Mercedes Benz GL-Class Review

Mercedes Benz GL-Class

Mercedes Benz GL-Class Review

Mercedes Benz GL-Class ReviewMercedes Benz GL-Class Review | Part TwoMercedes Benz GL-Class Review | Part FourMercedes Benz GL-Class Road Test

It is fairly easy to get in and out of the Mercedes Benz GL-Class, our test car was equipped with the optional (£460 option) stainless steel running boards which certainly aid entry and exit.

Ease of Use

It is fairly easy to get in and out of the Mercedes Benz GL-Class, our test car was equipped with the optional (£460 option) stainless steel running boards which certainly aid entry and exit.

The driver’s seat, steering wheel and exterior mirrors are all electrically adjustable and can be memorized. The heated front seats are eight-way electrically adjustable with memory and have multi-contour back rests featuring a series of air chambers that can be adjusted to find the ideal driving position. We spent over 12 hours in the saddle on one journey and felt quite refreshed on our arrival - even the middle row seats can be reclined.

Unlike the Range Rover, the Mercedes Benz GL-Class feels more car-like on the inside and you still sit relatively high up but you feel more in-line with the car rather than sat on it. There is plenty of headroom, even with the optional sunroofs.

There are three rows of seats, two front seats, three middle seats and two third row rear seats which are accessible via the rear doors. You need to be fairly nimble to get into the third row seats and they are more suited to teenagers than adults. Cleverly, these seats can be folded and unfolded electronically into the boot floor at the press of a button, situated either just inside the tailgate or on the c-pillar. The seats can be used in many different configurations, meaning that the Mercedes Benz GL-Class can swallow between 200 and 1115 litres of luggage up to the back rests – or an incredible 2300 litres when loadeded up to roof – (2300 litres = 2300 1 litre milk cartons).

Our test car was fitted with the optional (£400 option) easy-pack tailgate, which automatically opens and closes the tailgate at the touch of a button, which is great if you are short. It can be difficult for shorter people to reach the retractable load cover, when the rear seats are lowered.

Forward vision is good but rear and side vision was hampered by the optional privacy glass.

Some people may feel a little intimidated by the size of the GL-Class but you soon get used to it – it is not particularly wide but at just over 5 metres, it is long and it does require some judgement when parallel parking. Our test car was fitted with a reversing camera which utilizes the COMMAND / navigation screen when selecting reverse, there are also front and rear parking sensors, which makes parking relatively easy.

Comfort and Refinement

There are all the usual creature comforts such as windscreen wipers that are automatically activated when they sense rain. The headlights can be automatically set to come on at dusk or when entering tunnels. Amazingly only the GL 500 is fitted with Xenon headlights as standard, our car had what Mercedes Benz call high performance projection-beam headlamps – but they were not particularly powerful, especially out in wilderness, very unimpressive. There is an automatic dipping rear view mirror and driver’s exterior mirror – although we feel the exterior mirrors are too small.

The Mercedes Benz GL 420 CDI is fitted with cruise control, however you need to spend an extra £1310 to equip the G-Class with radar-assisted Distronic adaptive cruise control, which is particularly helpful on our crowded motorways.

The interior trim is excellent, a blend of leather and burr walnut wood, we particularly liked the leather bound dashboard with white stitching. Although we were not overly keen on the optional wooden steering wheel (£460 option) fitted to our test car as we found it too hard.

Off Road

Unlike some of the competition the Mercedes Benz GL-Class is designed to go off road and it is quite capable of transversing rough terrain. The off road data is impressive with an angle of approach and departure of 33 and 27 degrees respectively, a ramp angle of 23 degrees, and a tilt angle of 35 degrees.

There is a permanent four-wheel drive system consisting of a two-stage transfer box mounted directly to the 7G-TRONIC transmission. Two propshafts distribute the drive torque between the front and rear axles and central and rear differential locks with up to 100 per cent locking.

The electronic four-wheel drive traction control system has been designed to monitor the traction of all the wheels and as soon as one wheel loses traction it will send torque to those offering the best traction. The system is integrated with the ESP system to ensure smooth progress and headway is possible even under the toughest of conditions. It also benefits from an ‘electronic’ front differential lock which, in contrast to a mechanical lock, ensures that the vehicle remains fully steerable.

The AirMATIC air suspension system features three off road modes, each providing progressively greater ground clearance from the standard road height of 197 mm. You can raise the clearance to either 227, 277 or 307 mm, the highest mode equating to a fording depth of 600 mm. Should that on occasion prove insufficient, a steel underguard is there to protect important chassis and powertrain components.

There’s further help when negotiating difficult terrain. The Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) system allows the driver to select a maximum speed which the GL-Class will not exceed when descending a steep slope giving a safe, controlled descent every time.

Then there is Hill-Start Assist, which stops the vehicle rolling away when starting off on an uphill or downhill slope. What’s more, when the accelerator is pressed, the throttle valve opens more slowly, thus improving controllability.

There is no doubt that the Range Rover we tested the previous week ‘feels’ much better off road than the Mercedes Benz GL-Class, especially when it is aided by its excellent terrain response system. Having said that, the Mercedes Benz GL-Class is not that far behind but it feels more remote and not so reassuring. Our off-road testing included crossing a rocky river bed where the road had been swept away by recent flooding and the GL-Class coped admirably with terrain that you would not have entertained in other four wheel drives such as a BMW X5.

Mercedes Benz GL-Class ReviewMercedes Benz GL-Class Review | Part TwoMercedes Benz GL-Class Review | Part FourMercedes Benz GL-Class Road Test
Mercedes Benz GL-Class Road Test Data
Model ReviewedMercedes Benz GL 420 CDI
Body Type4x4
ColourObsidian Black
Performance (manufacturers data) 
0 - 62 mph7.6 Seconds
Top Speed 143 mph
Transmission7G-Tronic 7-Speed Automatic Gearbox
Fuel TypeDiesel
CO2 Emissions (NEDC Figures) g/km
Economy (NEDC Figures) 
Urban18.1 mpg
Extra Urban30.7 mpg
Combined24.4 mpg
Insurance Group20A
Euro NCAP RatingTBA
Warranty3 Years / Unlimited Mileage
Price (when tested on the 08/11/08)£63,642.44

The information contained within this Mercedes Benz GL-Class review may have changed since publication on the 8 November 2008. The actual model road tested may feature options and functionality specific to that model, which may not be available as on option or be fitted to other models in the range. Options may not be available on UK specification cars. You may wish to check with your local Mercedes Benz dealer, before making a purchasing decision. E.&.O.E. You may NOT reproduce this car review in full or part, in any format without our written permission. © 2019