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Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2010 Review

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In a world filled with hulking SUVs, the Mercedes-Benz GL is a bit like a blue whale. It is an absolute giant, a litte shy, and rarely seen. The GL sits above the ML in the Benz lineup and comes with a LandCruiser-size body, seven seats, plenty of real-world off-road ability, and plenty of potential as a tow machine.

Sales are relatively modest in Australia, at less than 400 last year, but it has just had a value tweak with the sort of specification upgrade which gives more for the same money. It sits at the very top of the SUV world and it's impossible to think of the GL and not also put the Toyota LandCruiser - or its Lexus-badged clone - into the same sentence. There is also the Audi Q7 and a couple of others. Benz believes the GL is worth a look by the people who buy into LandCruiser land, even if the pricetag for a GL 500 will top $170,000 by the time you get it on the road.

"The luxury isn't just put on like a veneer over some sort of truck," says David McCarthy, spokesman for Mercedes-Benz in Australia. He says the GL hit its sales peak during its first year in 2007, but it is being revisited as a potential hero following the upgrade work. "It's been around for a while and its first year was its biggest year. But it's just had a bit of an update and improvement and we want people to have another look. The update is mostly about adding value."

The GL is a full seven-seater wagon, has low-range gears, but also gets a full leather interior, a boom-box sound system, electric assists on everything you like and plenty of safety including a cabin packed with airbags. The engine choices are a turbodiesel and a V8, but the decision is obvious for the most people outside the ritzy suburbs.

"The majority of cars are delivered with the turbodiesel. It is bought as a family vehicle, and some off-roaders and grey nomads also like it," says McCarthy. "It's more capable off-road than almost all of its luxury rivals, and it's great for towing."


I wanted to hate the GL, because it is so big and so outrageous. It also guzzles fuel at a rate around 17 litres for every 100 kilometres of forward motion. But it's like chocolate, and the more time I spent with it the more I liked it. I knew it was bad for me, and the environment, but I could not say no.

The GL is quite a cushy drive, from the comfort of the seats to the way it crushes bumps. It's not like other heavyweight off-roaders, which tend to crash and bang their way down the road. In fact, it is one of the most car-like SUVs I've had through the Carsguide garage in recent times. Ok, so you always know it is massive and loaded but it's not hard to fire it up for a run to the coffee shop.

I know it will go off road and tow a couple of horses, but I didn't need to prove it. It's a given for me, and the sort of people who have lots of money for a multi-purpose family SUV.

So, what's not to like? Well, there is the thirst. And the first shock of a $118 bill to fill the tank, even when the petrol gauge still reads quarter-full. It's also a bit impractical if you want to carry seven people and stuff, because the luggage space behind the third-row seats - I love the electric assists - is pinched.

But the GL is a vehicle, unlike Benz's other family seven seater the silly R-Class, that can make a lot of sense. It's not a real rival to a LandCruiser, but I can see lots of reasons to choose it ahead of a Lexus LX and, for me, it's way ahead of Audi's Q7.

She says - Alison Ward

The GL 500 has it all. It's spacious, has plenty of seats, lots of gadgets, it looks expensive and it is expensive. First looks suggest it is a gangster getaway car, but it could also be Mr and Mrs Smiths' runabout - from the Brangelina movie in 2005 - or something for a big family in the plush suburbs. However, once inside, you can see that this car has been tailored to suit almost anyone.  It's a great achievement for Mercedes, with an eye-catching two-tone look and tasteful, well-chosen features.

The GL is very easy to drive, despite its grand size. Parking is easy thanks to the reversing camera and decent-sized rear window. I didn't feel as overwhelmed as I thought I would be. It handles beautifully, even over gravelly hills and muddy driveways.

But I am surprised Mercedes went for the column-shift gear lever. I found it was easy to knock out of gear into neutral, which is not only annoying but a teensy bit dangerous.  Not the ideal situation for a car brand priding itself on high safety standards.

The seating is fantastic, easy to use and are very comfy, but pram space in the back is limited if you really want to use all seven seats. And that surprised, and annoyed, me in a vehicle as big and comfy as this one.

SCORE: 75/100

THE BOTTOM LINE: A gentle giant you cannot help liking.
Mercedes-Benz GL500

PRICE from $168,900
ENGINE 5.5-litre V8
POWER 285kW at 6000 revs
TORQUE 530Nm between 2800 and 4800 revs
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed automatic, 4matic all-wheel drive
FUEL CONSUMPTION 13.5/100km combined


Lexus LX570: 74/100 (from $145,000)
Range Rover Vogue: 77/100 (from $153,400)
BMW X5 4.8: 72/100 (from $121,908)
Porsche Cayenne 4.8 S: 68/100 (from $144,500)

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

GL500 5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $33,440 – 39,820 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2010 GL500 Pricing and Specs
GL320 CDI 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $25,300 – 31,240 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2010 GL320 CDI Pricing and Specs
GL350 CDI Luxury 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $24,997 – 27,999 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2010 GL350 CDI Luxury Pricing and Specs
GL500 Luxury 5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $36,410 – 43,340 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 2010 GL500 Luxury Pricing and Specs