2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Redefines Luxury SUVs
When we were invited to join Mercedes-Benz on a recent vehicle launch program, I was given the assignment and immediately let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of testing and reviewing a super-luxurious vehicle from the German lineup. I envisioned a sleek autobahn killer such as their SL550 Roadster. Then I discovered the invitation was for the international launch of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV. Was I disappointed? Not in the least. Practically speaking, a luxury SUV with a third row was ideally suited for me. Who better to evaluate such a vehicle than the father of five kids involved in soccer, football, karate, gymnastics, and trumpet lessons?
The GL-Class comes in four levels including: the GL350 BlueTEC 4MATIC with its 3.0-liter single turbo diesel V6 producing a solid 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque; the GL450 with a 4.6-liter biturbo gasoline V8 capable of 362 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque; a GL550 with its direct-injection 4.6-liter biturbo V8 cranking out an impressive 429 horsepower along with 516 pound-feet of torque; and the GL63 AMG with its beastly direct-injection 5.5-liter biturbo V8 that pumps out 550 beastly horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque—all of which will undoubtedly take care of getting the kids to practice and rehearsals in record-setting time.
But most intriguing of all was the GL’s third row seating. Yes, the famed "third" row seating that other manufacturers tout but fall short on. Was the GL's third row actually usable and, dare I say, comfortable? To answer this, I subjected myself to the third row in a GL350 while our driver hurriedly shuttled me to the airport—a drive filled with sudden braking, responsive acceleration, evasive highway maneuvers, and above-average speeds. Throughout this adventure, I experienced an unexpected level of comfort in the third row. The ride was so smooth that I failed to realize the actual speeds at which we were traveling. This was a true testament to the GL350’s performance and the very comfortable and enjoyable GL-Class third row.
The GL-Class does, however, suffer from what I would refer to as “multiple personality disorder.” The chiseled, aggressive front facade is bold, sporty, and athletic, while the flowing lines of the side profile comes across as sophisticated and modern. Its design will appeal to those sporty moms and dads who still want to ride in style for a date-night out on the town.
Out of the three GL categories experienced, I was most impressed with the GL350. The GL450 and GL550 are also absolutely solid performers, but often with an entry-level vehicle, you feel as through you're sacrificing or settling. This is absolutely not true with the GL350, especially when you factor in standard features such as the ATTENTION ASSIST, created to alert the driver and prepare the brakes for maximum stopping power, and mbrace2, which provides an array of vehicle diagnostics and concierge services. And with the estimated 600-700 mile range from the 26-gallon fuel tank, you may start to walk with a certain swagger thanks to the fuel saving provided by the smooth and uncharacteristically quiet diesel.
Additionally, there are a host of attractive features, such as the panorama sunroof, massaging driver and passenger seats, power outlets for your road-trip devices, optional electronic folding rear seats, Active Parking Assist, and Active Blind Spot Assist.
The 2013 GL-Class goes on sale this September, with the GL350 hitting showrooms with a beginning MSRP of $62,400, while the GL450 starts at $63,900, and the GL550 comes in with a starting sticker of $86,900. The wicked GL63 AMG version will become available during the first quarter of 2013 with pricing not yet available.
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.