

Equally as impressive is the new AMG version of the GLS. The new GLS63 boasts 603 horsepower from its mild-hybrid V-8 powertrain, with a rorty exhaust note to match.

Otherwise, the GLS lineup adds cooled seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, four-zone climate control, and a few other tricks to its standard equipment roster.

Mere mortals with upward of $77,000 to shell out will find the GLS450 and GLS580. The 450 denotes a 362-horsepower turbocharged inline-6, while 580 means a twin-turbo V8 that kicks out 483 hp. No matter the GLS, all-wheel drive is standard across the line.

Fuel economy is not a big selling point here, though the 21 mpg combined rating the EPA bestows on the GLS450 is acceptable given its size and capabilities. 

The GLS shares some of its design cues with the shorter GLE on which it’s based, albeit with a chunkier grille and a more formal roofline to help it handle three rows of adult-capable seats. 

How much does the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class cost?

Mercedes asks around $77,000 for a base GLS, about $100,000 for a GLS580, $133,000 for an AMG GLS63, and upward of $162,000 for a GLS600 Maybach. This is not the SUV for penny pinchers.

The best buy here for most drivers is probably the GLS450, which has plenty of grunt. Plan to add around $10,000 in options for any in-stock GLS should you find yourself poking around your local dealer. 

Where is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class made?

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

Styling

For a two-box SUV, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS is a looker inside and out.

Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class a good-looking car?

The 2021 GLS is almost subtle, at least by big SUV standards. Standard GLS450 and GLS580 versions have balanced styling and luxurious interiors with exceptional attention to styling detail that help this big SUV earn an 8 out of 10 on our scale.

The new GLS600 Maybach is garish in every way, but that’s probably just fine for those attracted to its badge and its luxury. A chunkier body kit, bigger wheels, and different trim give the GLS63 as sporty a look as a big family-hauler can handle. 

Inside is where the GLS charms the most. Its interior looks lifted out of the brand’s S-Class flagship, in part because features like its twin 12.3-inch screens under a single pane of glass are shared with the big sedan. 

Plan to spend some time configuring your ideal GLS. With all these options, black leather and glossy wood probably won’t cut it.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

Performance

Muscular in any configuration, the 2021 Mercedes GLS is a standout among three-row SUVs.

Is the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class 4WD?

Mercedes fits its 4Matic four-wheel-drive system to every GLS. Though not really a serious off-roader in the vein of the Range Rover, the GLS offers off-road traction control modes that help it cope with more serious terrain, too.

How fast is the GLS?

In every configuration, the 2021 GLS will have no problem keeping up with traffic or taking advantage of a passing lane. We rate this big SUV at an impressive 7 out of 10 thanks to its great ride and acceleration. 

The GLS450 is more than suitable for most users with its 362-hp turbo-6, which benefits from a 48-volt starter-generator that tucks in a little more grunt when called upon. The GLS580 is the right choice for drivers who want to hook up an Airstream thanks to its 483-horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque rating provided by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. The same mild-hybrid tech in the GLS450 tosses in a little more grunt in the GLS580 after a deep throttle stab, too.

This year’s new Maybach uses a 550-hp version of the V-8, while the GLS63 makes use of a special V-8 cranking out 603 horsepower. We’ll be driving these soon, so stay tuned for more details.

No matter the GLS, a 9-speed automatic sends power to all four corners.

Base GLS SUVs ride brilliantly, even on the newly-standard 20-inch alloy wheels. Bigger wheels are optional, though their smaller sidewalls transmit more bumps to the interior. The standard air suspension does its best to smother the road below, and Sport and Sport+ modes tighten things up for winding roads. The steering has good heft but precious little feel, which is typical for a luxury SUV. 

The optional E-Active Body Control system takes advantage of the 48-volt motor to power springs at each wheel independently. Scanning the road ahead, the system adjusts the suspension in anticipation of bumps. It works, but almost too well when pushed. On a winding road, E-Active Body Control results in a slightly disconnected feel.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Mercedes GLS lavishes with space, quality materials, and amazing attention to detail.

We didn’t think that Mercedes could make the GLS more luxurious; we were wrong. The 2021 GLS600 Maybach is dressed in some of the finest leather around, and its special trim finishes make it feel as special as a price tag on par with a house in many suburbs might suggest. That’s enough for a full 10 out of 10 on our scale. If it went to 11, so would the GLS’ rating.

But you don’t have to spend that much to get a fine GLS. Even the base GLS450 is loaded with features, comfortable seats with huge amounts of adjustment, USB-C ports at every conceivable spot (plan to buy some adapters if you’re still using older tech), and as much as 49 cubic feet of space with the second row upright. Fold row two and that space grows to 85 cubes. Even the third row is inhabitable by adults, and the 17 cubic-foot storage capacity with it upright rivals many sedans. 

Materials are top-notch throughout, even the synthetic leather draped in base GLS450s. But plan to shop carefully as Mercedes offers a catalog full of interior trim finishes.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

Safety

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS is loaded with active safety tech.

How safe is the Mercedes GLS?

We don’t know, but we have high expectations. No NHTSA or IIHS test results are available for the big Benz SUV. 

Still, every GLS rolls out of Alabama with at least automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a trick feature that looks for an open lane and moves the GLS into it at the tap of a turn signal are optional. 

Additionally, the GLS features car-to-X communication, meaning it’s ready to talk to the future—even if we’re not quite there yet.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

Features

Loaded with tech and features, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS feels like the flagship it is.

Which Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class should I buy?

That depends on your budget. Don’t have one? Go for the GLS600 Maybach, which makes more sense given this SUV’s huge weight than the oddly sporty AMG GLS63. 

For most of us, around $90,000 nets a well-equipped GLS450 with everything you probably need. This year, cooled seats and 20-inch wheels are standard fare. Plan to spend extra for leather, adaptive cruise control, and maybe upgraded audio, and the GLS still feels like a good value at around $90,000.

Spend up to the GLS63 AMG and you’ll add a standard surround-view camera system, active LED headlights, Burmester sound, wireless smartphone charging, and a choice of up to 23-inch wheels.

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class?

Tick all the boxes and you’ll wind up with a $161,000 GLS600 Maybach. If you find yourself shopping for a GLS450 and you keep ticking options, maybe the GLS600 Maybach isn’t much of a reach.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS is plenty thirsty.

Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class good on gas?

We score the 2021 GLS at 4 out of 10, a figure that applies to the 20 mpg city, 24 highway, 21 combined the EPA suggests you’ll find from the GLS450. That’s not great, though it’s OK given this big SUV’s heft.

Other versions don’t top 20 mpg combined, while the guzzling GLS63 is the thirstiest of the pack at 14/18/16 mpg. 

No matter the GLS, plan to use premium unleaded only.

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$76,000
MSRP based on GLS 450 4MATIC SUV
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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 10
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 4
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class Pricing Insights

  • 2021 GLS-Class is available
  • Rebates: No cash incentives
  • Lease: From $969/month (2020)
  • Financing: 2.99% for 36 mo. (2020)
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