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Mercedes-Benz GL-class GL500 2007 review

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Cashed-up customers can more easily absorb sharp pump price rises and it shows.

Mercedes-Benz is not too worried about oil prices as it introduces its biggest model, the GL four-wheel-drive wagon.

It is the largest model in the German brand's range — bigger than the Range Rover Vogue and the huge Toyota LandCruiser.

The Merc wagon is primarily a five-seater, but a third row of two seats can be ordered for $2900 to turn it into a luxurious people mover.

At $103,900 for the entry-level diesel and $146,900 for the V8, few GLs are going to run far off the beaten track.

Even so, they can easily conquer some tough off-road obstacles thanks to standard air suspension that rises on demand to give a maximum ground clearance of 307mm.

That means brave drivers can plough through water up to 600mm deep.

The GL's transfer case also lowers the gear ratio for low-speed work and mechanical differential locks for the rear and centre differential and electronic aids help driver go up and down steep hills.

The GL runs a constant 4WD system on and off-road, hooked up to a standard seven-speed automatic transmission controlled with steering-wheel shift buttons.

A 3.0-litre turbo-diesel powers the 320 CDI base model and has 165kW and 510Nm.

It returns an official fuel economy figure of 9.7 litres for 100km of mixed city and highway driving and propels the GL from 0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds. The more expensive GL500 runs a 5.5-litre V8 with 285kW and 530Nm.

The official fuel consumption figure is higher at 13.9 litres for 100km, but the V8 means the GL500 can sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds — incredible given its size and weight.

The GL has a single body chassis, unlike workhorses such as the LandCruiser, which are based on a separate ladder frame. It is 2370kg with the diesel engine and an extra 5kg for the V8 and has a towing capacity of 3500kg if whatever you are towing has its own braking system, or 750kg if it doesn't.

Standard safety gear for both GL models includes front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags for the middle row and window airbags for all three seats.

They also have electronic stability control, traction control and anti-skid brakes.

The GL's third row of seats can fold into the floor at the touch of a button. Folding down the second and third row of seats offers 2300 litres of load space, which is 2128mm long.

Standard gear for the GL320 includes Mercedes Artico synthetic leather-look seats with electric adjustment, 18-inch alloy wheels, air-suspension, eight-speaker CD sound, wood grain, roof rails, cruise control, front armrests, luggage nets, parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, climate control airconditioning and tyre pressure indicator.

Stepping up to the V8 GL500 adds 19-inch alloy wheels, rear climate control unit, bi-xenon headlights, premium display with DVD player and satellite navigation, Harmon Kardon Logic7 sound system, sunroof, premium woodgrain, leather trim for the seats and dashboard.

Optional extras for both models include a TV tuner, rear DVD screens, voice recognition control, keyless entry and a reversing camera.

On the road 

VEHICLES like the GL Mercedes are anti-heroes for many road users. They're big, heavy and block forward vision for other motorists.

The chances of most of these wagons going far off-road are only a little better than their owners joining a work-for-the-dole scheme.

Their owners love them because they carry seven, are comfortable, look better than people movers, tow well and can go off-road.

Despite the GL's impressive off-road capability, it only has a space-saver spare tyre.

Having to fit the skinny rim after a puncture would ruin any country adventure, especially if the driver was far from a Mercedes dealer or tyre dealer stocking GL tyres.

Mercedes says it is working on a system to carry a full-size spare on the rear hatch.

Mercedes isn't alone here, the new BMW X5 seven-seater will use run-flat tyres with no spare at all. The five-seater will have a space-saver.

Our test car was a GL500, which was impressive.

There were some glitches with the GL, including the space-saver spare and the way it handled rough country roads and parking spaces, but the huge machine will please a lot of its owners.

It's a comfortable, spacious vehicle.

The V8 model is pricey, but you get a lot of metal for the money. Its thirst wasn't as bad as we thought and the V8 ran at 11 litres/100km on the highway, rising to about 13 to 14 litres/100km around the city.

These figures aren't good when compared with a normal family car, but when your consider the GL's size, weight, brutal aerodynamics and slingshot performance, they start to look a lot better. The V8 engine is a cracker and has a lot of torque and a nice sporty note. We are big fans of the seven-speed automatic, which changes quickly and smoothly.

Running up to Canberra and back to buy a rally car gave us a good chance to test the on-road ability of the GL. It's excellent when cruising on smooth roads. It glides over the tarmac, is quiet, the seats are comfortable and the sound system is brilliant.

The rough highway roads just across the New South Wales border revealed the GL is not so good on the bumpy stuff.

It feels loose, just like many other large 4WDs and you notice the big body wobble as it tries to cope with the broken surfaces.

Around town, the GL is happy, though there is some traditional 4WD body roll. Flicking the adaptive suspension damping to Sport helps a little, but doesn't solve the problem.

The cargo area is cavernous when you fold down the two rear rows of seats and there is sufficient headroom and legroom for all three rows.

It's hard to park mainly because of its bulk. The parking sensors (with lights and buzzers) help, but it should come standard with a rear-view parking camera.

For what it is, the GL is an impressive vehicle. But if you don't need to tow, go off-road or require all seven seats, we would still pick the better-handling and more efficient E-Class wagon.

Bottom line 

A huge, luxurious people mover that can (but probably won't) go off-road. Not as sensible as an E-Class wagon, but good for what it is. 

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

GL500 5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $19,500 – 27,170 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2007 GL500 Pricing and Specs
GL320 CDI 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $15,100 – 21,340 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2007 GL320 CDI Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


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