2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class First Look
- GLS580 with 4.0-liter V8 or GLS450 with 3.0-liter inline-six
- 48-volt EQ Boost mild-hybrid assist
- Newly available second-row captain’s chairs
- MBUX infotainment with available gesture controls
- New E-Active Body Control
- Standard Carwash mode
- Current GLS450 starts at $71,145, GLS550 is $96,745
The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class sits at the top of the brand’s SUV lineup. It’s bigger than the Gelandewagen G-Class, and while the G-wagen may loom larger in the public consciousness, the GLS sells far more. The 3-row family-hauler faces its toughest competition yet now that the BMW X7 has finally arrived, joining the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator. For 2020, the redesigned GLS grows slightly larger, adds a standard mild-hybrid system to both powertrains, and features several other new technologies.
The new model sees its wheelbase increase by just over two inches while overall length climbs by slightly more than three inches. Those figures now eclipse those of the rival X7, whereas the previous GLS was slightly smaller in both measures. Up front, two massive horizontal bars sit within a huge grille opening, which is flanked by headlights that each incorporate 112 individual LEDs. Wheel sizes range from 19 inches to 23 inches. Despite the imposing size, aerodynamic drag is said to have been reduced.
GLS450 and GLS580
The GLS is again offered in 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder models but there are changes to both powertrains. The biggest news surrounds the V8 variant, which gets the new moniker GLS580, ditching the previous GLS550. The new designation does not reflect an increase in displacement—in fact, the engine size shrinks from 4.7 liters to 4.0. But the new twin-turbocharged powerplant nevertheless is more powerful, with 483 horsepower (up from 449) while it produces the same 516 lb-ft of torque. Supplementing those totals is the standard 48-volt mild-hybrid system, Mercedes’s EQ Boost, which adds 184 lb-ft and 21 ponies.
That system is also present in the GLS450, offering the same output boost to that model’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, which on its own makes 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque (same as in the outgoing GLS450). Besides offering extra muscle, the EQ Boost system incorporates a starter-generator that recuperates energy charging the battery, and drives auxiliary components such as the air-conditioning compressor and water pump.
The GLS again uses a 9-speed automatic transmission, and 4MATIC all-wheel drive is standard. An available 2-speed transfer case with a low range is a new option, available on the GLS580. The GLS chassis utilizes air springs and adaptive dampers and adopts as an option E-Active Body Control, as seen in the GLE. This feature allows the SUV to lean into curves, to rock the vehicle if it has become stuck in deep sand, and to respond in advance to bumps in the road seen by the available forward-facing camera system.
Three more luxurious rows
The interior design takes much from the new GLE-Class, with the twin 12.3-inch screens of the virtual instrument cluster and the infotainment system merging under an extra-wide piece of glass that spans nearly two-thirds of the dashboard. At the center of the dash are four squared-off vents, and a strip of ambient lighting bisects the dash, extends onto the door panels, and also outlines the grab handles on the center console.
The MBUX interface includes more sophisticated voice recognition of various requests, conjured up by speaking the phrase, “Hey, Mercedes.” An optional Interior Assistant responds to hand gestures. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are present, as is inductive wireless device charging. Options include a head-up display, augmented video for navigation, and heated and cooled cupholders.
Power adjustable second and third rows
Mercedes appears to have paid more than the usual attention to the back row. The third-row seats are power-adjustable, heated, have their own USB ports, and are said to accommodate passengers up to six-feet four-inches tall. An optional 5-zone climate-control system (standard on the GLS580) includes auxiliary electric heating and cooling for the third row.
The second-row seats also are power-adjustable, and legroom is increased by 3.4 inches. The GLS for the first time is offering captain’s chairs in place of a 3-person bench seat. There’s also an Executive Rear Seat Package for the captain’s chairs that adds a fold-out center console, wireless device charging, softer headrests, and redundant controls for the MBUX system via a 7-inch tablet. An even fancier Executive Rear Seat Plus Package throws in heated and cooled multi-contour seats. And when it’s time to convert the GLS to cargo hauling, all rear seatbacks can be lowered via a single button. The vehicle also can by lowered by two inches to ease cargo loading.
Another clever bit of technology is the Carwash function, which is standard. In preparation for a turn through the auto-bath, it closes all the windows and the sunroof, folds in the mirrors, raises the suspension, switches the climate control to recirc, activates the 360-degree-view camera’s front view, and turns off the rain-sensing function of the windshield wipers. Once the vehicle accelerates past 12 mph, the system automatically switches out of Carwash mode.
Where is the Mercedes-Benz GLS built?
Like the outgoing model, the new GLS will be built in Tuscaloosa, alongside the GLE-class SUV. The new model is due to arrive in dealerships by the end of the year. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but for reference the current GLS450 starts at $71,145, and the GLS550 is $96,745.
Need a big luxury SUV right now, not later? See examples of the outgoing GLS on sale now at dealers near you.