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2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class Review
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class is a significant upgrade and a new name for what we previously knew as the GL Class. Each of the German luxury maker's sport-utility vehicles has received new badging and a full or partial makeover to bring the lineup into more obvious parallels with its sedans. So the brand's biggest SUV becomes the GLS to align it with the largest S-Class sedan.
Walkaround It's essentially the same size, and the same package, but the largest utility vehicle in the Mercedes-Benz lineup gets some significant updates—including new front and rear styling, new infotainment features, updated cabin appointments,and new nine-speed automatic transmissions. There are still four powertrain options: a diesel, two gasoline engines, and the even quicker AMG GL63 performance model at the top of the lineup. They are, respectively, the GLS 350d 4Matic (all-wheel drive), GLS 450 4Matic, GLS 550 4Matic, and the AMG GLS63.
The updated front-end appearance falls right into line with those of other current Mercedes-Benz vehicles; the front-end look is bolder up at the top—more emphatic is a good way to put it—with the large three-pointed star, a chunkier grille with two-bar "wings" on either side of a larger three-pointed star, and a more drawn-back look to the air dam, plus fenders that are more expressively sculpted. Inside, the refresh is modest but noticeable. The infotainment screen now stands atop the middle of the dash, as it does in many other models from the brand, although it’s not quite the complete, cohesive, flowing remake that’s been given to the C-Class sedans and their GLC-Class crossover counterparts. Finishes have been upgraded, including several new upholstery options, and the general ambience of the cabin is a step up.
Starting at the bottom of the lineup, the GLS350d is powered by the automaker’s familiar 3.0-liter V-6 turbo-diesel engine, making 255 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. For now the entry-level gasoline model is a GLS450, with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 producing 362 hp and 369 lb-ft. The GLS550 is the higher-performance option, and it makes 449 horsepower and 516 lb-ft from its 4.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. Serious driving enthusiasts who want a practical three-row utility vehicle in the garage will go for the top-performance GLS63, with a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 making 577 hp and 561 lb-ft.
Mercedes hasn’t yet released performance specifications or fuel economy figures for any of the variants in the lineup, but based on the comparable improvements made to the related GLE-Class (formerly M-Class) lineup earlier this year, the nine-speed automatics should bring slight boosts to both performance and the official EPA ratings. The GLS 350d (diesel) will likely remain one of the efficiency kings of its segment—especially in real-world highway driving--with a rating of more than 20 mpg combined.
The packaging of the GLS carries over from the GL. Either SUV is one of the few that provides real, adult-size seating space in all three rows (although that third row can require a bit of agility to get to). In front, passengers can ride on ventilated seats with a massage function. The second-row seats can be heated, and folded down with optional power assistance. The best trick these models have is their flip-and-fold feature. The power-folding third-row seats stow for more cargo space, giving almost 100 cubic feet with second and third rows folded down--not quite as much as a long-wheelbase Escalade, but for considerably better for passengers who aren't riding atop a live rear axle.
Mercedes continues to offer an Off-Road Engineering package in the GLS that boosts ride height from the usual 8.5 inches up to a full foot. Tow ratings haven’t been released yet either, yet the outgoing GL can pull up to 7,500 pounds.
The GLS arrives with a great set of safety credentials, although no crash-test results from either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It carries over with much of the same underpinnings as its GL predecessor—and that model has an excellent real-world record for occupant protection. Standard safety gear on the GLS-Class includes a rearview camera system, Pre-Safe, Attention Assist to help warn you if you’re drowsy, and a full suite of airbags and stability controls. Options include Active Blind-Spot Assist, an Active Lane Keeping Assist system that actually steers to keep you in your lane (hands on the wheel, though), and a pedestrian detection system with automatic braking. A heated adaptive windscreen wiper system should help give you the best visibility in winter weather, too.
Standard features across the GLS lineup include remote start, cruise control, a power driver’s seat with memory settings, a power tailgate, and power folding side mirrors. Prices and final options packaging will be announced closer to the date the GLS starts to arrive at dealers, now pegged for late March 2016.
Summary The company has hinted that it may add a Mercedes-Maybach version of the GLS-Class, but such a model hasn’t yet been announced. Unlike the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, whose wheelbase was extended beyond that of the longest S-Class, a GLS in Maybach trim would likely have the same dimensions--but considerably more luxury to let it compete with the ultra-luxe Range Rover SV Autobiography series. Such a model likely won't arrive for a year or two