In the luxury SUV segment Mercedes’ GL stands tall. It has been redesigned for 2013, with three gas engines and a diesel to choose from. It’s hard to think of a more desirable vehicle to haul your family and their stuff around in, and its 7 passenger seating means there’s no shortage of room. With both the second- and third-row seats lowered, the GL can carry up to 93.8 cubic feet of cargo, a generous amount for this class of SUV.
True to form, there are several optional entertainment and comfort features that are on par with any luxury brand. Controlling all this is Mercedes’ COMAND system, consisting of a central color screen, dashboard buttons, steering wheel controls and the multifunction COMAND knob. It can be a little complicated at first, but the menus are well-organized and after a little practice the functions are rather intuitive.
The vehicle tested for this review is the 2013 GL350 BlueTEC diesel, with a base price of $62,400 and total MSRP of $84,110. The option list on the test vehicle is extensive: major options include Driver/Passenger Multi-Contour seat with massage (1,100), panorama sunroof (1,090), M-B’s Active Curve System (2,900) Night View Assist PLUS (1,780) Parking Assist Package (1,290) Lighting Package (1,290) 3-Zone Automatic Climate Control (1,450) Driver Assistance Package (2,800). Sticker price climbs quickly when you start checking options, but by exercising some restraint a buyer could drive away with a smartly-optioned vehicle for under $70k. For that matter, there’s nothing lacking in the base vehicle for $62k as it comes standard with the class-typical luxury features.
The list of safety equipment on the GL350 is extensive. All GLs comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control and traction control, active front head restraints, front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a driver attention/drowsiness monitor. The mbrace2 emergency communications system provides automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance and a system that alerts the owner when a pre-selected speed or boundary is exceeded by another driver (great for teenagers, if you let them loose with your $80k vehicle, or valets). Blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems are optional, and actually take preventive action should the driver fail to heed the car’s warnings.
The GL350 is motivated by a 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 diesel rated at 240hp and 455lb-ft torque; essentially the same engine in the S350 sedan. It is backed up by a 7-speed automatic and Mercedes’ 4Matic awd system. This combination accelerates the 5,467lb vehicle from 0-60 in the mid 8 second range. Its EPA rating is 19mpg city and 26 highway with a combined rating of 22mpg. In a vehicle with this much mass, the diesel just makes sense. It is the least expensive GL model, and $1,500 less than the gas-powered GL450 with its associated 14/19mpg rating. The difference in highway range is 501 miles vs 686 for the diesel, which makes longer road trips a non-stop drive.
On the road, the most impressive aspect of the car aside from the diesel’s thrust is its unflappable ride quality. The GL is a solid vehicle, and while not a sports car will respond to normal maneuvers with surprising agility. Its stability no doubt comes from it near three-ton mass, as does the ride quality. At no point did the car feel like it was lacking power, and the acceleration felt stronger than the numbers impart. The 4Matic all wheel drive system keeps a sure footing in low-traction conditions while combining with the air-adjustable suspension to provide a plush ride. The interior of the GL350 is a comfortable place to spend time, and the layout of controls has been well thought out. Visibility, while good, is aided by a back-up camera that can be set to show a top-down bird’s eye view through a composite image of several cameras.
In sum, for those buyers that need a 7-passenger SUV but want all the amenities and comforts that come standard with a Mercedes badge the GL350 is hard to beat. (just watch out for those pricy options) The power and efficiency of the diesel just sweetens the deal.
All photos courtesy of Mercedes Benz.