With more space and luxury than ever, the largest SUV from Mercedes-Benz needs no introduction.
With an imposing design, elegant construction and over-the-top luxury details, this vehicle is the benchmark when it comes to delivering world-class performance.
All new for the 2020 model year, the GLS brings S-Class levels of refinement, smoothness, and luxury features, all for – you guessed it – S-Class levels of pricing. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive package all around, and in some ways, it provides a more pleasing driving experience than the BMW X7. In comparison to the Audi Q8, another flagship model from a German marque, the GLS is softer and a bit more comfort oriented. All in all, the GLS proudly brings an “I made it” feel to both the driver and the passengers.
The exterior design of the new GLS 450 is sleek, elegant and confident, and blends in all of the latest Mercedes design cues. The vehicle has a wheelbase that is 60 millimetres longer than that of its predecessor, offering more interior space than ever. An octagonal grille design at the front is flanked by two power domes on the hood. With LED headlights that run in both the daytime and evening at the maximum luminosity allowed by law, you will never be left in the dark.
The interior of the new GLS 450 is elegant, spacious and lush while still maintaining practicality. Leather upholstery and many upscale features come standard, of course, and the touchscreen is a generous 12.3-inches wide. Each seat row is fully adjustable for maximum comfort and support. The third row seats can fold directly into the floor and the second row also can be folded forward to provide up to 2,400 litres of cargo space. There is room inside for seven passengers, or six if you opt to remove the second row and replace it with two luxury captain chairs.
In general, the interior is again “S-Class” like in feel and experience, and you are always reminded that this is the flagship SUV.
A new option known as Carwash Mode will allow your vehicle to raise itself to allow deep-cleaning of the wheel wells and reduce the vehicle track width. Climate control will set to recirculation, all windows and sunroof will close and the rain-sensing wiper operation will cease.
Other interesting standard features include a “Hey Mercedes” keyword activation, nine USB-C ports, heated rear seats, climate-controlled front cup holders, one 115V “household-type” power outlet, wireless charging, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. I will say, though, that yelling “Hey Mercedes” inside the car doesn’t make the infotainment work quite as seamlessly as “Hey Alexa” at home – I think Mercedes needs to work on this feature a bit more.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 offers a multitude of extra safety features with the Intelligent Drive package, however, the standard features are also generous for a vehicle of this calibre. Standard safety equipment includes one-touch calling features, Attention Assist, Active Brake Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Crosswind Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Car Exit Warning, Traffic Sign Assist, Magic Vision Control, Auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, Downhill Speed Regulation, nine air bags as well as many others.
The engine in the GLS 450 is a 3.0-litre inline-six turbo with EQ boost that provides 362 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque. An innovative introduction for this engine is the EQ Boost Integrated Starter-Generator. Basically, it is a mini, “mild,” hybrid system that utilizes battery power from elements that previously used a belt (such as the air-conditioning compressor and water pump), and turns it into torque and power. The EQ Boost feature reduces the weight under the hood as well as improving fuel consumption. The 48-volt mild hybrid system also provides a more refined feel in stop-and-start situations by providing a transitional power when the engine was momentarily shut off (at a stop sign or traffic light, for example).
Paired with the engine is a 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission. With this powertrain combination, this SUV can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in just 6.2 seconds – pretty remarkable for such a large vehicle. The GLS 450 is configured with a 4Matic fully variable all-wheel drive and requires premium gas.
The suspension is a four-wheel independent double wishbone type with a self-levelling feature called Airmatic. Electronically controlled air springs balance the ride and allow the vehicle’s ride height to be raised or lowered at the push of a button. At higher speeds the vehicle can automatically lower itself for improved aerodynamics, and it can automatically raise itself to compensate for extra cargo or passengers.
Overall, the GLS drives in a confident, assured manner, with steady suspension and predictable handling. The car is a bit more composed and balanced than, say, the BMW X7 or Range Rover, but not as athletic as an Audi Q7 or Q8. The GLS feels much more modern than the aging Lexus LX. And if you move into the higher performance GLS models in the form of GLS 63, there are very few competitors that can match its impressive output and performance.
I would say the only surprising entry in this market is the Cadillac Escalade and its related sister models the GMC Yukon and Chevy Suburban – these new for 2021 models provide world-class feel and tech features for less money than the Mercedes GLS.
Driving modes for the GLS 450 include Eco, Comfort, Sport, Off-Road, and Personalized. It can tow a family boat over the weekend with a max towing capacity of 3,500 kilograms (7,716 pounds), a number very impressive for its class. Fuel economy for the GLS 450 is 12.3/10.2/11.2 litres/100 kilometres for city, highway and combined.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4Matic SUV starts at $101,900 MSRP. Despite having so many competitors, the GLS stands tall with an impressive array of features, performance, and luxury feel that’s hard to beat. It really is the “S-Class” of SUVs.
Automotive journalist David Chao has been reviewing vehicles for the North Shore News since the early 1990s. email@example.com