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 Atlcarguy (GA) on Sunday, February 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfort, quiet, space, fuel mileage"
Cons: "Nav system, run flat tires"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This is our second GL. We have owned it since September 2010. Our previous GL was a 2008 GL 320CDI. This is by far one of the best cars that you can own. We have loved both of our GLs and would only get the diesel. Lower initial our purchase , better resale, and awesome fuel mileage. My two biggest complaints with the 2011 are the nav system (Mercedes issue same on my 2011 E cabriolet too) and the run flat tires. They are required because bluetec prevents spare. We were told that we were very lucky to get 28,000 miles out of ours. It was $2,400 for four titles installed. MB should be embarrassed for using a second rate product on one of their premier vehicles. Other than that love the vehicle. Looking to get a 2014 in the fall. Love the new style"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Jon on Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, fun to drive"
Cons: "Trunk isn't that wide"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought my GL550 new in '08 in black with tan premium leather and traded in my CLK55. I got Heated rear seats, keyless go, dual entertainment screens. This car has ton of room despite the fact that the trunk is should be slightly wider. The seats heat up in 45 seconds! This car even has massaging seats! This car was loaded even without options I added! The engine is a horse! The 5,500 lb SUV goes from 0-60 in 6.5-7 seconds! The engine is super loud and in the GL550 you can barely hear it! I highly recommend this car."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By RBH (NJ) on Monday, November 19, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 46,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very well made"
Cons: "Run flat tires stink, Blue tec is expensive,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"I have owned this car for three years and love driving it and have had no problems. The only problem with this SUV is the tires and the cost of maintenance. It has run flat tires and they are terrible. If you have a flat it is very difficult finding a tire in less than a week. You cannot carry a spare because of the blue tec system. The dealer will sell you the blue tec fluid for 5 times what is cost at the VW dealer.Having a diesel does not save any money because of the tire maintenance and the blue tec. I will not buy another GL 350 CDI again."
9 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By trees (KY) on Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 117,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I bought my GL320CDI new in November of 2007. It is quiet, comfortable, and nice to drive. However, it is very costly to maintain. M-B ownership comes at price, in general. Oil changes are $300 by the time that you get out of the shop. And that is a cheap visit. I have had glow plugs fail, a glow plug controller fail, and transmission slip. The transmission was out of warranty and almost cost me $6,000, but I got it in to the shop in time, so I spent $800 instead. And it has never towed a thing!! Had issues with the engine running rough which was due to a clogged filter in the exhaust system. I was originally quoted $2500 to repair/replace filter, until dealership found out it could be cleaned. Was happy to spend $300 or so for that. Tires are a pain too because they are high performance tires that last 24,000 miles, if you are lucky. There have been lots of little things fail too: door handles, rear door lock, etc. Most of the little stuff happened under warranty. Bigger stuff happened out of warranty. I even had a power steering line blow. Come to find out that the clamp that was used on one of the high pressure hoses was a recalled part from the M-Series from 2002 or so. No one had an explanation for how that part even got onto the GL. Overall, car is nice to drive, but a maintenance pig."
10 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Lin (TX) on Thursday, August 23, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Mileage, holds road even in snow, towing."
Cons: "Dealers that want to upsell you everything."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Purchased in 2007, a 2008 model, great gas mileage, have gone across country multi times. Most recent from TX to CA. Handles well, turning is excellent, holds road at high speeds. Does well off road in sand, and on highway. Only problem have been Dealers that don't know what they are doing. One in CA, did not tighten oil cap,and oil blew all over engine. Cost then $400.00 to clean engine. I have towing package and all bells, whistles, keyless entry..great..never lose a key. One does need to find a good dealer, if serviced properly no problems. Would purchase this vehicle again. Diesel cost more, but mileage is much better. If you consider the mileage vs. other gas SUV, it is almost double. Best mileage on a trip was 30.4 MPH. Usual 28.7MPH. Skid plates are great for off road. Power, comfort, good MPH, safety. Just get a good Dealer and you will love this SUV."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Lifetime Owner of 26 Vehicles (MI) on Monday, August 13, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 75,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned Yukon XL; Lincoln Navigator; Range Rover. This is simply the best SUV out there! Rides like a luxury vehicle , but yet can carry 7 in comfort. Including the 3rd row passengers! Only reason not a ten, is the navigation. MB should team with Garmin!"
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful