KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/14/2011
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a full-size SUV that provides seating for seven. It offers elegant style, solid performance, technology and safety. The 2012 GL-Class is fairly comparable in size with other vehicles in its class. Under the 2012 GL's hood, engines range from the 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter diesel in the GL350 BlueTEC SUV to the 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 of the Mercedes-Benz GL550. A host of standard features and accessory packages give the 2012 GL-Class broad appeal and makes tough competition for full-size SUV's such as the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 570, Land Rover Range Rover and Infiniti QX56.
You'll Like This Car If...
Buyers seeking refinement, luxury and style will find plenty to admire in the 2012 GL-Class, especially with its excellent passenger and cargo space. Those looking for fuel economy in the full-size SUV class would do well to give the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC a serious look, rather than immediately seek out a hybrid alternative.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Unless three rows of seats are a requirement, the GL-Class has a hard time making an argument against the popular midsize ML-Class SUV. The GL's exterior styling can also come off a bit subdued, if not downright awkward, from certain angles.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class carries over largely unchanged. The interior has received minor tweaks and adjustments, including directional lines for the rearview camera. All GL-Class models now feature LED daytime running lights as standard equipment.
When tested through variable real-world environments, including some seriously sharp curves and an aggressive off-road path, the 2012 GL450 handled itself quite well. This is partially due to the Adaptive Damping System, which helps to keep the wheels planted where they should be. Despite its hefty 5,300-pound curb weight, the GL450's nimble handling belies its size. Behind the wheel we felt as if we were driving a smaller, lighter SUV. The 7-speed automatic's gear ratios are spaced close enough to each other to make the most of the GL450's 4.6-liter V8. While the large SUV may not have the off-road pedigree of some of its competition, we liked the overall balance of practicality and capability it offered. Owners who aren't afraid to test the off-road abilities of 2012 GL450 without treating it as a pure rock-climber will find nothing lacking.
Adaptive Damping System
The Adaptive Damping System in the 2012 GL-Class constantly monitors and reacts to road surface changes and can alter shock absorber settings an astounding 20 times per second. Adaptive Damping makes the ride smoother or firmer as needed, giving the driver comfort on a smooth highway or the confidence of control as conditions worsen.
BlueTEC V6 Diesel Engine
The BlueTEC clean diesel engine clears every emissions requirement in the U.S. while allowing the driver to cruise nearly 600 miles on a single full tank of ultra-low-sulfur diesel. With fuel prices in flux, the BlueTEC is a very attractive prospect, especially in a family-friendly SUV.
Behind the multifunction steering wheel, which can be had with premium leather or burled walnut accents, drivers have practically unlimited ways to stay comfortable, thanks to the GL's 8-way power front seats with 4-way adjustable lumbar support. The third-row seats are easy to access and can fold down at the touch of a button. Stowing the second row creates just over 83 cubic feet of cargo room. While it's not revolutionary to be able to fit seven adults in a vehicle, the manner in which Mercedes made every seating position equally comfortable and enjoyable is certainly impressive. There is no "bad" seat in the 2012 GL-Class.
The exterior of the GL-Class enters 2012 unchanged from the previous year, aside from the addition of standard LED daytime running lights. Mercedes has done a good job holding its own in the modern full-size SUV category, smartly balancing the practical needs of the segment buyer with the quality expectations common for the luxury marque. At once elegant, assertive, powerful and subtle, the GL-Class is pleasant to observe and stands out without crossing a line into being gauche. While the lower front fascia and flared wheel wells plant the GL-Class firmly in SUV design territory, the grille and sloping windshield would be at home in practically any modern Mercedes Benz vehicle. Good sight lines along with the optional Blind Spot Assist built into the exterior mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps and optional parking assist make the design of the 2012 GL-Class functional as well as stylish.
Notable Standard Equipment
GL-Class models come with an impressive list of standard features, giving them a tremendous amount of value and setting them apart from other SUVs. With a strong emphasis on the safety of its occupants, the GL-Class boasts full-time 4-wheel drive, brake assist, hill-start assist, for high-angle takeoffs. As with all 2012 models, Electronic Stability Control and a host of airbags are required by the government. Side-curtain airbags stretch along all three seating rows. The in-dash 6-disc CD/DVD fills the cabin with sound and allows drivers to watch DVD movies when the vehicle is in Park. Front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch, bringing an untypical ambiance to rear-seat passengers. Opting for the top Mercedes-Benz GL550 model rewards owners with the company's COMAND voice-control system as standard equipment, along with navigation and Bluetooth functionality.
Notable Optional Equipment
Even with GL-Class' long list of standard equipment, there is a litany of options to fit every driver's needs or wants. Rear-seat occupants can enjoy quality entertainment, thanks to a pair of 8-inch LCD screens mounted on the back of the front-seat head restraints, enabling passengers to watch DVDs, play video games or even do both simultaneously. Many options, including hard-drive navigation, satellite radio, iPod/mp3 interface, power rear liftgate and rearview camera, can be had via packages or separately. Also notable is the availability of Parktronic parking assist, Blind Spot Assist, a Class-IV trailer hitch and full leather seats.
Under the Hood
The 2012 GL-Class has three engine choices. The GL350's BlueTEC 3.0-liter diesel V6 stands out above its gasoline-fueled siblings, thanks to its gobs of low-end torque, which provides quick acceleration while returning 21 miles per gallon highway. The wonderful 4.6-liter V8 in the 2012 GL450 is all about performance, delivering 335 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque. The top-tier GL550 packs a powerhouse 5.5-liter V8, churning out 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. All 2012 GL-Class models send their power to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission.
3.0-liter V6 turbocharged diesel
210 horsepower @ 3,400 rpm
400 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-2,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/21
335 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
339 lb-ft of torque @ 2,700-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18
382 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
391 lb-ft of torque @ 2,800-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/17
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC SUV's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price MSRP) starts at $61,570, while the 2012 GL450 starts exactly one thousand dollars more. Topping the GL range is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL550, with a cost of entry of $85,300. On the GL350 and GL450, adding only the Premium Package I increased the price about $4,000. Other options, such as the Rear-Seat Entertainment System and full leather package, can kick the price up to the GL550 level quickly, so consider your specific needs carefully if shopping around for a GL-Class. Be sure to check out kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price, to see what others in your area paying for the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV is an excellent choice in terms of resale value, with residuals a few percentage points above those of the Land Rover Range Rover.