First Drive

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d UK review

Mercedes’ biggest SUV gets a facelift and a new name. Should the Range Rover Sport and Audi Q7 be worried? We drive it on UK roads to find out

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If the Mercedes GLS 350 d looks strangely familiar, that’s because this is little more than a facelift of the seven-seat Mercedes GL-Class SUV that preceded it. The most noticeable differences are a new nose that brings it in line with other current Mercedes models, a restyled steering wheel, an upgraded infotainment screen and a redesigned instrument panel.

Mechanical changes are limited to a power increase for the V8-powered GLS 63 AMG and a new gearbox for the sole diesel option, the 3.0-litre V6. This new nine-speed automatic helps CO2 emissions drop 10g/km to 199g/km, with economy and performance improving slightly too.

The rest of the package is much the same as before. You get seven seats as standard with the third row appearing and disappearing electrically. All variants receive plenty of luxurious touches and an off-road package is optional should you plan on taking your GLS off the beaten track.

Three models will be available in the UK: the AMG Line, which gets more aggressive bumpers in keeping with the name, the luxurious Designo Line and the rapid GLS63 AMG at the top of the tree. We’ve sampled the mid-range model with the default diesel motor on UK roads.

What is the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d like to drive?

On the road, the GLS is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre considering its gargantuan size. Even in an urban setting, the boxy shape means you soon know where the extremities are, while a standard 360-degree camera system makes manoeuvring even easier. This stitches together a bird’s eye view of the car that makes parking remarkably stress free.

As you’d expect, the GLS has been set up to be comfortable above all else, something it does with varying degrees of success. At speed, it deals with lumpy tarmac well without feeling too floaty, although sharper edged obstacles do send a thud through the car around town. Unfortunately, this is the price you pay for the standard-fit 21in wheels.

The Designo Line model we tested also came with Mercedes’ Active Curve System that helps lessen the effects of body roll. Even with the suspension set to Comfort mode, there’s very little lean in bends, in fact, it’s so effective it makes the overly-firm Sport mode virtually redundant. We did find the Sport setting the best bet for the steering, though; it may not add any more feedback, but it feels more confidence-inspiring than the overly light Comfort mode.

As for Mercedes' 3.0 diesel engine, it remains as pleasingly muscular as ever. It's also smooth and refined at all times, even when accelerating hard, and any noise is muted and not at all unpleasant. All this adds up to a very competent long distance cruiser, although not a vehicle you'll be having fun in.

What is the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLS 350 d like inside?

As you might expect from the huge footprint of the GLS, there’s acres of room inside. Passengers in the first two rows can get comfortable easily and there’s enough width for three to sit abreast on the middle bench.

Moving to the rearmost seats, there’s more space than you’d get in an Audi Q7 or Range Rover Sport. Saying that, while children won’t have any issues at all, tall adults will only want to be back there for short journeys. There are even Isofix points for a pair of child seats.

Boot space may be barely enough for a week’s worth of shopping with the third row in place, but there’s a vast load bay with them stowed. Fold the middle row as well, and there’s not much you won’t fit into the back of a GLS.

However, while it might be roomy and mostly luxurious, it’s in the details where the GLS starts to fall down. Considering the fine leather on its seats, metal trims and wood veneer, it’s a shame much of the switchgear can also be found on lesser Mercedes models. Compared with the cheaper Audi Q7, it’s disappointing.

Should I buy one?

If you need a luxurious seven-seat SUV, it’s unlikely you’ll find anything quite as roomy as the GLS. Not only is it cavernous inside, but it drives well for such a big car, too. Unfortunately, there are flaws, however.

For a start, we doubt you’ll manage the official figure of 37.2mpg - our experience suggests the number will begin with a two, even when driven carefully. The interior doesn’t feel quite plush enough in places either, especially when you consider that the cheapest GLS variant costs more than Β£69,000.

With that in mind, we would suggest looking at a Range Rover Sport or Audi Q7 before opting for the GLS. The Range Rover is better to drive and the Audi not only has a nicer interior, but is considerably cheaper to buy too.

What Car? says...

Rivals

Range Rover Sport

Audi Q7

Mercedes GLS 350 d

Engine size 3.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£69,100

Power 255bhp

Torque 457lb ft

0-62mph 7.8 seconds

Top speed 138mph

Fuel economy 37.2mpg

CO2 199g/km