By KBB.com Editors
One look at the luxury import segment and you see – very quickly – the preponderance of growth in the SUV category. 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 did not impress buyers. Because many consumers required a larger vehicle, Mercedes-Benz created the GL-Class, a seven-passenger SUV with surprisingly modest exterior dimensions and host of engine choices including a 50-state legal diesel. With the GL, consumers retain the same sporty character and luxurious trappings of the M-Class, but in a slightly more expensive package offering far better utility.
If you want the benefits of Mercedes-Benz engineering, German build quality, American-style accommodations and the optional availability of a fuel-efficient turbo-diesel engine, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL delivers in spades.
If third-row seating is not a requirement, you can get much of the same performance and luxury from the smaller M-Class. Those seeking a bit more exterior flash may be happier in a Cadillac Escalade or, if money is not object, a Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
The GL320 CDI is replaced by the GL320 BlueTEC, which is available in all 50 states. Mercedes-Benz's PRE-SAFE occupant protection system and a new radio head unit are made standard on all trims, while the GL550 receives Keyless Go as standard equipment.
Driving Impressions Subjected to highly variable road conditions, including some fairly aggressive on-road twists and turns and an equally aggressive off-road experience, the GL450 handled 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 right around 200 inches, the GL450 drives like a much smaller, significantly lighter SUV. Response from the 4.6-liter DOHC V8 is great, made more so by the excellent seven-speed automatic transmission. 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 capability.
Adaptive Damping System
The GL's air suspension can constantly react to road surface variations, with an ability to change shock absorber settings 20 times per second. If the road is smooth, the system delivers relatively softer shock absorber action and a smooth ride; if the road gets bad, the shock absorbers become more firm for increased control. The result is an SUV with a comfortable ride when you want it and appropriately more responsive handling when you need it.
BlueTEC V6 Diesel Engine
Emissions guidelines kept the old GL320 CDI from being sold in all 50 states, but the new BlueTEC clean diesel not only clears the stringent NOx bar, it can cruise nearly 600 miles on a single tank of fuel.
The GL's bucket seats are well-shaped and supportive. The driver is fronted by a four-spoke steering wheel and what Mercedes-Benz describes as a "sport-oriented" instrument panel. The horizontal grab handles on the console are notable, alluding – both aesthetically and functionally – to the GL's off-road capability. We remain undecided regarding the shift lever being mounted 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 and generous headroom throughout the interior.Exterior
With the 2009 GL-Class, Mercedes-Benz hits all the right exterior notes. In profile, the GL 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 S-Class) and careful detailing. The traditional Mercedes-Benz 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, a highly unified design.
With assembly in Alabama, the GL-Class – like both the M-Class and R-Class – is 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 and side-curtain airbags spanning all three rows. Audiophiles will enjoy a standard in-dash six-disc CD changer, auxiliary input for MP3 players and Bluetooth connectivity. 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. The GL550 adds 21-inch wheels, a rearview camera, running boards, full leather interior, Keyless Go, Parktronic park assist, heated rear seats and the harman/kardon LOGIC7 sound system.
Despite all that is standard, the GL's extensive list of options won't disappoint feature-oriented consumers. Driving in congested areas is a good argument for Distronic, Mercedes-Benz's adaptive cruise control. For occupants not in the front seats, the rear-seat entertainment system should provide plenty of entertainment. Offerings also include SIRIUS Real Time Traffic, DVD navigation, heated second-row seating, a rear-view back-up camera and a Class-IV trailer hitch to complement the GL's 7,500-pound tow rating.
There are three engine options for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. The GL320 BlueTEC employs a powerful yet fuel-efficient 3.0-liter direct-injection turbo-diesel V6. With plenty of low-end torque for quick acceleration, the GL320 delivers an impressive 23 miles per gallon in highway driving. The GL450 is powered by a marvelous 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, the engine delivers a seamless 335 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque and, more impressively, delivers that power and torque over a broad engine speed range. The powerhouse 5.5-liter V8 in the GL550 cranks out 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. Connecting the smooth power to all four wheels is a seven-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission.
3.0-liter V6 Turbo Diesel
210 horsepower @ 3800 rpm
398 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600-2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23
335 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
339 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2700-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18
382 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
391 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800-4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/17
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