By KBB.com Editors
One look at the luxury import segment and you seevery quicklythe preponderance of growth in the SUV category. With the launch of its M-Class over eight years ago, Mercedes anticipated what has since become an industry-wide trend. And while the M-Class has certainly enjoyed its share of success, its reception was hampered by the lack of a third-row seat at launch and, once a third row was finally introduced, the marginal comfort and accessibility of that seating position. More recently, Mercedes has aggressively rounded out its offerings with the R-Class, a unique take on six-passenger travel and, in the spring of 2006, its new GL450, Mercedes' first 'pure' three-row SUV.
If you want the benefits of Mercedes engineering (they did, after all, invent the automobile), German build quality and American-style accommodation, the GL450 delivers in spades. In a manner similar to Nissan's Armadaalthough with substantially more refinementMercedes splits the dimensional difference between General Motors' Tahoe/Yukon/Escalade and their stretched variants.
If third-row seating is a very occasional requirement, renting a larger vehicle probably makes more sense than maneuveringor propellingthree rows of SUV on a regular basis.
In a category whose sales are dominated by three-row offerings, Mercedes joins the club in a bigfor a German nameplateway. Dimensionally, the Mercedes GL450 trumps its sibling, the M-Class, as well as offerings from BMW, Land Rover and Lexus. It also supplies Mercedes' Alabama plant with a three-pronged product (M-Class, R-Class and GL) strategy, enhancing both plant volume and plant flexibility.
Driving Impressions At the press preview in Napa Valley, California, road conditions were variable, including some fairly aggressive, on-road twists and turns and an equally aggressive off-road demonstration. The GL450 handles itself...with grace, especially when equipped with the standard air suspension and optional adaptive damping. Despite almost 5,300 pounds of curb weight and an overall length of 200 inches, the GL450 drives like a much smaller, significantly lighter SUV. This is in contrast to recent drives in the M-Class, which we felt drove 'larger' than its physical size suggested. Response from the only available enginethe new 4.6-liter DOHC V8is great, made more so by the excellent seven-speed automatic. Venture off-road, especially if in possession of the Off-Road package, and you won't be disappointed. The GL450 can handle anything an owner with payments remaining would care to give it. It may not be quite as off-road capable as a comparably priced Range Rover, but we like its balance between on-road practicality and off-road proclivity.
Adaptive Damping System
Few vehicle types confront changing road conditions more often than an SUV. The GL450's air suspension is constantly reacting to road surface variations with an ability to change compression and rebound damping every .05 seconds. If the road is smooth, the system delivers relatively soft damping; if irregularities abound, rebound and compression modes will harden. The end result behind the wheel is an SUV with a comfortable ride when you want it, and appropriately more responsive handling when you need it.
In contrast to its domestic competition, Mercedes-Benz builds the GL450 using a unitized body and chassis. This offers many benefits, including lower weight, a lower center of gravity and, when connected to an all-independent suspension, a more car-like ride. The GL450 remains a fully capable, all-season SUV, but with the on-road alacrity of smaller crossovers. It's a compelling combination.
The GL450's bucket seats are well-shaped and supportive. The driver is fronted by a four-spoke steering wheel and what Mercedes describes as a 'sport-oriented' instrument panel. The horizontal grab handles on the console are notable, alludingboth aesthetically and functionallyto the GL450's off-road capability. We remain unsure regarding the shift lever returning to the steering column; it does provide for a clean, uninterrupted console, but is less-than-intuitive in its operation. To its credit, the design team has provided reasonably easy access to the third row, along with generous headroom throughout the interior.Exterior
With its all-new GL450, Mercedes hits all the right exterior notes. In profile, the big Mercedes is very well-proportioned, disguising its overall length (200.3 inches) with short overhangs, an aggressive windshield angle, generous greenhouse, flared wheel arches (similar to the new S-Class) and careful detailing. The traditional Mercedes face is framed by high-tech halogen headlamps; optional Bi-Xenon lamps include a swiveling feature for additional visibility in turns. Privacy glass covers both the 'B' and 'C' pillars, giving the appearance of one uninterrupted glass panel along the entire side of the vehicle. It is, from any angle, one unified design.
With assembly in Alabama, the GL450like both the M-Class and R-Classis value-driven. That's reflected in a long list of standard equipment, where several items are notable. Passive safety is addressed with two-stage front airbags for front seat occupants, side airbags for both first and second row seats, along with side-curtain airbags spanning all three rows. Audiophiles will enjoy a standard, glove box-mounted six-disc CD changer, auxiliary input for MP3 players and eight speakers. Those living in the sunbelt should appreciate the rear (stationary) sunroof with shade, while inhabitants of the snowbelt will benefit from standard full-time four-wheel drive.
Despite all that is standard, the GL450's extensive list of options won't disappoint either feature-oriented consumers or profit-oriented dealers. Driving in congested areas is a good argument for Distronic, Mercedes' adaptive cruise control. For those unable to drive, the rear-seat entertainment system should provide plenty of entertainment. If you elect to see Tobruk as it is today, opt for the Off-Road package, offering a two-speed transfer case with locking center and rear differential. Of course, the usual offerings include SIRIUS Satellite Radio, DVD navigation, heated second row seating and a rearview back-up camera. Lastly, a Class IV trailer hitch is a worthwhile compliment to the GL450's 7,500-pound tow rating.
The big Mercedes-Benz is blessed with an all-new 4.6-liter V8. If, as advertised, the GL450 represents "more Mercedes to love," then this new V8 is more performance to adore. With four valves per cylinder and dual overhead cams per bank, the engine delivers a seamless 335 horsepower and 339 lb.-ft. of torque and, more impressively, delivers that power and torque over a broad rev range. Connecting the sweetness to all four wheels is a seven-speed, electronically controlled automatic. Zero to 60 miles per hour arrives in about 7.4 seconds; top speed is electronically limited to 130. For those with a preference for heightened efficiency, a 3.0-liter V6 dieselin 45-state formwill be available in early 2007.
