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."
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