Setting trends is the American way, and when it comes to cars, perhaps especially so. That's why the world has taken notice of our love for SUVs and risen to the challenge. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Class is a perfect example.
In fact, in many ways, this German SUV is better than most American takes on the concept. It wears a Mercedes-Benz star and one of the alphanumeric names the Germans love so much, but its American-friendliness may stem from the fact that is is built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as it has been since launched in 2007.
Take one look at the GL Class and you'll immediately notice Mercedes has taken a different tack when it comes to styling: there's no proliferation of flashy chrome or other shiny baubles that look great for a week and then grow tiresome--or tacky. Instead, it's subdued, understated, and elegant, while remaining functional. Inside, it's much the same story, but with an emphasis on luxury you don't always find even in other high-end SUVs. A large seven-inch screen displays the key COMAND infotainment and navigation info, controlled by a knob in the console, all surrounded in warm wood and rich leather.
Under the hood, the GL Class is a triple threat: you can have a big and brawny V-8, a turbodiesel six-cylinder, or an even bigger, brawnier V-8. The GL 350 starts the range with a 240-horsepower, 455 pound-feet of torque six-cylinder diesel engine. A seven-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive help the GL 350 make it to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds and achieve 26 mpg highway.
Step up to the GL 450 and you'll swap the diesel for a 362-horsepower V-8 engine that drops the 0-60 mph times to 6.2 seconds--and the highway mileage to 19 mpg. As you'd guess, the GL 550 is even more potent, at 429 horsepower and 5.5 seconds to 60 mph. Fortunately, however, it's only slightly more thirsty, at 18 mpg on the highway.
But how is the GL Class on the road? Very well-mannered. In fact, it is among the very best of the full-size luxury SUVs, and that's a fine class to be in. Steering is well-weighted, the air-ride independent suspension soaks up bumps while controlling body movement well, and there's an available adaptive air suspension that does even better. Off-road, the GL Class is not meant to be a wilderness-crossing survival vehicle, but equiped with the optional low range transfer case, locking center differential, and adjustable ride height, it offers up to 12 inches of ground clearance and the traction to go just about as far as the driver would care to. All three are tow-rated for up to 7,500 pounds, too.
In the cabin, comfort is enhanced over the 2012 model with an inch more length and width and about a half in in height. That equates to a bit more leg, hip, and shoulder room all around, as well as plenty of headroom. In the second and third row, both sets of seats will fold away under electric power, stowing for more cargo space.
New technology for 2013 includes Mbrace2, Mercedes' new connectivity suite, which pairs your smartphone to the COMAND infotainment system, letting you reach out to the web for things like Yelp or Google from your car's interface. Standard features are immense, including Bluetooth, HD radio, a sunroof, a power liftgate, and more. As you rise up the range, iPod connectivity, satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, navigation, 20-inch wheels, Harmon/Kardon or Bang & Olufsen audio, and much more become available.
Priced from the low $60,000s into the upper $80,000s, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Class offers a range of features, engines, and equipment to suit most lifestyles--stylishly. For the full details on how it pulls it all off, read the full review at The Car Connection