Bentley and Rolls-Royce, this is the new competition.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS SUV was reportedly supposed to debut at the 2015 LA Auto Show, but the Internet leaked photos and forced the automaker’s hand, so it’s here a bit early. At least that's what it seems like to us. So, where is here exactly? Well, it’s a full-size SUV with seating for seven and a range of engine options. Mercedes clearly felt the heat from the new entries into the ultra-luxury SUV world, such as the Bentley Bentayga and whatever Rolls-Royce is making, and responded in kind.
According to Mercedes, the GLS “reflects harmony and modern luxury to impressive effect.” We’d have to agree on the luxury point; we don’t exactly know what harmony on a car looks like. The lines are muscular and the SUV, while large, doesn’t look chunky. There’s chrome sprinkled throughout, including on the roof rails, underguard and on the side skirt trim. Things get better with the Sport exterior, available only on the GL550, which comes with special front and rear aprons, side running boards, side flaps in the vehicle’s color and 21-inch light-alloy AMG wheels. There are also special paint options and other luxe bits available, but let’s move to the interior.
The cabin is built to be roomy and comfortable, with ambient lighting in three shades and an optional air ionization system. There’s an 8-inch infotainment center running Mercedes' COMAND ONLINE. Leather and wood are ubiquitous, with the ginger beige looking especially good. If the GLS is to hang with the likes of the 600-horsepower Bentayga it’ll need a big engine. The AMG GLS63 is up to the task, with a 5.5-liter biturbo V8 good for a whopping 577 horsepower (27 more than the last generation) and 561 lb-ft of torque, with peak torque available a just 1,750 RPM. The 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) options, the V8 GLS550 and V6 GLS450, check in at 449 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque respectively.
And look, there's a diesel option! The GLS350d 4MATIC rates at 255 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque. All have a nine-speed automatic transmission, save for the AMG GLS63 which gets the AMG Speedshift seven-speed. At first blush the new GLS seems like a strong offering but it’ll have fierce competition from fresh faces. Mercedes needs to hope that its name and this redesign are enough to fend off all of the new models in the suddenly crowded ultra-luxury SUV segment.