Mercedes-Benz GL Class SUV (2006 - 2012) review
Read the Mercedes GL-Class 4x4 (2006 - 2012) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
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With a vehicle as big as the Mercedes GL-Class, there’s little you can do to hide the visual bulk. It truly is a monster, and at over five metres long, is one of the largest vehicles on the market in the UK. In reality, it is too big for UK roads, and is more at home Stateside. The large two-bar chrome grille with dinner plate-sized Mercedes-Benz logo dominates the front end, with trendy LED daytime running lights inset into the bumper.
The inside of the GL-Class is as plush as you would expect, with electrically assisted controls everywhere you look. The sweeping chrome and leather-upholstered bars that attach the armrest to the dashboard are neat and stylish, while the dashboard follows a well ordered, classic design. The quality and fit and finish are first class, with tactile textures used throughout. The instruments are easy to read both day and night, and the controls are logically laid out. The foot-operated park brake and column-mounted gear selector both free up extra space on the large console between the front seats.
At over five metres long, you would expect there to be acres of space for all the passengers, and there is. Each of the three rows has generous amounts of space, both in terms of head and leg room. Just the access to the rearmost seats is a bother, thanks to the way that the middle row of seats folds. Boot space is quite small with all chairs in use, but fold down the rear seats so they are flat, and there’s a massive 1,240 litres of space available. Fold the next row down too, and that opens up to 2,200 litres – almost up to small van levels of space. The seats are incredibly comfortable and are more like small sofas, with unlimited adjustment thanks to electric controls. For those who need to tow, there’s a capacity of 3,500kg on all models.
Ride and handling
There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a truly enormous car, and this makes it a challenge to manoeuvre around town. Thankfully, parking sensors are standard equipment to make things easier in the supermarket car park. Out and about, the GL-Class takes up most of the road, but with high levels of grip due to the standard four-wheel drive, plenty of feedback through the steering, and decent body control, it is easy to make decent progress. Despite the bulk, it handles neatly enough, and is backed up by a ride that is comfortable, thanks mainly to the standard electronically controlled air suspension. While on the move, it’s whisper quiet with low levels of wind noise and road roar. Only the glorious sound of the V6 and V8 engines can enter the cabin, when you’ve got the pedal to the metal.
With the GL-Class, there’s a pair of diesel engines, and a single petrol option. First up is the 261bhp 3-litre V6 turbodiesel engine badged as GL350 CDI, which delivers a top speed of 140mph and a zero to 62mph acceleration figure of 7.9 seconds. The other diesel variant, the GL450 CDI is powered by a 4-litre V8 turbodiesel unit, accelerates in 7.6 seconds and has a maximum speed of 143mph. The 5.4-litre V8 petrol engine produces a meaty 383bhp, can accelerate to 62mph in 6.5 seconds and has a top speed of 149mph. Considering the bulk and weight of the GL-Class – around the 2.5 tonne mark – the performance figures are truly astonishing.
You’re never going to buy a seven-seat off-roader and expect low-cost motoring, especially when there’s a pair of V8 engines and a V6 unit installed under the snout. The cheapest of the trio, the GL350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY emits 242g/km of CO2 and achieves 30.7mpg on the combined cycle. Next up, the GL450 CDI, achieves 307g/km and 24.4mpg respectively. The only petrol powerplant, the GL500 produces 317g/km of CO2 and returns 20.8mpg. Insurance costs aren’t going to be small either, with the GL350 CDI sitting in group 48, and the other two in the top insurance bracket, group 50. Thankfully, residual values are half decent, though can’t quite match the same level as the Range Rover.
Mercedes has traditionally had a cast-iron reputation for quality, though that dipped at the start of the millennium. Things are significantly better now, and the GL-Class feels well built, with quality materials and made to last. Owners report high levels of satisfaction and the GL-Class performs well in reliability surveys.
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class hasn’t been crash tested by EuroNCAP, but all of the German brand’s other off-roaders have been tested, scoring a top five-star rating, so it bodes well for the gargantuan GL-Class. All models feature driver, passenger, side and head airbags, but disappointingly rear side airbags are resigned to the options list. Electronic stability programme, traction control, four-wheel-drive and trailer stability assist are all standard, as well as Isofix child seat safety fasteners for the rear seats. A pre-safe system that anticipates a crash is also fitted, and there’s the option of a blind spot assist system, as well as tyre pressure monitors.
All models get a long list of standard equipment, with GL350 CDI versions coming fitted with electronic air suspension, electric and heated mirrors with power folding, electric tailgate, parking sensors front and rear, front fog lights, rain sensor and roof rails, as well as a panoramic roof, electric windows, heated front seats, climate control, electric seats and leather-look seats. In addition, there are 19-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and sat-nav. GL450 CDI models gain memory seats and leather upholstery, while GL500 versions come fitted with the addition of xenon headlights, and heated rear seats. There truly is a massive range of optional extras to customise the GL-Class, with the popular options being larger alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control and uprated audio systems.
There isn’t a classier way of carrying seven passengers in comfort, especially in poor weather conditions or across continents, when standard four-wheel drive is essential. It’s decent to drive, safe and reliable, with a standard equipment list as long as your arm.