Mercedes-Benz GLS an S-Class affair
IT’S MERCEDES-BENZ’S LARGEST SUV — SO WHAT’S NEW? THE CLUE IS IN THE ‘S’
While Mercedes-Benz has broadened its SUV portfolio lately, debuting several new strains of load-lugger including the GLA and GLC crossovers and a rakish coupe version of the GLE, the range’s end-point remains the GLS.
This, of course, used to be known as the GL, but under Mercedes-Benz’s updated naming convention system it gets an extra letter to denote its size or “class”. The last initial in the nameplate alludes to the fact that the GLS is essentially the S-Class of SUVs. It features the most equipment, boasts the largest interior spread across three rows of seats and, naturally, also arrives with sizeable price tags attached.
The GLS weighs in at 2500kg, is over 5m long with a 3m-plus wheelbase and is 1.8m tall. In anyone’s books that’s a big vehicle. Of course, this also means six or seven adults will feel very comfortable on board, with decent amounts of knee and shoulder room, even in the third row.
The car’s Easy-Entry system — which allows the second-row seats to be split-folded electronically from either side — makes accessing the third row simple, too.
If you’re not travelling with a full complement of passengers, the GLS’ trump card is its cavernous boot, which offers between 680 and 2300 litres of luggage space. That’s a lot of ski gear.
Payload is up to 805kg and with any of the three torque-rich engines on offer up front, you would need to be towing a particularly size able boat before making this SUV work especially hard. The common thread between all four GLS models is the impressive amounts of power they offer; things get serious in a big hurry in this rarified air.
The GLS 350d comes in two guises; a standard version ($139,000) and a Sport edition ($160,000) with a variety of AMG Line embellishments inside and out. Both iterations are powered by a 3-litre turbo diesel V6 offering up 190kW and 620Nm, coupled as every GLS is, to Mercedes-Benz’s new 9G-TRONIC transmission.
The first of two petrol models features plenty of firepower too; the $198,000 GLS 500’s 4.7-litre V8 pushes out 335kW and colossal peak torque of 700Nm. The GLS 500 adds to a large menu of standard equipment in the 350d with additional fare, such as a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, as well as heated second-row seating and a digital TV tuner.
Then, of course, we have the range-topping Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, with a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.6 seconds (remember that 2500kg kerb weight?) thanks to its 430kW/760Nm 5.5-litre V8. Naturally, the hot edition gets a bevy of AMG-exclusive accoutrements, such as 22-inch AMG alloys, sports suspension, an AMG high-performance brake package and an AMG Driver’s Package, which increases the electronically-limited top speed to 270km/h (from 250km/h).
The AMG GLS 63 can also be optioned with an Off-Road Engineering package, which adds Off-Road+ mode to the vehicle’s Dynamic Select system. This utilises low range and a locking centre differential to give your luxury SUV some sure-footedness when the tarmac disappears. Thanks to the GLS’s Airmatic suspension system, the entire car can be raised, offering maximum ground clearance of 306mm and a recommended fording depth of up to 600mm … although if you’re fording rivers in your $238,000 luxury SUV, you quite possibly need your head read.
Dynamic Select, by the way, is available on every GLS and allows the driver to change the character and response of engine, transmission, steering and suspension through Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Slippery modes, depending on the driving environment.
Every GLS also features Mercedes-Benz’s Active Curve system, which hydraulically links the front and rear anti-roll bars in order to actively suppress body roll in corners; it essentially lets the car ‘lean in’ like a motorcycle rider might.
This system also provides added benefits off-road where the stabiliser bars on the front and rear axles are decoupled so the vehicle follows the contour of the land more freely. Yes, you really can venture off the highway with confidence in the GLS; practical running boards, chrome roof rails and protector panels under the body add to the idea of a luxury SUV that is meant to be used beyond the reaches of the Grammar Zone.
So overall, what do we have here?
We have a thoroughly comprehensive SUV. It’s a more practical S-Class; a bigger GLE; a G-Wagen you could actually live with. The GLS does pretty much everything right. For a price.
|ENGINE:||3-litre V6 turbo diesel (190kW/620Nm), 4.7-litre V8 petrol (335kW/700Nm), 5.5-litre V8 petrol (430kW/760Nm)|
|PRICE:||From $139,000 to $238,000|
|PROS:||Interior space and comfort, standard equipment|
|CONS:||Price of petrol models|