Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Is Mercedes GLS really the S-class of SUVs as it claims?
Mercedes has given its flagship GLS SUV the ultimate accolade by calling it the ‘S-Class of SUVs.’ Yes, the S-Class limousine has for long been the benchmark for luxury cars, but is comparing it to a high-riding SUV taking things a bit too far? It’s more a sign of how far luxury SUVs have gone – to a point where they can genuinely compete with their limo counterparts. But SUVs by their very nature have some inherent disadvantages compared to sedans. They sit high off the ground so they aren’t as easy to get in and out of, and their beefy suspensions don’t offer the same plush ride. But these minuses are outweighed by the pluses, which have made SUVs a rage .
The ideal SUV is one that melds the status, comfort and luxury of a sedan without compromising its core attributes. So, can the GLS achieve that?
For starters, it delivers the desired visual impact. The GLS is the Mount Everest of SUVs. The XXL size of the GLS points to an equally large cabin and, in fact, space is this SUV’s raison d’etre. The new GLS gets a powered middle-row seat, which glides forward with the touch of button to give you easy access. But in terms of space, the new GLS actually has a wee bit less of it in the third row. That’s because with this new model, Mercedes has sacrificed third row room for an even more spacious middle row.
n its aim to be more like an S-Class, Mercedes engineers have focussed their attention on the new GLS’s middle row, which can be slid back (with electric motors of course) by 100 mm to offer limousine levels of space. The seat back is huge, has soft pillows on the headrest and also reclines by 30 degrees, but even when fully reclined, it’s not quite the lounge-like experience you’ll find in an S-Class.
Flip down the centre armrest to access a removable tablet-controller to play around with things such as the 64-colour ambient lighting, media and radio, but it’s up front where you have two 12.3-inch screens with Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system.
The list of gadgets is pretty comprehensive, which includes a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, a 360-degree camera, intelligent seats that can guess your height and adjust the driving position accordingly and a ton of cloud-based apps that can be accessed via the on-board e-SIM. And making all these tasks easy is a new AI-guided voice assistant, which works quite well.
The GLS comes with a petrol and diesel option (both identically priced at ~ 99.9 lakh) and it’s the GLS 400d diesel, which is actually the nicer of the two engines. First, it’s so smooth you can’t tell it’s a diesel but what seals it for me is that long surge of torque, which endows this 2.5-ton SUV with sufficient pulling power to make light work of any traffic situation. The GLS 450 petrol doesn’t deliver the same punch but is even more refined than the diesel, and its hybrid motor is better for driving in stop-go traffic. But that’s not really the place to enjoy such a large SUV, is it?
On the highway, the GLS feels like a rock, but uneven roads can unsettle the ride, which gets a bit bouncy through potholes and broken surfaces. In the city, the gargantuan dimensions make parking in tight spots tricky.
Though not quite the S-Class of SUVs, the GLS is a great flagship Mercedes-Benz SUV. It’s got strong performance, imposing looks, and a luxurious and spacious cabin. If you want (and can afford) one Mercedes that does it all, the GLS it is.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much-loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, July 12, 2020
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