335 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
339 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/18
By Ana78 on Thursday, March 05, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,700overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, reliable, really good on long trips."
Cons: "navigation for this model is not voice command"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love this truck! It looks like a monster of a machine but drives as smooth as a sedan!! During the day it was my grocery shopping car, my drive the kids & their friends to the mall car, my soccer, ballet, baseball game car and my family day car. I've even driven it ON the beach down the shore of NC. Amazing! When weekends came... I would wash all the gunk from inside and outside the truck from all of my daily chores and kids hobbies. After a wash it turns into a (pumpkin) sleek, classy, and shiny. Awesome girls night out truck! Kids are all grown up and I am heart broken to downsize. -__- The most reliable car ever!"
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By What a Disappointment on Wednesday, February 18, 2015
I owned and sold this car
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This is a wonderful vehicle to travel with. Very comfortable on long distances and, with it's large fuel tank and very good fuel economy stops can be made when you chose rather than when you have to. However, traveling becomes less fun when the car needs multiple visits to the dealer per maintenance cycle for broken sensors, ad-blue tank and pump failures, etc. And that is in addition to failing oil cooler seals and a steering rack that needed to be replaced. Very disappointing, especially since it is a Mercedes-Benz........"
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By garymporter on Wednesday, October 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "Seats 7 passengers comfortably."
Cons: "Requires frequent, extensive maintenance."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"• It's too big. All the rear-view cameras, parking sensors and computer-assisted hydraulics come to naught in the average big-city parking garage. My own garage requires a fiendishly difficult 90-degree turn--or more realistically, several turns, as I drive a few feet forward, spin the steering wheel to the left, back-up, forward, etc etc.,resulting in a row of dings along both sides of the exterior. I have found myself, more than once, in the absurd situation of being trapped in my own car in my own garage, unable to open my door. And don't count on all the computer DSR's and Dynamic-Something's off-road, either. Last winter, out in a cow pasture, the thing slid sideways down a 70-degree muddy embankment and into a tree. This was of its own accord, btw, driven by its own weight. (To be fair, I can hardly blame the engineers for this particular incident, as the car was parked with the engine off at the time.) • It uses too much gas. 14 mpg (premium fuel) is about the best it can do in the city, which bothers me. On the rare occasion I drive a straight 100 miles out on the highway, I may be able to stretch it to 18 mph. The monitor once flickered at 20.5 mpg for a few seconds--the holy grail. • Maintenance is a horror. If you live within walking distance of a Mercedes-Benz dealership and happen to carry $1000 cash around with you at all times, and have a multitude of friends and family you can call at any hour to come pick you up on some lonesome highway, you my friend, are the ideal GL-550 owner. I happen to live 100 miles from the nearest M-B dealership. (I know. What was I thinking?) Last summer, a flat tire--in my driveway--turned into a week-long ordeal. This car is, as far as I can tell, the only automobile in existence with 21-in. wheels--a Mercedes exclusive, perfect for when the rubber meets the Autobahn. Not so perfect for two-lane blacktops. As you can imagine, 21-inch tires can be a bit hard to come by. Special order, don't you know. A three-day wait, in my case, during which I was dependent on the kindness of the aforementioned friends and relatives to cart me around. Which is a bore. The 3-day sequester did give me time to, sort of, get over the fact that the price of this precious 21-inch tire--Pirelli and Continental are the two choices, one priced at around $20 less--is almost $1000. Times four if I'd replaced the other three, which, judged by their looks, are also not long for this world. In fact, $1000 seems to be the magic number. Everything on this car that can possibly break or require routine maintenance --from the tires, to fixing the electronic liftgate which sometimes opens, sometimes not, to anything to do with hydraulics (don't get me started), to an oil change, to replacing the plastic widgets that work the electric windows--which snapped and broke off like four acrylic fingernails the first time I tried to open the windows--costs $1000. Or more. Much more. The car, in the two years I've owned it, has never been in complete working order. Something. Always. Breaks. This month it's the hydraulics. The poor thing is listing to one side and rides like a tractor. I look like the Titanic coming down the road. • There is, I am sure, a market for 7-passenger SUV's with 4.8-liter V-8 engines and silky 7-speed automatic transmissions. It is a tiny market, which does not include middle-aged single men, and would appear to be populated by owners who don't really drive their own cars. Jennifer Lopez. Kim Kardashian. Movie stars. Cement ponds.... I felt like Kanye for a week or two after I bought it. Now I feel like Kanye's driver."
24 people out of 48 found this review helpful
By Stan on Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "handling, visability from drivers position"
Cons: "gas milage, tailgate window doesl not open"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Only negative is gas milage. Had Tahoe's and Yukon's prior to this, the GL450 is a far better vehicle. Just had a rental Yukon and the difference is off the charts."
11 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By Vizcaya on Wednesday, April 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quality, comfort, size"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Does everything they say - excellent quality, fun to drive and excellent gas mileage for a heavy SUV - good value."
21 people out of 36 found this review helpful
By SQ on Monday, March 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Not worth the $$$! Numerous things have broken inside the vehicle. The acceleration from a complete stop has left me panicked more than once. It is very delayed! You must ezzzz onto the accelerator, I have been told. Well sometimes that just isn't the situation...The expense of servicing this vehicle is outrageous. Especially when you drop off your vehicle and they say "oh this is a minor service" Then you pick it up to pay "only" $500 or $600. Major services run $1500 or more. Tires are also a crazy expense for this car."
16 people out of 24 found this review helpful