Home' Motoring Plus : April 20th 2016 Contents 4 —THE NELSON MAIL Wednesday, April 20, 2016
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Merc GL meets a new badge
The GL-class has
become the GLS, an
SUV that’s fully loaded
in every way. By
New face definitely slims down
GLS. But only metaphorically.
Styling changes at rear limited to bumper and lights. GLS 500 rides on 21-inch wheels.
n the corporate-rebranded
world of Mercedes-Benz
SUVs, the German maker
describes its new flagship
crossover as ‘‘GL meets S’’.
At the risk of stating the
obvious, M-B has aligned the
badging of its SUVs to reflect the
passenger-car lines they are
closest to. So the small GLA is an
SUV-style A-class, the all-new
medium-segment GLC is
equivalent to the C-class and the
large GLE is a high-riding sibling
to the E-class.
The enormous GL now
completes the set by morphing
into the GLS. The inference being
that it’s an off-road-capable,
seven-seat S-class alternative.
Well, the bad news: the GLS is
not quite that. I have no doubt
that M-B is entirely capable of
creating such a thing, but like the
GLE (and unlike the clean-sheet
GLA and GLC), the GLS is a
facelifted version of the model it
replaces rather than a completely
The outgoing GL is a
magnificent thing in many ways.
But it dates back to 2012, so the
platform is not the latest and
greatest that M-B has to offer.
More to the point, the S-class is
unashamedly M-B’s attempt to
build the best car in the world and
is certainly the last word in
luxury and comfort for the
marque (with apologies to the
sedan), so it’s an impossible act to
match in these circumstances.
Even if the company marketing
strategy dictates otherwise.
Where does that leave the
GLS? Still looking pretty good,
actually. Quite literally, with
sleek new frontal styling that
brings it into line with the rest of
the M-B SUV range. It’s done a
good job of visually shrinking the
vehicle, although it’s an illusion:
the GLS remains a monster at 5.1
metres in length.
Inside, the interior is a blend of
old and new (again, like the GLE),
with the main architecture
carried over but a new
instrument panel, multi-function
steering wheel and redesigned
centre console with the new-
generation M-B touchpad.
Engines have been carried
over, but all of the core models
have gained M-B’s new nine-speed
The entry 350 d ($139,000) has
gained the latest ‘‘Comand’’ (M-B
has never been big on spelling)
online navigation system, Apple
CarPlay, LED intelligent lights,
Dynamic Select with five modes
and 20-inch alloy wheels. Which
still look quite small on this mega-
include Distronic Plus with stop-
and-go, Collision Prevention
Assist Plus, Crosswind Assist,
Attention Assist, Pre-Safe braking
with pedestrian recognition,
Active Blind Spot Assist, Active
Lane Keeping Assist and BAS
with Cross Traffic Assist.
There might well be more but
I’m getting sore hands from
typing ‘‘Assist’’. So let’s move on.
Things get interesting with the
new 350 d Sport, which sells for a
$21k premium over the standard
car but adds a lot of kit: AMG Line
exterior and interior trim, Nappa
leather upholstery, Active Curve
System with anti-roll and 21-inch
AMG alloys. Which still look
The GLS 500 steps up with a
very substantial V8-biturbo petrol
engine and panoramic glass roof,
more luxurious front seats with
heating and ventilation, heated
second-row seats and a television
When too much is simply not
enough, there’s the Mercedes-
AMG GLS 63.
It retains the 5.5 -litre biturbo
V8 rather than the new-
generation AMG 4.0-litre unit (as
fitted to the C 63 and GT S), and
it’s the only GLS to eschew the
nine-speed gearbox in favour of
an AMG Speedshift seven-cog
If some of that sounds a bit old-
tech, it doesn’t seem to hold the 63
back: it rockets to 100kmh in just
Compared with the GLS 500,
the 63 also gains the AMG
Driver’s Package which increases
top speed to 270kmh (hardly
necessary but still demanded by
most Kiwi AMG buyers), a
different calibration for the
4Matic all-wheel drive with a
60/40 rearward bias, an extra
Sport+ mode for the Dynamic
Select system, AMG sports
suspension and brakes, power-
closing doors and 22-inch alloys.
Which look about right.
Sorry to be so heavy on the
specification and leave the
driving impressions until last, but
three things were against us on
the media launch event in
Australia: a highly compressed
timeframe (just a morning),
Melbourne traffic and torrential
Put that lot together and it
adds up to once-over lightly.
Secure in the knowledge that
I’m driving the 350 d on local
roads in the weeks to come, I
stuck to the V8 models and
marvelled at how the GLS chassis
can contain so much power in
such slippery conditions.
It doesn’t disguise its size, but
the GLS is surprisingly nimble.
It’s a high-riding machine, but
active anti-roll bars on both front
and rear axles ensure than the big
wagon stays very upright indeed
in tight turns.
The ride is much more
comfortable up front than in the
second row though, where you
still feel the odd truck-like wriggle
over undulating urban roads.
There’s no shortage of choice
in terms of chassis setup.
Airmatic suspension is standard
(retuned for this revised model)
and Dynamic Select offers
Comfort, Slippery, Sport,
Individual or Off-Road settings.
As a luxury SUV-slash-people-
carrier the GLS still has few
rivals. It’s not just the imposing
style and lavish equipment, it’s
the sheer space inside the thing:
you can genuinely fit seven adults
in the car, even if the rearmost
row is short-haul-only.
Audi’s Q7 is not quite as
passenger-focused (albeit much
more modern), BMW seven-seat
X5 is smaller and the Lexus LX is
more an old-school off-roader
(there’s a Land Cruiser
No, the GLS is still no S-class
(although the mooted Mercedes-
Maybach SUV may make it so).
But it remains a remarkable
and imposing blend of hi-tech
equipment, space and
surprisingly smooth cornering
style. M-B also describes the GLS
as a ‘‘luxury liner’’. That’s pretty
close to the mark.
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