An all-new model for 2007, the GL-Class was intended to replace the G-Class (Geländewagen) in Mercedes’ line-up. But fans of the boxy G-Class rallied for their favourite model, and so the company now offers both, although in Canada the G-Class is available in limited supply and only by special order.
The GL-Class is available as the GL320 CDI, with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, or as the GL450, featuring a newly-developed 4.6-litre V8. Both use a seven-speed automatic transmission, and Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive with full-time 40/60 torque split. The GL-Class shares its platform and much of its interior with the M-Class, and is built in the same plant, but is longer and contains three rows of seats accommodating up to seven passengers.
Standard features on the GL450 include 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, six-CD/MP3 stereo, front- and second-row side airbags, three-row curtain airbags, Airmatic four-wheel self-levelling air suspension, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic climate control, cargo cover, heated synthetic leather seats, rain-sensing wipers with heated windshield washers, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, parking assist, sunroof and electrically-folding third-row seats.
The GL320, a late entry to the line-up, actually has a higher level of standard equipment than the GL450, which will be upgraded in model year 2008. The diesel adds three-position memory with power-adjustable steering column, heated steering wheel, and power-folding exterior mirrors.
Available options include leather upholstery package, active bi-Xenon headlamps with washers and cornering lights, off-road package with adaptive damping system and undercarriage protection, navigation system, power liftgate, three-zone climate control, third-row side airbags and rear-seat DVD system with two seven-inch LCD screens.
Unlike many three-row SUVs, the GL-Class is large enough that adults can sit fairly comfortably in the third row, without sacrificing second-row space. The third row folds electrically, while the second row can be manually folded for a completely flat cargo floor.
Acceleration is impressive, and the seven-speed automatic shifts almost imperceptibly; the ride is extremely comfortable, but this is a big vehicle, and it leans heavily in corners. The optional driver-selectable damping system can be set into Sport mode to tighten the suspension somewhat, but this is definitely a big luxurious SUV, not a sports model, and it can feel wallowy when taken over winding roads. Interior fit-and-finish is top-notch and the driveline is creamy smooth; this is the vehicle for Mercedes fans who need something bigger than the M-Class, and prefer an SUV stance to the minivan look of the R-Class.
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