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by Marcus B. Fitzhugh

Let's just get this out of the way - the GL is big. This isn't because I'm used to driving a car. It's big because of its size. It is definitely a "full sized" SUV.

Having never driven one, the first thing that stood out was the view. On freeway commutes, it's not uncommon for me to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic wondering what's in front of the SUV ahead of me. From my vantage point, all I typically see are brake lights and hind quarters. Not so with the GL. In the GL, you're above the tree line and can see what's ahead.

The GL is also a lot quieter than I thought it would be. I went into this expecting a luxuriously appointed road going ocean liner with a loud diesel. That wasn't the case. There is no diesel noise, no metallic rattle, no plumes of black smoke, and best of all - it doesn't smell like a diesel. If you don't know what I mean, some diesel vehicles are like outdoor pets; lovable and friendly, but best kept at a distance. At home, the GL can be parked in an attached garage without everything around it smelling like castoffs from a petrochemical plant.

The GL is pleasant to drive as well. The GL450 and GL550 gasoline versions are faster, but the GL350 BlueTEC diesel has very good pickup and gets noticeably better fuel economy. Regardless of the engine, the GL suspension is very well designed. The GL goes where it's pointed and doesn't hint that it may tip over while doing so. The GL may not handle as well as a sport sedan, but it is far superior to similar sized SUVs.

The inside was definitely Mercedes-Benz. Opulent leather covered miles and miles of seating space. If you have to take the whole office out to lunch, this is the vehicle to do it in. There are three rows of seating, and seven adult human beings comfortably fit. Please note the word 'adult' from the last sentence. I've been in other vehicles that allegedly had seating for x-number of people, but those manufacturers must use 4th graders for seating tests. The GL's front seats are firm, heated, have lumbar control, and adjust ten different ways. The second and third rows have plenty of leg and head room. If cargo room is needed, the rear seats fold down. They are power actuated, so five seconds after a button is pressed, over eighty cubic feet of cargo room will be available. The third row can split 50/50. This could come in handy if six people and their luggage head out on a trip.

 

While on a trip, the three zone climate system should keep everyone comfy. Those up front can be entertained by the surround sound equipped harmon/kardon in-dash six-disc DVD/CD player. Owners with portable entertainment will appreciate that the system also accepts input from iPods and MP3s. Those in the second row have access to dual 8-inch LCD monitors that can independently play DVDs or video games. Some forward thinking engineer equipped the rear entertainment system with dual wireless headsets, giving the GL a three zone entertainment system. While everyone else is entertained, the driver can use the hands-free Bluetooth to confirm the hotel reservations, and the navigation system to make sure they're on course. After arriving, PARKTRONIC and a rear view camera can assist with "event free" parking maneuvers (I did mention this was a big vehicle, right?).

The diesel is the most economical of the engine choices. It comes in the base model and gets over 20 MPG on the highway. The ML450 and ML550 are gasoline powered alternatives. Both of those are V8s. All three models have seven-speed automatic transmissions and 4MATIC all-wheel drive systems.

In summary, the GL is a full sized luxury SUV. It has plenty of room, is comfortable, and with the diesel, it's very efficient.

Specifications

Model GL350 BlueTEC GL450 GL550
Vehicle type Four-door, seven-passenger luxury sport utility
Chassis Steel unibody
 
Engine 72-degree diesel V6 90-degree gasoline V8
Valve arrangement Four valves per cylinder
Valvetrain Single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank, duplex chain-driven Double overhead camshaft per cylinder bank;duplex chain-driven
Displacement (cu. in./cc) 182.0 / 2,987 284.6 / 4,663 333.2 / 5,461
Bore (in./mm) 3.27 / 83.0 3.66 / 92.9 3.86 / 98.0
Stroke (in./mm) 3.62 / 92.0 3.39 / 86.0 3.56 / 90.5
Compression ratio 16.5:1 10.7:1
Horsepower @ rpm 210 @ 3,400 335 @ 6,000 382 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft.) @ rpm 400 @ 1,600-2,800 339 @ 2,700-5,000 391 @ 2,800-4,800
Intake system Turbocharger and intercooler; piezoelectric injectors Two-stage resonance intake manifold; tumble flaps
Max. engine speed (rpm) 4,500 6,500
 
Transmission Seven-speed electronically controlled automatic with driver-adaptive shift logic.
Gear ratios
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
R
R2 comfort mode
4.38:1
2.86:1
1.92:1
1.37:1
1.00:1
0.82:1
0.73:1
-3.42:1
-2.23:1
Final drive 3.45:1 3.70:1
 
Stability control Electronic Stability Programming (ESP) integrating single brake application and throttle intervention for yaw control.
Suspension Four-wheel independent with AIRMATIC
Front Double control arm, air springs, gas shocks, stabilizer bar
Rear Four-link, air springs, gas shocks, stabilizer bar
Steering Rack-and-pinion, speed sensitive hydraulic power steering
Turns, lock-to-lock 3.62
Steering ratio 18.6:1
Turning radius (feet) 39.7
Front Wheels 8.5 x 20 8.5 x 19 10.0 x 21
Rear Wheels 8.5 x 20 8.5 x 19 10.0 x 21
Front tires 275/50 R 20 275/55 R19 295/40 R21
Rear tires 275/50 R 20 275/55 R19 295/40 R21
Brakes Hydraulic power assisted 4-wheel vented discs;Four-channel ABS anti-lock, Brake Assist with electronic brake proportioning
Front disc diameter (in./mm) 14.7 / 375 - ventilated
Rear disc diameter (in./mm) 13.0 / 330 - ventilated
Front disc thickness (in./mm) 1.26 / 32
Rear disc thickness (in./mm) 0.87 / 22
 
Exterior dimensions (in./mm)
Wheelbase 121.1 / 3,075
Length 200.6 / 5,088
Width (mirrora folded) 76.4 / 1,941
Height 72.4 / 1,839
Ground clearance 7.9 - 10.9 / 201 - 277
Front track 65.0 / 1,651
Rear track 65.1 / 1,654
Interior dimensions (in./mm)
Front head room 40.1 / 1,919
Rear head room (second row) 40.6 / 1,031
Rear head room (third row) 38.2 / 979
Front Leg room 40.3 / 1,024
Rear Leg room (second row) 39.5 / 1,003
Rear Leg room (third row) 34.2 / 869
Front Shoulder room 58.3 / 1,482
Rear Shoulder room (second row) 58.9 / 1,495
Rear Shoulder room (third row) 50.5 / 1,282
Cargo Length w/back row up -
Cargo Length w/back row down -
Cargo floor width (narrowest) -
 
Capacities
Cargo volume in cubic feet (w/seats up) 14.3
Cargo volume in cubic feet (w/back row down) 43.8
Cargo volume in cubic feet (w/2nd & back row down) 83.3
Curb weight (lbs.) 5,423 5,346 5,545
Gross vehicl weight (lbs.) 6,944
Towing (lbs.) 7,500
Fuel tank / reserve (gallons) 26.4 / 3.4
 
Performance
0-60 (seconds) TBD 6.9 6.4
Top speed (MPH) 130 (electronically limited)
Fuel mileage, city/hwy 17 / 21 13 / 18 12 / 17

All specifications supplied by Mercedes-Benz USA


 

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