Save for the G-Wagen, this is the end-all Mercedes wagon.
The New York International Auto Show served as the backdrop to Mercedes-Benz’s dramatic unveiling of their all-new GLS-Class, the biggest, baddest SUV in the range to carry a GL-badge. The GLS is being dubbed the “S-Class of SUVs” and rightfully so, with a level of posh and pomp that we’ve only thus far seen on a lower-riding passenger car (or a Range Rover).
“The GLS combines modern luxury with the character of an off-roader. Powerful highlights of the off-road design idiom combine with an elegance reminiscent of a classic luxury saloon. In our view, the new GLS offers the best of all these worlds.” – Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer, Daimler AG
The GLS is now the third-generation of the breed, which continues the trend of offering unrivalled space and practicality for exacting Mercedes-Benz customers. The GLS remains a large proposition, with a wheelbase now 60mm longer than the outgoing generation (to a total of 3135mm, while the length and width are 5207mm and 1956mm respectively). The Sensual Purity design language means a reduction of fussy design touches, resulting in smoothed-out surfacing throughout the car, save for the sharp lower character line that runs on the lower doors and prominent wheel arch flares.
What we find particularly impressive is the drag coefficient figures. This cathedral of an SUV somehow manages a Cd figure of just 0.32, which is a clear improvement of the 0.35 of the outgoing car and is still very respectable among SUVs of this kind. Attention was paid to the underbody to ensure that the GLS cuts the smoothest possible path through the air, formulated thanks to significant amounts of time spent in the Mercedes wind tunnel in Sindelfingen.
The interior of the GLS is highlighted by the dual 12.3-inch screens sitting on the dash, framed by venting (that’s only functional on the driver’s side). These screens are run by MBUX, Mercedes-Benz’s fabulous new infotainment software, which works to control the majority of the GLS’ functionality. This of course includes the extensive ambient lighting package, which you can personalise to one of 64 selectable hues.
Move to the back and the GLS’ proposition as a limousine on stilts begins to come true, as all 7-seats (arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration but can be had as a 2-2-2 if you should so wish) are power-operated. The second-row bench seats offer 87mm more legroom than the outgoing car when slid to the furthest they can go, and now come with the options of heating, cooling, and massage functions. You can also option 5-zone climate control if needed, though the wireless charging pad and USB-C ports in the centre armrest are standard-fit.
Before you ask, yes, all seats can be folded electronically to reveal 2,400L of cargo space, should you need to move an entire homes’ worth of furniture in one go. And yes, there’s Airmatic suspension which can lower the car by as much as 50mm to aid ingress and egress, and loading of cargo.
The GLS will make use of EQ Boost-ed 48V mild-hybrid petrol mills as well as proper diesel ones at launch, with the GLS450 getting a biturbo 3.0-lite inline-6 with 273kW and 500Nm, though there’ll be a GLS580 later with a 4.0-litre biturbo V8, producing 365kW and 700Nm. Purists will flock to the GLS350d with its 213kW/600Nm 3.0-litre I-6, though the GLS400d makes 246kW/700Nm for the same engine. All cars get a 9G-Tronic automatic and 4Matic all wheel drive, which is capable of sending 100% of power to either axle to induce/reduce oversteer/understeer.
While air-suspension and Adaptive Damping System Plus are standard, you can spend more money and option on the 48V-powered E-Active Body Control system which individually-controls the spring & damper rates on each wheel, which allows for improved comfort and off-road performance, as well as the ability to lean into corners at speed or even rock itself free when stuck in sand (try this on not-sand and it just looks hilarious).