Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

The Commander in all Conditions

I can still remember the "Dead Sea Trek" event held in Jordan 3 years ago. It feels like yesterday. At that time, I tested the old generation of the GL-Class. What about the new generation? Frank Bernthaler, Director, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars, Middle East and Levant, has it spot on when he describes the new generation as follows: "The new GL occupies the top position amongst the luxury SUVs. With its comprehensive assistance systems, it has a pioneering role where safety and comfort are concerned and is on a par with an S-Class - even off the beaten track."

Exterior
The GL-Class is surely recognizable as a characteristic representative of the Mercedes-Benz Sports Utility Vehicle family. This new interpretation of the first generation impresses with its powerful dynamism and sporty elegance. In the front area, the hallmark GL upright radiator grille with its central star and the clear, high-quality design of the headlamps with an LED flare dominate. The daytime running lamps featuring LED technology are integrated in a chrome insert in the bumper, and beneath the radiator grille the generously sized chrome-look under guard completes the self-confident appearance of the front.

With its balanced proportions and the large wheelbase, the side view underlines the vehicle's on-road emphasis. At the same time the short body overhangs at the front and rear, together with the large ground clearance, point to its off-road suitability. The hallmark-SUV high beltline with its high-quality trim, the feature line which rises dynamically and the chrome edging on the window surfaces highlight the vehicle's effortlessly superior look.

As part of its standard specification, the GL is shod with attractive 20 inch light-alloy wheels, and as an option, wheels up to 21 inches are available. The tail end with two-piece LED tail lights featuring fiber optics, a large roof spoiler and the bumper with integrated exhaust system, deliver a sporty and aggressive appearance for the luxurious full-size SUV.

An extensive AMG Exterior Sports package is available for the first time. In addition to the hallmark-AMG front and rear apron, it also offers special wheel-arch flaring which spans over the 21-inch AMG 5 twin-spoke light-alloy wheels. Illuminated aluminium-look running boards also form part of the scope of supply, as do perforated brake discs and brake caliper covers with Mercedes-Benz lettering.

Interior
Powerfully dynamic and elegant interior design, fine materials and lovingly crafted details, optimum ergonomics and a generous amount of space - the interior of the GL oozes the ambience of wellbeing so characteristic of Mercedes-Benz. Generously sized trim in various wood or aluminium variants, controls in silver chrome, upholstery with the breathable ARTICO man-made leather and the stitching in a contrasting color underline the high-quality overall impression. The seats offer seven people a generous amount of space and follow the 2-3-2 system. Compared with the predecessor, the occupants on all three rows of seats have more shoulder room, elbow room and headroom. As part of the standard specification, the third seat row can be operated electrically. Another new feature is the EASY-ENTRY system on both sides - also available with electric operation on request - for access to the third row of seats. The centre bench seat facilitates even higher interior variability with its manifold adjustment options, including a cargo setting for optimizing the luggage compartment which offers a capacity of 680 to 2300 liters.

In the interior, the dashboard continues the visual emphasis on the vehicle's width. The modern instrument cluster with two easily legible round dials with a clear-cut design and a large 11.4 cm color display between the instrument tubes featuring photo-realistic representation stands out, making a high-quality impression. Next to it a large, central color screen for the infotainment system dominates on the dashboard.

The control and display concept impresses with excellent user-friendliness: infotainment, navigation and communication alike can be intuitively and very easily operated via the metal controller on the center console. As standard, a multifunction steering wheel in nappa leather with steering wheel gearshift paddles and 12 function keys is included on board.

Situated on the centre console, beneath the centre armrest with its integral palm support, there is a generous stowage compartment; in front of it the controllers and switches for the off-road programs, for example, the AIRMATIC air suspension and the COMAND system. Integrated here are two cup holders which can be heated and cooled as an option and which can be covered with a high-quality retractable wooden cover. In the door lining with distinctive stitching the trim from the dashboard continues, whilst the door openers and seat adjustment switches are arranged in the proven Mercedes fashion. The designo Exclusive package is available as an optional extra, and amongst its features are fine designo nappa leather, extensive stitching and exclusive diamond quilting on the seats and door lining.

Drivetrain
The GL 500 4MATIC BlueEFFICIENCY with a charged, direct-injecting BlueDIRECT petrol engine offers impressive performance coupled with high efficiency. On average, the new model range undercuts the preceding model series by 19% when it comes to consumption figures.

The GL 500 4MATIC BlueEFFICIENCY has an NEDC consumption of 11.3-11.6 l/100 km, making it the most fuel-efficient V8 petrol model in its class. A charged 4.6 liter BlueDIRECT engine with 435 hp is used here. The new generation consumes an average of 18% less fuel and offers the best classification currently possible: EU 5.

Alongside the ultra-modern engine technology, a comprehensive package of BlueEFFICIENCY measures support the superb fuel economy. In addition to the standard-specification ECO start/stop function, these include the new seven-stage automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC PLUS.

Other consumption-reducing features include the intelligent alternator management, the electric steering and tires with optimized rolling resistance.

Extensive lightweight construction measures reduce the vehicle weight of the new GL in comparison with its predecessor. The links on the front and rear axle and the bonnet and wings consist of aluminium alloys which are as light as they are resilient. Further dietary measures concern the new acoustic windscreen, the magnesium cross member for the dashboard. Through these weight measures the agility of the full-size SUV increases whilst the fuel consumption is simultaneously cut.

Driving Impressions
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class gives you a commanding view of the road; this certainly has it, and it can get even more commanding when raising the adjustable air suspension. During my trip to Oman, the so-called "SUVenture" that we previously covered in December 2012 (10th anniversary issue), I was surprised that the GL is not hopeless at all around corners despite its gigantic dimensions. Its composure and communication runs over well on winding coastal or blind corners.

Verdict
With superb driving dynamics both on the road and on complicated terrain, the GL commands in all conditions! Up to seven passengers can enjoy an excellent amount of space and an optional (On-Road and Off-Road) with six driving programs for optimizing driving dynamics and handling safety. Because fuel in the Middle East isn't an issue, with the GL 500 you'll find yourself driving the most excellent family carrier this side of a private jet. And don't disregard the GL 63 AMG too…

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