When it comes to variety, we can?t think of a manufacturer who offers more variations, models and niche products that Mercedes-Benz. They have so many variations and models; it?s difficult to even count them all.
In the sport utility category alone, the German automaker has four basic body styles with dozens of variations in nearly any size and performance level along with an amazing list of available features. With all this variety, we usually find several givens: abundant technology, high quality and prices commensurate with the brands exclusive image.
The new Mercedes-Benz GL started the year by picking up the coveted Motor Trend magazine SUV of the Year award and it has received high acclaim from the automotive press.
We recently spent some time in the latest generation Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC. If you aren?t familiar with the Mercedes nomenclature, BlueTEC means diesel. As a model, the GL actually comes in four variations, with the other three being awesome Bi-Turbo V-8s with power variations including 363- 429- and 550-horsepower and top level performance figures of 6.2-, 5.5- and 4.8-seconds from 0 to 60 mph. Those are outstanding acceleration figures in any kind of vehicle, but especially impressive in and SUV.
At 240 horsepower, the BlueTEC may seem like the Caspar Milquetoast of the group, but the 455-lb.ft. of torque is something of an equalizer and pushes the 5,500-pound SUV from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 7.5 seconds, and to a top speed of 130 mph. The significant difference, however, is the fuel economy, which is 18 mpg city, 24-mpg highway and 20-mpg combined. We actually averaged 21.3 mpg during the week we drove it. The turbocharged V-8s get four or five miles per gallon less.
Most people have a long memory about certain vehicle shortcomings, and one impression most people can?t seem to shake is that diesel engines are noisy, smelly and dirty, but that?s old technology, or lack of. With the new low sulfur fuel and engine technology, like that used in the new clean Mercedes BlueTEC diesel, it is difficult to identify the engine as a diesel. There is no smell, no smoke, no noise at speed and only a little ?chatter? at idle, when you?re standing outside the vehicle.
To eliminate pollution, BlueTEC uses an oxidation catalyst and a maintenance-free particulate filter along with new techniques for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. The BlueTEC diesels inject a solution they call AdBlue into the final exhaust flow lowering the nitrogen oxides to harmless nitrogen and water.
All GL-Class models are equipped with the efficient Mercedes seven-speed automatic transmission. We like the simplicity of the controls on this application. The only shifter mechanism is a short stalk on the right side of the steering column. Press the level up or down to select Reverse or Drive and push the button on the end to move into park. Steering wheel mounted shift paddles let the driver to manually shift the transmission if desired. The standard 4Matic all-wheel drive system is controlled by a dial on the center console, which allows the driver to select from a variety of configurations: sport, hills, snow, towing, sport or auto and a computer sets up the vehicle to best handle the conditions.
The GL has the distinctive Mercedes look with the large grille with the star logo in the middle, sleek bumpers and side sculpting. It?s also distinguished with LED taillamps and daytime running lights in the front.
The seven-passenger interior is clean and beautifully appointed especially with the optional Designo Porcelain leather used in our test vehicle. Everything has a high quality feel and look. As we expect in a Mercedes, it?s also equipped with abundant power controls and convenience and comfort features to make the driver and passengers feel comfortable and secure.
Mercedes-Benz probably offers more safety technology than any other automaker with an impressive array of technology like Collision Prevention Assist, Attention Assist, Adaptive Brakes, Crosswind Stabilization, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and on and on. We particularly like the Active Curve System, which is essentially a semi-active suspension system that uses sensors to activate a hydraulic pump to control body lean on the corners. It?s impressive to have this large vehicle whizzing around corners and staying nearly flat.
To make parking easier the GL has Active Parking Assist which identifies a suitable parking space, and automatically steers the vehicle into it, with the driver controlling the gear, accelerator and braking ? and we all know the secret to successful parallel parking is the steering. The system includes an automatic exit feature, too.
With all the hype about communications and navigation systems, the Mercedes COMAND system often is overlooked. This system has a very good intuitive interface that reacts quickly.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV comes in four models, the GL350 BlueTEC, GL450 4Matic, GL550 4Matic and GL63 AMG, with prices running $63,305; $64,805; $87,805 and $117,830 respectively, including the destination charge. Mercedes offers a high degree of customization on all their models is through an extensive number of options. For example, the 21 options and the special order fee on our test vehicle jumped the price of our already well-equipped test vehicle to $97,895, but those extras made a big difference, as you might imagine.
The Mercedes GL offers excellent performance and comfort combined with technologies not available on most other vehicles. The GL is built in the U.S. at the Mercedes Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant.