Mercedes-Benz is attempting to give the nine-year-old GL seven-seater a new lease of life with a range of Limited Edition models. We test the entry-level GL 350.
Base price: $135,900.
Powertrain and performance: 3.0-lite turbo diesel V6, 190kW/620Nm, 7-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.7 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 7.9 seconds.
Vital statistics: 5120mm long, 1840mm high, 3075mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 680-2300 litres, fuel tank 100 litres, 20-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Performance, value for money, staggering interior space.
We don’t like: A nine-year-old car on its way out, cabin seems old-hat next to newer Mercedes models.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Mercedes-Benz is very good at coming up with new ways to say “big discount”. Sometimes it’s “added value”, but in the case of the GL 350 it’s “Limited Edition”.
The upshot is that you’re getting a lot more equipment for your money with the realigned GL seven-seat sports utility vehicle (SUV). The entry-level GL 350 turbo-diesel tested here has fallen in price to $135,900 but has gained 20-inch wheels, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system and keyless entry/start.
Other models have had the same treatment. The $159,900 GL 350 Edition S adds an AMG sports package, active roll stabilisation, 21-inch AMG wheels, multi-contour front seats and special steering wheel.
The $193,500 GL 500 Edition S ups the ante again with panoramic roof, rear sunblinds, anti-theft package and digital television tuner.
The $233,900 GL 63 AMG tops the range and has gained the AMG Driver’s Package (top speed now 270km/h) and Designo Exclusive interior package.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? It’s a big old thing, the GL. But even in entry-level turbo-diesel V6 form, it also has a big helping of power and torque. Beyond the slight delay as this supersized machine gathers up its skirts from standstill, performance is brisk. It sprints to 100km/h in under eight seconds, yet still returns 7.7 litres per 100km.
You wouldn’t buy the GL unless you really want or need such a large vehicle, so it’s futile to judge it solely on driving dynamics. But for the record, the ride is impressive even on the Limited Edition model’s 20-inch rims, thanks to its substantial kerb weight and long wheelbase. Air suspension is standard.
It handles, too: the GL goes where you point it, the only impediment to swift progress being the four-wheel drive system’s habit of momentarily binding up as you accelerate hard out of tight corners. Another legacy of that weight and length, perhaps.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The GL-class is ancient by modern Mercedes-Benz standards. The current shape was launched back in 2006 and given the massive revamp that’s happened across most of the brand’s lineup, it’s now the oldest vehicle Mercedes-Benz has on sale.
The company is right in the middle of upgrading and rebranding its larger SUV models. The ML has just been relaunched as the GLE, reflecting a new naming structure that aligns SUVs with their passenger-car equivalents (ie, for that model it’s the E-class).
By year’s end we’ll also see the GLC, and following that the GL will be revamped as the GLS – the SUV equivalent of the S-class.
So now you know why Mercedes-Benz is giving the current GL such a push. And why the cabin looks a bit old-hat compared with newer models from the Three-Pointed Star. It’s still top-quality in terms of fit/finish, but the dashboard graphics and button-heavy centre console are clear evidence of the GL’s relative age.
You can’t fault the GL 350’s equipment and practicality. It has an impressive catalogue of driver aids, including blind-spot warning, lane guidance and adaptive cruise control. The parking radar is combined with a 360-degree camera system and there’s an excellent sat-nav system.
The GL is of course a full seven-seater, which allows you to mix and match passenger and cargo space. The third row seats are powered and can be raised or lowered from the back of the vehicle with a press of a button.
As a five-seater, the GL’s luggage capacity is vast: 680 litres. Fold the second-row seats down and we’re talking van-like space.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Limited Edition GL variants are a direct response to the fact that the model is on the way out and that there are much newer rivals in the market – not least the all-new Audi Q7.
Go in with your eyes open and the GL still represents a lot of metal and equipment for your money, especially in entry-level GL 350 form.
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes
- Cruise control: Adaptive
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with 360-degree camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Climate front and rear
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 second row and 50/50 (powered) third row