Reviewers say the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is an excellent line of vehicles with what might be the best ride quality and handling of any large SUV. Praise is lavished on the interior as well, where the material quality and comfort is comparable to Mercedes-Benz's luxury sedans. All of this comes at a price though, as the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class can get very expensive, and other top-performing rivals offer better value, such as the 2012 Infiniti QX56 (Base MSRP: $59,200 to $62,300). The GL range also doesn't have as large a towing or capacity as most rivals, falling short of what many large SUVs shoppers may expect. Shoppers should be aware that the 2013 GL-Class will be all new, offering engines that will likely be more fuel efficient and/or more powerful.
One of the benefits of the GL-Class when compared to the competition is its range of available engines, including a powerful diesel option. The GL350 BlueTec has a 3-liter turbocharged diesel engine, and only one other competitor, the Audi Q7 (Base MSRP: $46,250 to $59,950), offers a diesel. With just 210 horsepower but a muscular 400 pound-feet of torque, reviewers say that the diesel "delivers plenty of low-speed punch around town and is so quiet, only the badging gives it away," according to Edmunds.com.
The standard gasoline engine in the GL450 is a 4.7-liter V8 that makes 335 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The most expensive model, the GL550, comes with a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. The majority of the experts agree that the GL350 BlueTec makes the most sense, as it has plenty of power, the best fuel economy and is the also cheapest version of the GL. All engines are matched with a seven-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway/19 mpg combined with the BlueTec diesel engine, 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway/15 mpg combined with the 4.7-liter V8, and 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway/14 mpg combined with the 5.5-liter V8. The 5.5-liter V8 is one of the thirstiest vehicles around, even when compared to other large luxury SUVs. The competing 2012 Audi Q7 is also available with a six-cylinder diesel, and it gets a higher EPA mileage rating. A few reviewers noted that the GL350 BlueTec diesel got better mileage in their tests than the ratings indicate. All GL-Class models come with all-wheel drive. Towing capacity tops out at 7,500 pounds, less than many of the other big luxo-utes.
Most experts find the GL-Class interior to be incredibly luxurious, delivering superb passenger comfort and ride quality. AutoWeek.com's Wes Raynal echoes the sentiments of most when he says that "the cockpit is well built and the seats are comfortable for long hauls; my longest was a couple of hours, and the seats were terrific." A couple reviewers have a slightly different opinion and find the interior to be a bit nondescript for such an expensive luxury vehicle. Car and Driver applauds the GL's "impeccable road manners," saying that it "wafts over bumps in a way that seems to say ÔYou're in a giant Mercedes. I know you don't want to be disturbed.'" The SUV is a bit lighter and has slightly smaller dimensions than other large luxury SUVs, and reviewers say that this is noticeable on the road as the GL handles surprisingly well for a vehicle of its heft.
Its maximum cargo capacity with the second- and third-row seats folded down is 83 cubic feet, which is well short of several other large luxury SUVs. There is seating for seven, but the best-reviewed 2012 Infiniti QX56 has seating for up to eight. As with many other vehicles in this class, third-row seating is comfortable enough but is better-suited to smaller passengers. Some reviewers wish that the second-row seats were able to slide back and forth to allow for even more comfort.
As expected for a luxury vehicle with a big price tag, there are plenty of fancy options available on the GL. Standard features on the GL350 BlueTec and the GL450 include dual-zone climate control, power 10-way heated front seats, a self-leveling air suspension, infotainment systems with Bluetooth, Mercedes-Benz's telematics system, eight-speaker surround sound and GPS. Options include an 11-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, leather upholstery (as opposed to leatherette), rear-seat entertainment, parking sensors and three-zone climate control, among others. A trailer hitch is optional (you'll find one standard on some competitors). Many reviewers point out that the cheaper Infiniti QX56 packs in more standard features, even though it costs less.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has tested the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, but it does come with a comprehensive suite of standard safety equipment including front airbags, front-seat side airbags, full-length curtain airbags for all seating rows, active head restraints, driver knee airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control. Optional safety equipment includes a blind-spot warning system and driver aids such as hill descent control for steep grades.
The GL-Class comes with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty, as does most of the luxury SUV competition. A trusted survey predicts that reliability will be below average, though.
