What's the used Mercedes GLS 4x4 like?
Imagine you want an SUV and you want it made by Mercedes. You could try the GLA, a neat raised-up runabout based on the diminutive A-Class, or you could step up to the GLC, a slightly more capacious and practical SUV aimed firmly at families, or you could up the ante with the GLE, a large and very expensive luxury model that’ll certainly do its best to impress the neighbours.
If, however, you want a luxury SUV so large it can seat seven in comfort and still have room for a bootful of holiday luggage, as well as terrifying the drivers of lesser vehicles into submission, then what you want is the humungous GLS. It was originally called the GL, but a facelift and the adoption of even more opulence in 2015 was enough to justify an updated moniker.
Buyers can, from new, choose between a 350d version, with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, a 400 version with a petrol engine and a superfast 557bhp 5.5-litre V8 petrol GLS 63, all models coming with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and all being four-wheel drive.
Three trims are available on your new GLS – AMG Line, designo Line and the AMG breathed-on GLS 63. The entry-level model gets 21in alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension and LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a sports braking system and an aggressive AMG bodykit on the outside, while inside there is a 360-degree camera, tri-zone climate control, heated seats all round, a Harman and Kardon sound system, and Mercedes-Benz’s 8.0in infotainment system with DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Upgrade to the more luxury appointed designo Line and your GLS gains Mercedes’ active curve system, limiting body roll and increasing agility and safety. There is also ventilated and massaging front seats, four-zone climate control, temperature-controlled cupholders, rear sunblinds and a luxury quilted leather upholstery. Those looking for the almost unbelievable combination of battleship-size and supercar speed might consider the GLS 63, with its aggressive bodykit, high-performance braking and exhaust system and AMG-embossed sports seats to go alongside the 5.5-litre V8 under its bonnet.
On the road, the GLS is smooth and refined, if not, as you might expect given its girth, an outright ball of fire. It steers well, and its handling is safe and secure, even if it’s not particularly agile or keen to change direction and it’s definitely not possessed of the sort of set-up to please a keen driver. It rides well, though, and in Comfort mode there’s only the odd shimmy over very bad bumps. Indeed it sponges away most large obstacles with ease and is remarkably settled on the motorway. Switching to Sport adds stiffness to the dampers and causes more jostling over cracks and potholes.
Inside the beast, the driver benefits from an electrically adjustable seat and steering wheel to ensure a huge range of possible positions. Visibility is good all-around, helped by a standard 360-degree camera. The new 8.0in screen and digital instrument cluster readout is much sharper than on earlier GL models and more easily navigated using a solid, metallic rotary dial and a new multifunction steering wheel. Most of the dash and door materials look and feel high-quality, too, such as the stitched-leather dash and wood trims, but some of the switchgear plastics and the odd sharp edge let the side down.
Space, however, is deeply splendid. There’s loads of room up front, and plenty of room for three adults in the second row. The third row also has room for two adults, and getting in and out of there is also easy thanks to the electrically adjustable seats in the middle row. Boot space with all seven seats in place is good, with enough for a couple of medium-sized suitcases, while with the rear two seats folded away it’s huge.
This second-generation version was replaced in 2020 by an all-new model.
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