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      Mercedes-Benz GLS first drive review

      Desirazu Venkat

      Desirazu Venkat


       When Mercedes-Benz launched the GL-Class here in 2012 it was the largest vehicle that they had brought to India, in fact, it became the largest SUV on sale. Now there is a facelift which we would have normally called the GL facelift but last year Mercedes-Benz changed its naming convention and attached every car in the lineup to a core model like the A-Class, C-Class and the E-Class. Since this one is their largest and most expensive vehicles, it has been rechristened the GLS which makes it the SUV of the S-Class range. 


       As is the case with most mid-life updates, this one has resulted in some subtle styling changes and some revisions to the feature list. What is completely new however, is the nine-speed gearbox that has replaced the seven-speed unit. 

      Appearance Exterior

       The first thing that catches your attention with  this new GLS is the face. There are new LED headlamps whose layout has been designed to include eyebrow like LED DRLs. The two-slat grille too has been redesigned and now includes a very prominent three-pointed star. Finally, that hint of premium (ness) has come in the form of a curved chrome bumper.


      From the side, it is still gargantuan thanks to the large overhangs. At the back, the tail lamps have got a new LED strip while the dual exhaust tips have now been trimmed out in chrome. The GLS, thanks to its massive size,  still has commanding road presence and these cosmetic changes, while not too many in number, have done enough to give it a fresh lease. 


      Appearance Interior

       Have you ever walked into a huge building and got overwhelmed at the sheer size of the things around you? This was pretty much my first reaction  when I climbed into the GLS. It is huge inside thanks to a 3.07 metre wheelbase and is the first seven-seater I have been in that can actually seat seven adults in a manner of comfort that declines only slightly as you reach row three.


      It retains all the spacious hallmarks of the GL but has now been given some new bits. These include a sporty three-spoke steering wheel and a freestanding eight-inch display for the COMAND Online system. This new MMI has got revised graphics and the option to connect to the internet via a 3G/4G device. Also included in the MMI is Apple Car Play. The screen is also the display for the 360 degree camera which comes as a boon when you have to manoeuvre or park the car in a really tight space. 


      On the practicality front, there are a plethora of storage spaces, heated/cooled cup holders and electric folding for the third row to increase boot space. However, to actually reach the third row you have to manually fold down row two and then clamber in.


      As always, the view out of the GLS is commanding thanks to the large glass area and high ground clearance. You tower over everything else around you and once you have wrapped your head around the GLS’ massive size it is not a difficult car to judge and place.


      However, while Mercedes-Benz may have done enough to give the GLS a mid-life update, you do not feel particularly special inside the car. This is because the rivals like the Volvo XC90 and the Audi Q7 have moved significantly ahead in terms of quality design and layout.

      Performance Drive

       The GLS is offered with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine. It produces 258bhp and 620Nm of torque and is now mated to a new 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox in place of the seven-speed unit that was connected to the older car. 4MATIC is standard for the Indian market.


       The 9G-Tronic has been designed to increase fuel efficiency by having shorter ratios thereby allowing you to drive at a higher speed in a lower rpm range. The first five gears are short while thedifferences start to stretch out from fifth gear onwards.This basically means you can cruise at triple digit speeds below the 2000rpm mark.


      While testing the GLS we found that despite its 2.45 tonne weight, it was able to do the 0-100kmph sprint in 8.29 seconds as compared to the older GL’s 10.15 seconds. It is a similar story in the 20-80kmph in third gear which was 4.83 seconds compared to the GL-Class’  5.83 seconds. The 40-100kmph sprint in fourth gear was achieved in 6.38 seconds and is marginally faster than the older car’s 7.88 seconds.Its major rival, the Audi Q7, is significantly faster across all three criteria.


      The GLS gets Mercedes-Benz’s AIRMATIC suspension which in combination with the 275/50 R20 tyres does a pretty decent job of absorbing bumps and imperfections on the road at lower speeds. The steering is light and makes it an easy job to manoeuvre this behemoth.  


      As you go faster, the car does tend to move around quite a bit and for this there is a sport mode which firms up the suspension and steering response for sustained higher speeds. However, this is just a marginal improvement over the comfort mode.


      Given its size and weight, the GLS is not a car that will switch directions easily and is best enjoyed when you drive in a calm manner. There is also the snow mode as well as individual mode of which latter will give some pre-sets that you can play with to get the responses to your individual preferences. 

      Tech Specs

      Make Mercedes-Benz
      Model GLS
      Fuel Diesel
      Variant 350d
      Engine Capacity 3.0-litre
      Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 258 @ 3600
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 620 @ 1600
      Gears Nine-speed
      Length mm 5130
      Width mm 1934
      Height mm 1850
      Wheelbase mm 3075
      Fuel Capacity (in litres) 100
      Tyre size 275/50 R20


      7 Seats Yes
      COMAND ONLINE infotainment system Yes
      9G-Tronic gearbox Yes
      Electrically folding third row Yes
      4MATIC AWD system Yes
      Paddle shifters Yes
      LED headlights Yes

      Competition All Specs

      Specifications Mercedes-Benz
      Variant 350d Technology Pack Inscription Luxury
      Fuel diesel diesel diesel
      Engine Capacity 3.0-litre 3.0-litre 2.0-litre
      Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 258 @ 3600 245 @ 2910 225 @ 4250
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 620 @ 1600 600 @ 1500 470 @ 1750
      Gears Nine Eight Eight
      Length mm 5130 5052 4950
      Width mm 1934 1968 2008
      Height mm 1850 1740 1776
      Wheelbase mm 3075 2994 2984
      Fuel Capacity (in litres) 100 75 71
      Tyre size 275/50 R20 255/55 R19 235/60 R18


       The Mercedes-Benz GLS is large, comfortable and is one of the few SUVs today that lays claim to the title of a proper seven-seater. It has a significant advantage as it is the largest car of the lot and is second to none when it comes to road presence and image. However, the competition has now moved quite a bit ahead when it comes to design and technology as both the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 are now a whole generation ahead.


       It is priced at Rs 82.36 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and rivals the Audi Q7 in the Technology Pack variant (Rs 79.85 lakh) and the Volvo XC90 in the Inscription Luxury variant (Rs 80.24 lakh). 

      Photo Courtesy By : Kapil Angane