Depending on where you live in, you may see a lot of Mercedes-Benz GL-class utilities, or very few. They do tend to swarm mostly where property values are highest. But even with that limited footprint, the GL has been a very successful design for Mercedes. In just one generation it quickly became one of the top selling luxury SUV’s in the U.S. So, let’s see if a 2nd go will expand the GL’s footprint even farther.
Despite the big 3-pointed star of Germany’s Mercedes-Benz brand on the grille, it’s hard to think of a more American vehicle than this 2013 GL550. In fact, it’s even built here in Alabama. As this large, luxurious, 7-passenger people mover has just about everything any well-to-do family could ask for in household transportation.
For '13 the GL series is bigger in every dimension, but still has the look aimed at traditional luxury SUV buyers. That contrasts with another new arrival in this class, the Range Rover Sport, which seems out for new blood.
Those traditional buyers willing to spend close to 6-figures for an SUV expect great comfort, luxury, and quality. The interior of the new GL certainly gets a thorough makeover that we think will keep them more than happy.
There’s soft yet durable leather upholstery, attractive Burl Walnut trim, and everything inside works with precision, very Benz-like indeed. Some of our staff did find the front seat side bolsters a bit aggressive for a family vehicle, but most found them to be uber-comfortable overall.
Even with the nicely integrated and well-working COMAND system, there’s a lot going on on the dash. There are also lots of safety features to help keep you in your lane and out of trouble. Among them; Collision Prevention Assist, Night View Assist Plus, Active Curve System, Attention Assist, and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
We found second row seat room to be plentiful, and surprisingly, so is the third row. Access is easy thanks to a new optional power fold feature. And the touch of another switch is also all it takes to get maximum cargo room of 93.8 cubic-ft.
Engine choices range from mild to wild, with a BlueTEC diesel, and a pair of gas V8’s to choose from. Our GL550 tester was equipped with the 429-horsepower version of Mercedez-Benz’s Bi-Turbo 4.7-liter V8, cranking out 516 lb-ft. of torque. All engines are mated to a smooth and easy shifting 7-speed automatic with Direct Select Shift controls mounted on the steering wheel. All GL’s also come with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and have a maximum tow rating of 7,5-hundred pounds.
We found all engine choices provide adequate power to move this 55-hundred pound beast round about. In our 550, we hit 60 in a blistering 5.3-seconds and cleared the quarter mile in just 13.8-seconds at 102 miles-per-hour. There are more than a few sport sedans that can’t touch that.
After a tiny bit of turbo lag, it’s off to the races as the GL hooks up and takes off. Shift times arrive quickly and happen rapidly while the vehicle seems to hunker down and growl its way to the end of the track. Through the cones we found it hard to get a real sense for just how capable a handler the GL is, as a very quick on the trigger stability system kept us from getting too aggressive. Just another reminder that the GL intends to keep you safe. Pushed as hard as possible we found the electro-mechanical steering to be numb and over-boosted, while the AIRMATIC suspension held body roll to almost nil.
No issues on the braking end, with very consistent stops averaging a short 122-feet from 60.
Of course the GL feels most at home cruising the highways and city streets, still it does manage quite adequate duty on backwoods trails. And despite all of the luxury coddling, it feels more comforting than ostentatious with a very smooth, controlled ride that eats up the miles and time with ease.
It’s hard to find faults with the vehicle as it seems to exude quality. Even nit-picking the light steering, when driven at a relaxed pace, the GL is actually a real joy with a gracefully quiet interior.
While not on anybody’s most efficient list, Government Fuel Economy Ratings have improved over last year. Our GL550 rates 13-City, 18-Highway, and 15-Combined. We beat all of those numbers in our mixed loop, averaging 19.8 miles-per-gallon of Premium. The GL350 BlueTec is the economy leader at 22 Combined. Our 550’s Energy Impact Score is a low 22.0-barrels of oil consumed per year with annual CO2 emissions of 9.7-tons.
With so much going for it, GL base pricing for the 350 BlueTec of $63,305 sounds almost reasonable. But load on the options, like our 550 tester, and you’re looking at a most un-budget friendly $98,545.
Pricey? Yes! But we can’t think of another vehicle that is more capable of hauling 7 bodies in as much comfort and luxury as the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL. Among top drawer SUVs the latest Range Rover Sport may manage a little more style, but the GL is our pick for the ultimate in big family transportation.
Engine: 4.7-liter V8
Torque: 516 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 5.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.8 seconds @ 102 mph
EPA: 13 mpg city/ 18 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 22.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 9.7 tons/yr