"The Mercedes GL-Class offers seven-seat luxury with a practical interior and excellent off-road ability."
The Mercedes GL-Class is a seven-seat full-size luxury SUV designed to rival the Range Rover. Manufactured in the US, it's one of the biggest 4x4 vehicles on UK roads. Engine choice is limited to the GL350 BlueTEC V6 diesel and GL63 AMG V8 performance petrol. Only available as a well-equipped AMG Sport model, the GL350 offers a versatile seven-seat interior and top-notch quality, while the GL63 adds superior performance to the mix. Both models have air suspension and superb off-road ability, and they can be specified with the full range of Mercedes’ active safety technology.
The massive dimensions will put off some buyers, but the GL-Class is still good to drive, despite its size. Air suspension is standard and the ride is very good. It corners well without too much body movement and is surprisingly agile on twisty roads. The electric power steering is nicely weighted and you can add the optional Active Curve System, which uses active anti-roll bars to further reduce leaning in the corners. The GL350 diesel is smooth and quiet, while performance is adequate. The seven-speed automatic gearbox shifts smoothly and the stop/start works well in city driving. Opt for the GL63 and you get sports car acceleration as well.
This is where the GL-Class really excels. The standard air suspension soaks up bumps with ease and nearly all road and wind noise is isolated from the interior. The windscreen is made of multi-glazed acoustic glass, which can also be specified for the side windows as an option. The seats are very comfortable and the material quality throughout the interior is excellent. Fully automatic climate control comes as standard.
Early US-built SUVs suffered from poor build quality, but American built Mercedes’ 4x4 models have come a long way in recent years. The latest GL-Class feels impeccably constructed and very well engineered. It shares its quality interior with the smaller M-Class and the underpinnings are unchanged from the previous model. Plus, both the engines on offer are well proven in other Mercedes models. Warranty cover is three years with unlimited mileage.
The GL is over five metres long, so interior space is excellent. The family-friendly seven-seat layout offers more third row legroom than the Land Rover Discovery, while the outer seats in the middle row slide forward to offer easy access to the third row. The third row seats can be folded at the touch of a button if you select the electric seat operation option. Even in seven-seat mode, there's a good amount of boot space, while folding all five rear seats gives a massive 2,300 litres of space. Fantastic off-road and towing ability adds to the practicality of the GL-Class, making it perfect for pulling large horseboxes or trailers.
Value for money
The GL-Class is an expensive choice, but the G350 still undercuts the cheapest Range Rover. Standard equipment includes 21-inch wheels, air suspension, stop/start and a 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox. The G63 AMG has a price tag closer to £100,000 but offers racing styling and some serious performance. Whichever model you choose, few SUVs offer the GL's mix of seven-seat interior, luxury and premium branding. It's worth noting that the options are expensive and the smaller five-seater M-Class has many of the same features and could be a better choice if you don’t need the extra space and off-road ability.
Depreciation is a concern with large SUVs of this type, but Mercedes’ fixed- price servicing makes it easier to budget for running costs. Fuel bills are always a big part of the buying decision with a large SUV and Mercedes has improved the efficiency of its largest 4x4. The GL350 V6 diesel is 20 per cent more fuel efficient than the outgoing model, while emissions have dropped by over 40g/km. Even the GL63 has stop/start, but choosing a V8 petrol SUV still means accepting regular trips to the fuel station.