by Deiondre van der Merwe
As Mercedes-Benz's largest and most luxurious SUV, the brand new GLS-Class has a lot to prove. It replaces an outgoing model that had a trunk full of awards and accolades, so it's safe to say that the pressure is on. The redesigned SUV is bigger and more modern than its predecessor, allowing for even more practicality and comfort than before. Shoppers have the choice between a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, both equipped with EQ Boost and delivering expert performance. Yes, this SUV is stacked to the rafters with luxury and comfort, but when you're up against the equally esteemed BMW X7, there isn't an obvious champion.
The GLS-Class emerges in 2020 as a completely redesigned version of the SUV it once was. It has a completely new body as well as an updated face and rear end. The interior has also had a makeover, and the result is a beautifully modernized SUV. The new GLS-Class has the pretty intimidating task of being better than the outgoing model that was beloved by many. Larger dimensions and a longer wheelbase are among this year's changes, and the lineup gets two new electrically-assisted engines.
Following design cues from the Sensual Purity strategy, the GLS-Class is one of Mercedes Benz's most attractive SUVs. Multi-beam LED headlights with daytime running lights flank the classic twin-blade grille with authority, creating an intimidating and refined face. At the rear, slimmer and higher-set LED taillights are joined by a seamless chrome strip and two geometric tailpipes poke out from the chrome-licked diffuser. The base model sits on a set of 19-inch wheels, and the top of the range model comes with a set of 21-inch AMG wheels as standard. Both models come standard with a panoramic sunroof.
The new GLS-Class is significantly larger than its predecessor, with a total length of 205.2 inches and a 123.4-inch wheelbase that's 2.4 inches longer than the outgoing model. The burly SUV measures 77 inches from side to side without its mirrors. It stands tall, too, with a height of 71.8 inches. The maximum ground clearance is 7.9 inches with its standard suspension setup, but the GLS-Class is capable of clearing a maximum of 8.5 inches with the optional air suspension. The base model 450 4MATIC has a curb weight of 5,701 pounds and the 580 4MATIC model has a 5,699-pound curb weight.
Both models in the GLS-Class lineup get access to an 11-color exterior palette. Two standard colors are available and include Black and Polar White. Seven metallic hues are optionally available at the cost of $720 and these include Obsidian Black, Iridium Silver, Mojave Silver, and Selenite Grey. Three bolder hues in this range are inclusive of Emerald Green, Brilliant Blue, and Lunar Blue. A particularly adventurous shade called designo Cardinal Red metallic is the second most premium exterior option and costs $1,080. In Mercedes' range of exterior hues for the GLS-Class, the designo Diamond White metallic is the most premium and expensive option, coming in at a cost of $1,515.
Equipped with its base turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine, the GLS-Class's run from 0-60 mph is achieved in similar times to its German rivals. The GLS 450 manages a sprightly run to 60 from standstill in a Mercedes-claimed 5.9 seconds. The run is one-tenth of a second slower than the base model BMW X7 manages, and two tenths slower than the Audi Q7 in base form. The general consensus is that all of them are pretty darn quick for sprawling SUVs, and the GLS-Class is as eager as the best of them. Opt for the 4.0-liter V8, however, and things start to get interesting. The twin-turbocharged engine in the GLS 580 cuts the run down to a sprint and gets from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, which is certainly impressive for a passenger-hauler of its stature. The thing is, the X7 M50i manages the same feat in a ridiculous 4.5 seconds, meaning that even the top of the range GLS-Class isn't the cream of the crop when we consider power. Still, both models come standard with all-wheel-drive to increase all-weather capability and further improve the launch off of the line.
The two models that form the GLS-Class lineup host different engines. The base engine found in the GLS 450 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six that produces 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It's slightly more powerful than the base engine found in the xDrive40i that manages 335 hp and 330 lb-ft and its power output also bests the Audi Q7's 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft base engine. The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 significantly improves power outputs, making the GLS 580 one of the most powerful non-AMG SUVs in Mercedes-Benz' catalog. The V8 smashes out a whopping 483 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and these figures are slightly less powerful than the X7's M50i's 4.4-liter twin-turbo. For both engines, the 48-volt on-board electrical system called EQ Boost offers an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque over short periods. The electrical system allows for some extra energy and fuel savings, making both engines more efficient. The base engine and the V8 are coupled with a silky-smooth nine-speed automatic transmission that's intuitive even with the more powerful engine.
