The new Mercedes-Benz GL is so big, it even dwarfs the Audi Q7. It’s a full-size SUV with seven seats, has the 3.0-litre BlueEfficiency V6 diesel from the E-class, and wheels and tyres that can make the moon look like a pebble. We know it’s the biggest SUV available in India, unceremoniously displacing that Bollywood favourite from its high pedestal, but just how good is the rest of the GL?
The GL has all the visual appeal of a jazzed up MUV. The flat, square sides and its upright D-pillar are in sharp contrast to today’s dropping window lines and curves. It’s livened up by the generous appliqué of chrome — the roof rails look like two solid bars of polished steel, there’s a chrome brush-guard under the front and rear bumpers, on the door handles and on the load lip. With its hybrid on/off-road 275/55 R19 Michelins, it looks like — and is — a more conventional SUV. Being over five metres long, nearly two metres wide and almost two metres tall, the GL looks like it could double up as a make-shift tank should war break out.
The GL is based on the R-class MPV, which in turn is based on the Mercedes-Benz ML, which means it’s a monocoque and has Merc’s 4-MATIC full-time four-wheel-drive system. The GL boasts air suspension, which can vary the car’s height through three stages and 110 mm. At its highest, the GL’s fording depth is 600 mm and ground clearance 307 mm.
There’s a full-length skid plate underneath, and our test car came with full off-road kit — lockable differentials, a hill descent system and a low-range set of gears. It also packs in a space saver rather than a full-size spare wheel. All this means our car tipped the scales at a tarmac-crumbling 2,505 kg.
The GL’s cabin is a typical Mercedes-Benz off-roader, which is a good thing. Build quality is excellent and the materials used are faultless. The cabin is very spacious. The colour of the interiors — chocolate brown — might not suit all tastes.
Once you climb up into the GLs high perch, you’ll find full electric adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. The seat is comfortable and the controls are straightforward. The display between the dials tells you which off-road mode you are in. The 3,075 mm wheelbase means the GL’s middle row is spacious. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom and the bench seat can seat three comfortably. Move over to the third row and you’ll find a usable set of seats. That upright D-pillar doesn’t constrain headroom and the sheer length of the car means you don’t have to sit crouched in the last row. There’s decent boot space with the seats up, and a cave as big as Batman’s with the seats down.
The GL is very well-equipped. It’s got electric everything. The third row folds and pops up at the push of a button, even the third row windows are electrically operated. Then there’s the COMAND system, a reverse camera, twin sunroofs, DVD screens for the middle row with cordless headphones and heated/cooled front seats.
The badge says 350 but the engine actually displaces 2,987 cc. The OM642 motor in the GL is similar to the one in the ML350CDI, which means it has four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts and a torque curve that peaks at a low 1600 rpm and stays flat till 2800 rpm. Given its weight, the GL’s performance is sprightly, but doesn’t feel particularly quick. It’ll hit 100 kph in 10.2 seconds and it’ll hit a top speed of 210 kph.
On the road, the GL is reasonably quick although overtaking is sometimes hampered by the seven-speed auto’s lethargy at downshifting. As expected, the GL’s size dictates everything it does. In town, it’s a bit nerve-wracking to drive it through tight traffic, but not much more than a Q7.
It’s rather easy to reverse too, thanks to the reverse camera and the big glass area. As usual, this Merc has a tiny left rearview mirror. In ‘comfort’ mode, the ride is fantastic. The steering is accurate and has sufficient weight. Its brakes inspire confidence as the car comes to a dead halt in 24 metres flat. At 6 kpl in the city and 10.5 kpl on the highway, the GL’s fuel efficiency figures aren’t too bad.
The GL makes a brilliant case for itself. It’s got huge talent — it behaves respectably on the road and is great off it. Its biggest advantage is that it is a genuine seven-seater and the fact that its rear seats can be folded to improve boot space, adds to its practicality.
It’s got huge presence, plenty of equipment and, if you can ignore the price, is quite practical too. Yes, it could use a bit more power and there’s that issue with the downshifts. And priced at Rs 91.25 lakh (on-road Mumbai), it’s quite expensive.