The Mercedes Benz name carries a renown weight to it, warranting respect from sporty enthusiasts and classy individuals alike. Then there are those carrying the logic of chasing the value proposition. It’s hard to compare a Kia Telluride with a Mercedes GLS, as they simple aren’t cross-shopped. On paper, they boast plenty of comparable practical measures. But the Mercedes provides a driving experience simply unmatched in most regards. So just how good is the “S Class of SUVs”?
Out of Spec Score: 80/100
Mercedes retains and redefines the elegance they have always been known for. Now in its second generation, the GLS boasts a more squared-off design language with modern lighting and subtle angles. Though it carries less of a minivan shape than the original GLS, it still has a large body resulting in larger panels. The dimensions and smooth squared edges do remind me of the GLB I spent time with last year.
The B and C pillars are black, along with the black mirrors and grill accents found in the AMG Line Night Package this was equipped with. It also features 23” AMG Line wheels, some of the biggest in the industry, with 325 width rear tires aiding in creating the aggressive rear end design. The wheel arches also featured a slight lip to further widen the apparent stance. The aggressiveness gives way to fake exhaust tips, unfortunately.
The LED lighting is distinct from front and rear, especially in the taillight design of the four irregular oval shapes. The front is a simplified DRL design. The Mercedes logo projects to the ground and is visible at night. Overall the styling is a great blend of smooth yet aggressive lines and touches, and I appreciate the presence it provides when driving down the road.
Mercedes provides comfort and convenience throughout its interior, though approaching a six figure price tag still didn’t provide heated rear seats in any capacity. The materials were mostly premium, though the seats were the standard leather. It is much more textured and less premium feeling than the steering wheel itself. The steering wheel and seats are all power adjusted, with the front seats boasting the most adjustment from thigh extension to headrest height.
There are plenty of metal accents, occasionally broken up with various piano black and wooden pieces. On either side of the screen array is an accent made of metallic slats. The driver’s side slat houses one of the air vents, with a group of four adjustable vents accompanying the center console. Heated and cooled seats are standard in the front, with optional second row seat heating, unfortunately not equipped here.
The center console features handles on both driver and passenger side, interestingly enough. It is nicely symmetrical, and features a palm rest and touchpad, along with metallic buttons for adjusting volume, suspension height, and drive mode. Just above it is the climate control section, which I was relieved to find still in physical form in lieu of the on-screen controls so many vehicles have moved to.
Climate control is 4-zone as standard, with a fifth rear zone as an option. In typical Mercedes fashion, there are plenty of rear vents for optimal climate comfort throughout the cabin. The interior feels quite well-equipped throughout, though the third row lacks some of the niceness up front. The panoramic moon-roof is a nice touch, though it only extends above the first two rows.
The GLS 450 is technically a small engine in Mercedes’ book. But the 48V mild hybrid system in tandem with a turbo 3.0L inline-6 engine provides just enough power to keep the driver smiling. The engine itself makes 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque. The hybrid system, entitled “EQ Boost” by Mercedes, grants another 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft torque on demand.
This system provides great launches from a standstill, with a sprint from 0-60 taking around 5.5 seconds, only half a second slower than the larger engine available in the Maybach. The mild hybrid also acts as a starter motor, though without the excessive cranking at startup. The result is one of the only cars I don’t immediately turn off auto stop/start.
The 4Matic AWD system is also standard, running slightly RWD-biased but putting power to all wheels as needed. The air suspension is also standard, providing the lush wafting ride akin to the S-Class, with which this shared a platform. There is simply nothing quite like it, and it can be lowered or raised slightly to accommodate obstacles or give that nice low appearance for proper photos. Sport mode stiffens it nicely, allowing for relatively planted cornering.
As a 3-row SUV, the GLS boasts impressive metrics in the practicality realm. It can be configured in both 6 and 7 seat layouts, ours seating 6 with the second row captain’s chairs. The second and third rows can both be power-folded, revealing the full storage capacity and/or allowing for 3rd row seating access.
Adults can fit in a pinch, but if every seat is to be filled, the third row would better suit kids. Behind the third row is approximately 17 cubic feet of storage space. Folding that down results in 48 cubic feet. Folding all rear rows provides an impressive 84 cubic feet. The only limitation I found was the opening of the hatch, being significantly smaller than the overall interior dimensions. In real-world testing, a table I attempted to fit would easily fit in the main cabin, but the opening of the hatch prevented its loading entirely.
Fuel economy is also somewhat respectable, as the mild hybrid helps aid its efficiency. It claims 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Those aren’t great numbers in and of themselves, but considering its size, weight, and good power, I wasn’t too disappointed in the practicality of daily driving.
MBUX is tried and true at this point. Though still a relatively young system, it is intuitive and powerful, as shown with the hyperscreen in Mercedes EQS. In this form, it uses two 12.3” screens to portray information to the driver and center screen, allowing adjustments for climate, comfort, navigation, and so much more.
The screens themselves are high quality, with deep blacks and vibrant colors, though the design is relatively reminiscent of Windows Vista. The touch interface works well, but you can also use the touchpad in the center console and Mercedes virtual assistant for adjustments as well. The touchpad is not my favorite interaction method, but it does work fairly well.
Burmester returns as a premium audio system in the GLS, though it pales a bit in comparison with the even better 4D version from the S-Class sedan. Notably, the bass frequencies were borderline annoying from the driver’s perspective, as the “dead pedal” where you rest your non-driving leg is sitting right where the most intense bass tends to hit. It’s perhaps a minor annoyance, but annoying nonetheless.
Ambient lighting is exceptional, as per usual with Mercedes products. Though I wish it extended to the third row. There are 9 total USB ports, a 115V outlet, and two 12V plugs for powering all the devices you can imagine. The technology offering is overall quite impressive, though it does not have wireless Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto. Though the wired versions worked just fine.
I came into my time with the GLS with predetermined hesitancy. This was in large part due to the numbers and statistics on paper weight against its economical value. But what I didn’t anticipate was just how the experience behind the wheel would translate to the real world value proposition. In truth, there isn’t anything quite like it in the market.
As with any car decision, it’s important to weigh the factors most important to you. If this checks all or even most of your boxes, you would most certainly be happy with your decision. Coming in at approximately $94,000 priced as tested, I was impressed, but I would have sprung just a bit more for the additional features to give it that much more luxury. Nicer seating materials and rear climate additions such as heated seats and fifth zone would set this as a brilliant machine deserving of its price.
So is it valuable? Certainly. Vehicles nowadays fetch more money than ever before, and in the SUV market you have plenty of options. This Mercedes, like many, would make nearly any driver happy. Only you can weigh the economical decisions needed to grant you confirmation on your decision. But regardless of what you think when you see specs on paper, only experiencing it can clarify its place in your world.
- Exterior design 9/10
- Interior design 8/10
- Materials 8/10
- Build quality 9/10
- Comfort 9/10
- Capacity 9/10
- Acceleration 7/10
- Handling 8/10
- Efficiency 6/10
- Connected services 7/10
- UI/UX 8/10
- Active Safety 9/10
Editor’s Assessment 7.7/10
- Value 7/10
- Market placement 7/10
- Editors Influence 9/10