It comes as no surprise that regardless of which model you choose, a truly plush and compliant ride awaits you. This is mainly thanks to the air suspension with an adaptive damping system that comes standard on both GLS trims. Sensors and a whole bunch of complicated technology allow damping characteristics to change depending on the road conditions as you go along. Essentially, this keeps the car level and confident, regardless of the terrain. The result of the adjustable and intuitive suspension is a delightfully cushy ride, and the GLS SUV sails across undulations. Its occupants are none the wiser, and the driver doesn't have to sacrifice on handling dynamics for the sake of comfort. Driving the SUV is a far more engaging experience than one would expect, and this is especially true for the V8-equipped version. The burly Mercedes has a hidden superpower. Agility. Its curve mode setting mitigates body roll, and on the off chance that you venture off-road, the GLS won't disappoint there either. All-wheel-drive is standard on both models, and both engines are sprightly enough for lively city-driving. They're also great at overtaking slower cars and merging onto the highway at higher speeds thanks to ample power offered at the top end.
When it comes to fuel economy, the GLS is as frugal as a large and powerful luxury SUV can possibly be. The base engine returns EPA estimates of 19/23/21 mpg, falling slightly behind the BMW X7's 20/25/22 mpg figures. The V8 found in the GLS 580 has EPA estimated figures of 16/21/18 mpg. This is truly impressive for an enormous SUV and outshines the X7 M50i's 15/21/17 mpg estimates. When the 23.8-gallon fuel tank in the GLS 450 is full, the SUV will allow for around 500 miles. The GLS 580 drops the total range down to around 430 miles.
Carrying the title of Mercedes-Benz's most luxurious SUV means that the GLS has to boast nothing short of the most premium materials and latest tech. On that front, it doesn't disappoint. The cabin of the GLS is plush and luxurious regardless of trim level, though the 580 does boast some subtle improvements and upgrades. The interior is made up of soft-touch materials and a large, seamless screen setup between the digital instrument cluster and infotainment center. We could list plenty of spaces that would be worse to spend a couple of hours in a day; the cabin of the GLS is a ten out of ten.
Interior space is another effortless achievement of the GLS, and the seven-seater beats the BMW X7 by most measurements. It offers more legroom in the front, rear and in the third row than its fellow German counterpart, and six-footers are highly unlikely to struggle in any seating position other than the very last row that's better suited for smaller children. Seating is heated and multi-way power-adjustable in the front, though ventilation and heated rear seats are optional. Whether you're in the first or last row, seating is supportive and comfortable enough to embrace occupants on the longest of road trips.
The GLS 450 allows for the choice between eight upholstery options, and three of them are available as no-cost options. MB-Tex upholstery can be had in three different shades as standard and the colors include Black, Espresso Brown, and combination of Macchiato Beige and Magma Grey. Four genuine leather upholstery options include Black, Espresso Brown with Magma Grey, Macchiato Beige with Magma Grey, and a Tartufo and Black combination for $1,620. The most premium cladding available is the Black and Magma Grey Nappa leather upholstery for $2,990. The GLS 580 has three genuine leather upholstery options at no cost, including Black, Espresso Brown with Magma Grey, and Macchiato Beige with Magma Grey. This model also gets access to the premium Nappa leather option, but for the more affordable price of $1,370. Both models have two standard trim inserts, namely Grey Linden wood and Aluminum. Two additional options are available for $160 and include Grey Oak wood and Brown Oak wood.
All of that interior space that we were talking about doesn't come at the price of trunk space. In fact, the GLS beats the BMW X7 in this regard by quite a significant margin. With 17.4 cubic feet of space behind the third row, it leaves the X7's 12.8 cubes and the Audi Q7's 14.2 cubes to trail behind. That being said, the X7 offers more space with the third row folded flat, offering 48.6 cubes in comparison to the GLS' 42.7 cubic feet. The trend continues with all seats folded flat, and the total cargo space offered by the latter is 84.7 cubic feet. In-cabin storage is generous, and wide door pockets will allow for a large water bottle and a wallet. The glove compartment is also decently sized, and the storage compartment in the middle console helps.
