By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
As the largest SUV to wear the 3-pointed Mercedes-Benz star, the luxurious GL-Class for 2015 delivers all the utility of a family-friendly SUV and combines it with the styling, performance and interior opulence of the finest S-Class sedan. The GL’s reputation for excellence is bolstered by impeccable build quality, enviable safety ratings and a sophisticated suspension that delivers one of the most comfortable yet dynamic rides of any full-size luxury crossover SUV. The big Benz offers a variety of powertrain choices including an all-new twin-turbocharged V6 and a fuel-efficient diesel. And, unlike many luxury SUVs derived from more mainstream platforms, the 2015 GL-Class shares no such pedigree. It’s pure Mercedes-Benz through and through, which is one more reason the GL-Class SUV is held in such high regard.
Just because you have the need to carry more than four passengers or tow a 7,500-pound trailer doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your standards. The full-size 2015 Mercedes GL-Class delivers workhorse-like performance in a luxury vehicle respected by valets from Manhattan to Monaco.
If your passengers are young children, dogs or other interior-abusing offenders, a full-size luxury SUV like the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class may not be the best choice. You can find all the comfort, power and towing you need in a more family-friendly Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition.
KBB Expert Ratings
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class sees some big changes for 2015, starting under the hood. The GL450 4Matic receives a new biturbo V6 engine with the same horsepower as the outgoing V8, but with better fuel economy. Stop/start technology is added to all trims except the GL350 BlueTEC 4Matic, and some special order items return to the regular options list.
Despite its large size, tall driving stance and tank-like solidity, Mercedes-Benz’s 2015 GL-Class SUV is an absolute joy to drive. The ride is comfortable and stable, complemented by a silent...
... cabin and some of the most comfortable seats in any luxury SUV. From the driver’s seat forward, the big GL feels as if it were just another excellent Mercedes sedan, only revealing its true self after a glance in the rearview mirror exposes the second and third rows of seating. Power is never in short supply, be it from the torque-happy diesel in the GL350 BlueTEC, the twin-turbocharged V6 and V8 in the GL450 and GL550 respectively, or the Teutonic terror beneath the bonnet of the GL63 AMG. Standard 4Matic all-wheel drive is always active in helping maintain the best traction and can even be equipped with a 2-speed transfer case for light off-roading. When the asphalt turns serpentine, a “sport mode” will firm the steering feel for better response.
BlueTEC DIESEL V6 ENGINE
Diesel’s acceptance is growing by leaps and bounds in the U.S., helped along by such wonderful engines as the 3.0-liter V6 found in the 2015 GL350 BlueTEC diesel. Although it has more torque than most V8s, the BlueTEC engine still manages a respectable 26 mph highway.
SURROUND VIEW SYSTEM
The GL’s Surround View system employs four cameras positioned at the vehicle’s front, back and sides. The combined images create a 360-degree birds-eye view around the GL, making parking easier and accidents less likely.
The 2015 GL-Class seats seven passengers in three rows with good legroom for all occupants. Cargo space behind the third row is somewhat limited, but folding the second and third rows down opens up the cargo capacity to a generous 93.8 cubic feet. Fit and finish of the interior is impeccable, with soft-touch surfaces and lots of well-done wood and metal trim. Standard equipment includes MB-Tex, which is very much like leather, with real leather an option. The seats themselves are terrific for long hauls, and outward vision is good except to the rear, so the blind-spot monitoring system is a wise choice.
The rugged, somewhat boxy look of the 2015 GL-Class luxury SUV will not be mistaken for anything other than a Mercedes. Its purposeful stance has a definite presence, with a reasonable step-in height aided by a small side step rail and an easily accessible roof rack. Gracing the GL’s sides are artful creases and detailing, and the entire effect is one of luxury, style and confidence. Taller drivers and passengers will appreciate the rear liftgate’s high travel, allowing easy loading of large items while reducing the chance of bruising one’s forehead.
Even the base 2015 Mercedes GL-Class is well-equipped. The GL350 has heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, sunroof, power tailgate, power-folding third-row seats, rearview camera and an audio system with a 6-disc CD/DVD changer. Bluetooth audio streaming is standard but, if you want to physically connect your iPod, that’s extra in the base model GL350 and GL450 and standard in the top-line GL550. The mbrace2 system lets you check on your vehicle, lock/unlock it and more from a smartphone or computer. Safety features include crosswind stabilization and systems that monitor for driver drowsiness or an impending collision.
Extras for the GL-Class are in the form of packages or as stand-alone options. The package that includes a premium harman/kardon sound system and soft-close doors is nearly $6,000. Others packages, such as a heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, are relative bargains at just a few hundred dollars. Additional features include a night-vision assist system, blind-spot monitoring, navigation system and 3-zone climate control. For the few who will want to venture off the beaten track in this luxury SUV, the On/Off Road package has a 2-speed transfer case, 6-mode drive selector and added underbody protection.
The GL350 uses a 3.0-liter V6 BlueTEC turbodiesel engine with 455 lb-ft of torque and an EPA highway fuel-economy rating of 26 mpg. The GL450 has a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 that can launch it to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, while the GL550 employs a 4.6-liter twin-turbo V8 that can make the same sprint in a mere 5.5 seconds. The GL63 AMG has a hand-built 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes an enviable 550 horsepower. GL-Class models have 4Matic all-wheel drive standard, and all engine choices are connected to a smooth 7-speed automatic transmission.
3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 (GL350 BlueTEC)
240 horsepower @ 3,600 rpm
455 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-2,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (GL450)
362 horsepower @ 5,500-6,000 rpm
369 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/21 mpg
4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (GL550)
429 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18 mpg
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 (GL63 AMG)
550 horsepower @ 5,250-5,750 rpm
560 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC 4Matic comes in just above $64,500. A GL450 starts a little over $66,000 and a GL550 is just over $90,000. The GL63 AMG will be in the neighborhood of $120K or more, depending on how you equip it, and a GL550 can easily reach over $100,000 when loaded with options. The GL’s starting price is near that of a Cadillac Escalade and Range Rover Sport. It is more than the base price of a BMW X5, Audi Q7, Infiniti JX, Buick Encore and Lincoln Navigator, and less than the starting price of the Lexus LX 570. Before buying, before to check the Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com to see what others in your area are actually paying for the GL. In terms of residuals, the 2015 Mercedes GL-Class is expected to have very good resale value, with diesel models doing particularly well.