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First drive: Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic
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Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic

4 4 4 4 4

Mercedes-Benz is touting its gargantuan GLS as the S-Class of SUVs, and that's not entirely untrue, though being a facelift of the old GL-Class it's not as cutting edge as its four-door saloon sibling.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic
Price: 69,100
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 199g/km (Band J, 265 per year)
Combined economy: 37.2mpg
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Power: 258hp at 3,400rpm
Torque: 620Nm at 1,600- to 2,400rpm

What's this?

The GL-Class, refreshed and revised to head up Mercedes-Benz's ever-expanding SUV line-up. The mid-life changes bring an S to the badge to make this gargantuan SUV the GLS. In keeping with Merc's new naming policy that S positions the GLS as the S-Class SUV, something Mercedes-Benz is keen to point out. You'd be doing well to cram all the people into an S-Class (Pullman excepted) that the GLS can carry with ease, as it's a full seven-seater. It'll haul up to 3.5 tonnes, too, which is something you'd never manage in an S-Class. The GLS is a luxury machine with purpose then, though Mercedes-Benz itself admits most of them are sold to wealthy 'soccer moms' in the USA.

Only around 1,000 will arrive in the UK annually and the majority will be powered by a 258hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, badged GLS 350 d 4Matic. The rest, and we're talking a handful here, will be the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4Matic, with AMG's 585hp 5.5-litre biturbo V8 petrol engine under the bonnet. Along with the new badge comes a revised specification across the range. The styling changes amount to new head- and taillights and a new front grille, while the interior gets an entirely new dashboard. That's no bad thing given the workmanlike materials in its predecessor and those S-Class SUV aspirations - or the 69,100 entry price. The cabin really is vast; even the third row seats are comfy for adults, and you'll never tire of pressing the button in the boot that raises and lowers them electrically. Fold them to the floor along with the second row and the kids could play soccer in it if it's raining outside it's that big.

How does it drive?

Turn the GLS's steering wheel and it's not just the hint of feel through the rim that surprises, but the agility. This thing weighs 2.5 tonnes before you've filled it with seven wearing jumpers for goalposts, yet it's got the agility of something half that bulk. Thank the air suspension, which offers a few modes (we never found any need to select anything but Comfort) and, from Designo Line spec and above, Active Curve Control, which all but eliminates lean in the bends. It's all rather surprising, and combined with the relative lack of width (on a width to length ratio at least) that allows the GLS to shrink a bit around you when you're on winding roads. You'll quickly be reminded of its scale as soon as you stop to park it, but it's impossible not to be impressed by how the GLS rides and handles.

The engine's smooth and powerful enough to mask that mass, too, 620Nm of torque more important here than the peak power output. Pin the accelerator to the floor and it'll reach 62mph in 7.8 seconds from rest, but it's in-gear where it feels brisker, the nine-speed auto usually, but not always, swift in selecting the right ratio for the job. It's not only handy on road; off-road it's up with the best of them, too. We sampled a not-for-the-UK GLS 550 in the US a week before driving the diesel in Austria, the US car riding up dunes with enough ability to humble specialised sand rails, while in Europe the diesel romped around a snow-covered mountain with the sort of surefooted ease that made it feel invincible. Nobody can accuse us of not testing it thoroughly...

Verdict

There's the usual huge suite of safety kit from Benz, and the usual need to switch some of the more distracting elements of it off - we don't need a red triangle in the instruments to tell us there's something in front of us. The cabin's smarter, but not quite at S-Class levels of sophistication, but then the GLS is something that should be more of a tool than the S-Class so it's not entirely unwelcome. It feels very much like the facelift it is, but it's a convincing one, much like the car itself, which does everything rather well indeed.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 2 Dec 2015









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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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