| BUYERS GUIDE
Too much money for too little vehicle we think.
In addition to upgraded GL 350 and GL 500 variants, Mercedes-AMG introduced an AMG model for the Australian market, the GL 63 AMG.
The GL-Class represents luxury SUV motoring, combining cutting-edge technology and driver assistance systems with uncompromised comfort. The GL-Class is comprehensively equipped with the latest safety and convenience features.
We haven't tested the Gl since 2014, because pricing became slightly silly, we thought and no-one would risk this expensive gear in the bush.
Also the wheel and tyre packages were stupid for Australian conditions - even on major highways - and 'toy' or no spare wheels should be illegal Down Under.
With a new engine line-up, the second-generation GL-Class claimed reductions in fuel consumption, but with improved performance. The GL 350 BlueTEC was
equipped with a turbocharged V6 diesel BlueTEC engine and has a claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of only 7.7l/100km.
The flagship GL 63 AMG was propelled by a 5.5-litre AMG bi-turbo engine, which delivers a maximum output of 410kW and up to 760 Nm, making the GL 63 AMG one of the most rapid seven seat vehicles on the market (0 – 100km/h in 4.9 seconds).
Combining a spacious interior with dynamic on and off road capabilities, the GL-Class is easy enough to drive, but during our brief drive we found some of the ancillary systems tricky to operate. All Benz products suffer from quirky systems controls that need to be simplified.
A new navigation system is employed, with much simpler operation than its predecessor. GL-Class standard features include 4MATIC All-wheel drive, powered
tail gate, ergonomic third-row access, AIRMATIC package (air suspension and Adaptive Damping System), front and rear automatic climate control,
intelligent light system, glass electric sunroof with slide/tilt function and an electric parking brake.
The new GL-Class also incorporates standard safety equipment, including Attention Assist, accident anticipation, 360° camera, Brake Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
The manufacturer’s recommended list prices in 2016 were: GL 350 - $114,510; GL 500 - $159,510; and GL 63 AMG - $214,510.
The GL came highly specified with a choice of petrol V8 or diesel V6 CRD power. The 5.5-litre V8 put out healthy figures of 285kW and 530Nm, and the diesel had a more sedate 165kW power peak, but a strong 510Nm torque figure. Both engines drove through 7G-Tronic automatic transmissions, with steering-wheel-spoke shift buttons and column-mounted selectors.
The GL was a true seven-seater, with a huge cargo area: home to a pair of folding chairs that can comfortably seat two adults. In the case of the GL500 wagon the seats folded electrically, but were an option on the diesel model.
At $146,900 the GL500 wasn’t for everyone, but the fortunate few got a lot of vehicle for their money. Features shared with the $103,900 three-litre V6 diesel model included: electronic stability control and traction control, Off Road Pro engineering package (low range gearing and underbody protection), front and rear parking assistance, cruise control and speed limiter, glass rear roof panel, front seat active head restraints, anticipatory occupant protection and climate control.
Standard on the V8 and optional on the diesel V6 were 19-inch aluminium wheels, xenon headlights with turning function, powered third-row seats, electric sunroof, Harman/Kardon surround sound, DVD/navigation screen and rear-section climate control. Optional on both models were rear seat entertainment, TV tuner, reversing camera, intelligent cruise control and dark tinted windows. For around $120 grand it was possible to trick up a diesel model to GL500 specs.
Like the ML the GL had air-suspension struts at all four corners, with height levelling and ground clearance variability.
As with the ML, the Mercedes-Benz GL’s ergonomics were weird: column lever that selects D, P, R and N; tricky shift buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes; and look-alike switches in the centre of the dashboard are labelled cryptically and semi-legibly. There was a whole book on the confusing radio controls.
On the plus side the Big Benz went like hell when the loud pedal was shoved down and bystanders were treated to a subdued burble for the brief period where the GL500 remained in earshot. The GL500 handled rough, stony roads with the same unruffled aplomb it exhibited on smooth bitumen. We tempted the air/shock struts to ‘fade’ but they wouldn’t.
Off road, the GL was accomplished, but very soft sand was the nemesis of this heavy beast. As with the ML the ride quality firmed up when the vehicle was raised to full clearance mode, but the greater weight of the GL smoothed out some of the harshness.
However, inappropriate wheels and tyres limited where the big beast can go.
The GL500 wasn’t cheap, but depreciation has worked its wonders on used examples, if you can find one.
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