As I cruised around La Belle Province in a 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC, I was reminded of how strong the Germans are when it comes to SUVs. In fact, between Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, they’ve pretty much got the game covered.
The new GLS-Class is the ultimate symbol of big brute luxury. Other than the Cadillac Escalade, nothing really comes close to owning posh moving real estate as the top Merc truck.
Mercedes-Benz has now finished renaming its entire lineup. Not that there was ever any doubt that the full-size GLS―previously known as the GL―was the kingpin, but the addition of the “S” to the name raises its game up to the same level as the flagship S-Class sedan.
The complex changes come with the midsize ML becoming the GLE-Class, but it’ll only be a matter of time before all is set right. What hasn’t changed is the quality of the content, and the envelope.
As I’ve said, Mercedes-Benz has taken the luxury crossover and utility vehicle to another level. The GLS is unmistakingly a number of things including expensive, powerful, luxurious, and a status symbol. When you consider the sub-$83k starting price, it almost sounds like a bargain.
My tester featured the necessary Premium and Sport packages, 21” wheels, and a Polar White finish. This base GLS 450 4MATIC model maintains ground control with the company’s well-utilized 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 that puts down 362 horsepower and an impressive 369 lb-ft of torque. Personally, I would have opted for the GLS 550 and made good use of its 449-horsepower 4.7L twin-turbo V8―with either a Hyacinth Red metallic or Citrine Brown metallic shade.
One way or another, the new Mercedes-Benz GLS is extremely attractive and rolls proudly.
Inside the GLS
I discovered a number of things about the GLS’ seemingly cavernous cabin in a week’s time. As a new father, many previously unimportant factors are now at the forefront of my evaluation criteria.
There’s no debating that the seats are comfortable, even more so when optioned with the massaging function. The second row is moved slightly forward to accommodate the folding third-row bench. The result here is that a baby seat in the second row pushes the front passenger’s seat forward thus limiting comfort for the occupant. The effect was less prominent in the GLE I tested the following week.
Given that my driving position is very square, the baby seat ended up behind me. The large number of seat adjustments made it very easy to find said driving position. Cargo capacity is huge with the third row stowed, although I was disappointed to find that the stroller had to be finagled with in order to fit sideways. This was not the case in the GLE. When it comes to cargo area depth, however, the GLS wins hands down. Overall, for families with baby seats and strollers, the GLS may not be the best option.
I’ve criticized the company’s ergonomics and layout in the past, but the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450’s dashboard is so vast that the extra airiness settles my misgivings. One thing kept bugging me, though: The screen is not touch-sensitive. Navigating through some of the menus would be far easier if it were.
If you think that a 6-cylinder engine doesn’t have the power to motivate a 2,420kg (5,324lbs) truck, then you haven’t met this 3.0L twin-turbo mill and its accompanying 9-speed automatic transmission.
Every ounce of torque is on tap as of just 1,800 rpm thus enabling some quicker than expected off-the-line action. In fact, the big GLS 450 4MATIC hits 100 km/h in as little as 6.6 seconds. For the record, the 550 reaches the same mark in only 5.3 seconds.
The 9G-TRONIC autobox shows no weaknesses or flaws in the way it operates. I’ve been known to be a demanding driver, especially when passing slow traffic, but even when set in Comfort mode, I found this transmission to be totally up for swinging from 8th to 4th gear in less than a heartbeat. I managed a fuel consumption average of 14L/100km over nearly 450 kilometres, half of which took place around town, so I was pleasantly surprised.
It drives big
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC excels at putting its occupants at ease. The truck’s ride quality is excellent, although not quite as isolated as the equally big Escalade’s.
Once more, with Comfort mode engaged, the GLS nearly glides over the road, thanks in equal parts to the standard self-levelling AIRMATIC suspension and the vehicle’s long wheelbase. Alternatively, Sport mode limits suspension travel thus keeping body roll in check.
As agreeable as the GLS is, it will lever let you forget its size, but I suspect this is on purpose. The truck’s steering is well judged, but very numb, while the immense brakes masterfully crush speeds.
My conclusion is nothing if perhaps simple. In the segment, the GLS stands tall, luxurious and safe. Having said that, I would opt for the smaller GLE unless trunk depth (not width or height) and a third row were a must.
The GLS remains the flagship Mercedes-Benz SUV, and for that reason alone, all arguments against it are invalid.