A Motor Trend editor explains the GL-Class is a "useful, functional, capable, still-handsome seven-pass lux SUV that's too pricey," and that's why experts say it falls behind the best-reviewed 2012 Infiniti QX56. The QX56 is cheaper and has more standard equipment, as well as an equally good drivetrain, a modern interior, more storage capacity and a bigger tow rating.
The editors of Edmunds.com find that the GL's performance is excellent, the interior is luxurious and the seating is very comfortable. The base price is higher than that for many competitors though. The optional diesel engine is a nice touch, in their opinion.
Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV, Editors of Edmunds.com, Dec. 5, 2011
ConsumerReports.org is one of the best sources for automotive information, as it is unbiased and provides a wealth of information including reliability data. The editors have tested the Mercedes-Benz GL450 V8. To get full information and articles about the GL, you must be a subscriber to ConsumerReports.org.
Review: Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
ConsumerGuide.com methodically reviews nearly every car available and ranks them in 11 categories it considers to be indicative of quality and performance. Editors provide a numerical score for each category and have assessed the GL350 BlueTec diesel, the GL450 and the GL550. ConsumerGuide recommends the GL-Class as a Best Buy as it is an excellent all-around performer.
Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Not Dated
FuelEconomy.gov is run by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S Department of Energy. They test and give official fuel-economy estimates for every new car. The diesel equipped GL-Class gets the best fuel economy of the GL range with a combined 19 mpg (though the Audi Q7 diesel fares even better). The GL450 gets an estimated 15 mpg combined rating and the powerful GL550 gets an abysmal 12 city mpg/17 mpg highway/14 mpg combined.
Review: 2012 Sport Utility Vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy
Autoblog reviewer Michael Harley gives a thorough overview of the 2010 GL350 BlueTec, paying particular attention to the characteristics of the unique engine. The 2010 model he samples is essentially identical to the current 2012 model year. The reviewer finds luxury and performance permeates the vehicle, and he particularly likes the powerful diesel. He gets 26 mpg on the highway in the diesel which is much higher than the EPA estimate.
Review: Review: 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec Lives Large, Treads Lightly, Michael Harley, Aug. 3, 2010
6. Car and Driver
This is another review of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec 4Matic diesel, and the reviewer likes the powertrain as much as anyone else does. He reports impeccable road manners and a luxurious interior like other experts and says the BlueTec is his "pick of the GL range."
Review: 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec 4MATIC, Michael Austin, Nov. 2010
Reviewer Mike Hanley at Cars.com tests the 2011 GL350 BlueTec diesel, which is identical to the 2012 model in nearly every way. He concludes that the GL350 BlueTec "rides and handles as well as anything in the full-size luxury SUV segment, and its interior is appropriately luxurious." He points out that maximum cargo capacity is smaller than other large SUVs.
Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Mike Hanley, Oct. 15, 2011
8. Automobile Magazine
This review of the GL550 comes in the form of editor notes, in which each editor expresses an opinion on the GL550 in a few paragraphs. One reviewer notes that the "GL550 doesn't make much sense...it costs a lot more than an Infiniti QX56, tows less, and doesn't move with the same authority." Another editor agrees, and a few suggest that the GL350 BlueTec diesel is a smarter option.
Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic, Editors of Automobile Magazine, Dec. 2, 2011
Two AutoWeek.com editors offer their opinions on the GL550 4Matic. Both like the vehicle, though one mentions he'd rather have a Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon, and the other points out that the interior is due for a design modernization.
Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic: Review Notes, Wes Raynal, Feb. 2, 2012
10. Motor Trend
This is the only relatively recent comparison test that includes the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. The GL450 is compared against competitors that are generally considered midsize (rather than large) luxury SUVs (the Land Rover LR4 and the Lexus GX460). This review tests the 2010 GL450, which is essentially identical to the current 2012 model. The GL450 places last in the comparison because of its much higher price and lack of low-range transfer case for the four-wheel drive.
Review: Comparison: 2010 Land Rover LR4 vs 2010 Lexus GX 460 vs 2010 Mercedes-Benz GL450, Arthur St. Antoine, July 2010
11. Motor Trend
This is a quick snapshot of what is expected for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. The writer mentions that it is likely that the GL-Class will get Mercedes' newest twin-turbo V8 in lieu of the current 5.5-liter V8. He also speculates that a 3.5-liter V6 may take the place of the V8 in the GL450, if that model carries on.
Review: Spotted: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Testing in Los Angeles, Ben Timmins, Feb. 8, 2012