Suitably stocked with standard-fitted indulgences, the GLS 450 comes standard with a sunroof, a hands-free liftgate, remote start, keyless entry, and push-button start. A tilt-and-telescopic multifunction steering wheel with touch control joins the list along with heated multi-way power-adjustable front seats. Dual-zone climate control and 64-color ambient lighting do a good job of controlling the cabin environment. For the GLS 580, convenience features are upgraded with the addition of five-zone climate control, ventilated multicontour front seats with a massage function, and soft-close doors. Both trim levels come with the same suite of safety features that includes adaptive braking technology, active brake assist, driver-attention assist, blind-spot monitoring with exit warning assist. A surround-view camera is also standard, and active parking assist does a good job of guiding you into tighter spaces. The optionally available Driver Assistance Package PLUS adds features including active and evasive steering as well as cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, and lane change assist.
The technology inside of the GLS SUV is truly impressive, and our favorite part of the cabin is the seamless integration of two 12.3-inch screens. One is used as a digital instrument cluster and the other is a touchscreen infotainment screen that can also be controlled via the touchpad controller and the steering wheel controls. The state of the art system is home to the Mercedes-Benz User Experience software (MBUX) that enables a navigation system and Bluetooth streaming. Full smartphone integration is enabled via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SiriusXM functionality rounds off the entertainment suite. A total of nine USB-C ports are found throughout the inside of the GLS, and one household-type 115V power outlet is standard along with wireless charging. A thirteen-speaker Burmester sound system brings audio to life as standard, but a high-end 3D Burmester system is optionally available for $4,550 and upgrades the setup with 26 speakers.
For 2020, the GLS-Class SUV has already been at the center of four recalls for issues including the possibility that interior switches may not illuminate, the rear window trim may detach, air conditioning being incorrectly installed, and the rear crossmember possibly detaching while driving. To ease the minds of potential purchasers, Mercedes-Benz offers a four year or 50,000-mile basic, corrosion and drivetrain warranty. Roadside assistance is also standard for the same time period and mileage limit.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has officially rated or crash tested the GLS SUV as yet.
Both trim levels come with the same standard suite of safety features, and these include a surround-view camera, adaptive braking technology, active brake assist, driver-attention assist, blind-spot monitoring with exit warning assist, while active park assist rounds the suite off nicely. The traditional features include a seven-airbag system that offers 11-way protection via dual two-stage front airbags, front side-impact, driver's knee, and side curtain airbags. Pre-Safe technology senses a collision before it happens and mitigates injury by tightening seatbelts and closing all of the windows. The optionally available Driver Assistance Package Plus adds an additional 14 features to the GLS that include active distance assist, active and evasive steering assist, brake assist with cross-traffic alert, emergency stop assist, speed limit assist, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist and lane change assist as well as route-based speed adaptation.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class SUV is an excellent offering in its segment and excels in all the areas that matter most for a strong victory against most rivals. For starters, both powertrains offer outstanding power figures, and though the base engine returns fuel economy figures that fall slightly behind its rival from BMW, the more powerful V8 found in the GLS 580 came back with impressive EPA estimates that are slightly better than the more powerful 4.4-liter V8 found in the top of the range X7 lineup. Power and frugality rarely come as a package deal when it comes to engines, but the GLS manages to blend the two. Aside from its performance and relatively light sipping, the inside of the SUV is a heavenly, plush masterpiece that's complemented perfectly by state of the art technology in the form of two large screens that combine the instrument cluster and infotainment in a surprisingly easy-to-use manner. The whole experience behind the wheel of any GLS is likely to put a smile on the faces of even those who are difficult to please.
Two models make up the GLS-Class lineup. The entry-level model is the GLS 450 4MATIC that has a starting MSRP of $75,950. Climbing the next rung of the ladder to the GLS 580 4MATIC, the top of the range SUV bears a hefty $98,800 price tag. The base model is slightly more expensive than the entry-level X7's $73,900 asking price, but the apex models in both lineups are similarly priced. All prices are exclusive of the $995 destination and handling fee.
The GLS-Class SUV range comprises two trim levels. The main difference between models is that the entry-level GLS 450 4MATIC is driven by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine and the GLS 580 4MATIC hosts a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter engine. Both are coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission and come standard with an all-wheel-drive system.
At base level, the GLS 450 rests on a set of 19-inch wheels and a couple of standard convenience features including a sunroof, a hands-free liftgate, remote start, keyless entry and push-button start. A tilt-and-telescopic multifunction steering wheel and heated multi-way power-adjustable front seats join the list along with dual-zone climate control and 64-color ambient lighting. As for infotainment, two 12.3-inch screens join to form the digital instrument cluster and infotainment center, and the latter enables MBUX and in turn, a navigation system, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and SiriusXM functionality. A thirteen-speaker Burmester sound system is standard. For safety, the standard features are inclusive of a surround-view camera, adaptive braking technology, active brake assist, driver-attention assist, exit warning assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Active park assist rounds off the suite.
Added to the GLS 580 is a set of 21-inch wheels, five-zone climate control, ventilated multicontour front seats with massage function, and soft-close doors.
Mercedes-Benz makes a host of additional packages available for the GLS. Starting with the base model, a $1,750 Convenience Package adds four-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, and power second-row side-window sunshades. Also for the GLS 450, a Warmth and Comfort Package costs $1,320 and adds rapid heating for the front seats, heated armrests and heated second-row armrests. For both models, an Executive Rear Seat Package adds comfort head restraints, wireless charging, an MBUX tablet, and side-impact airbags to the second row for $2,200. The PLUS version of the package costs a hefty $3,750, though it requires leather upholstery to be optioned before it becomes available and adds everything from the previous one along with heating, ventilation and multicontour second-row seats with a massage function.
The most notable package for both models would be the $2,250 Driver Assistance PLUS Package that adds active distance assist, active and evasive steering, cross-traffic alert, emergency stop assist, speed limit assist, blind-spot monitoring and lane keep assist. Lane change assist is added along with route-based speed adaptation. Notably, to access this package, the Energizing Package PLUS must be added. The E-Active Body Control package controls damping and spring rates for each individual wheel for better ride quality and costs an additional $6,500, though bigger wheels will need to be opted for before this package is available.
Unless you're an avid performance junkie, the GLS 450 4MATIC will treat its driver just fine. The smaller engine provides ample power for the daily commute and then some, rendering the GLS 580 pretty irrelevant unless you truly need the extra power. We'd recommend opting for the base model and using the extra cash for additional packages like the notable Driver Assistance Plus Package that adds a fully comprehensive safety suite to the SUV. For some extra attitude, opt for the GLS with the 21-inch wheels and the designo Cardinal Red metallic paint. With all of these options added, the final price comes up to $85,520, this is with the Tartufo leather upholstery and the Energizing package added to the mix, as the Driver Assistance package can't be added without them.
The boxy G-Class adds tens of thousands of dollars onto the price of the GLS-Class SUV, and a whole lot of status points with it. Only the most elite can be seen trawling about in a six-figure lunch tin, so this is essentially the iPhone of bigger Mercs. The inside of the G550 is modern and also integrates two digital screens rather seamlessly. The main difference between the interiors is that the G-Class gives a considerably more off-road feel, and the inside of the GLS-Class is slightly more refined. Aside from appearances, the G-Class is home to a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine that punches out 416 horsepower as standard, but the higher trim level of the GLS-Class has a more powerful 483 hp engine for a considerably more affordable price. It's likely that these two offerings from Mercedes-Benz will appeal to very different people, but all things considered, the GLS-Class SUV is the better buy.
The GLS-Class manages less powerful outputs of 483 hp and 516 lb-ft in comparison to the xDrive M50i's 523 horses and 553 lb-ft. The former manages to deliver a better interior, though opinions on that will depend on personal preference. The GLS SUV has better road manners than its counterpart, and also offers more interior space and a much bigger trunk than the BMW. The Merc does fall behind in terms of fuel economy with base engines considered and the base model in the X7 lineup returns considerably more frugal EPA estimates. The X7 offers excellent power outputs without the sacrifice of fuel economy, but the Merc offers a better interior with much more space. The better SUV will ultimately depend on what you're hoping to get out of one.
Check out some informative Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class SUV video reviews below.