Quick Spin: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL
Big in size, but not feel -- but is it best in class?
By Kirk Bell
Twenty years ago, Mercedes-Benz sold no SUVs here in the United States. Today, SUVs make up 35 percent of the company’s stateside business, and two of its four SUV models are even built on this side of the pond, at M-B’s plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
One of those vehicles is the full-size, 7-passenger GL. Though it competes in a shrinking market segment, the GL competes for the most popular vehicle in that segment next to the Cadillac Escalade. While the Escalade rides a sturdy, truck-type body-on-frame structure, the GL was built on a less cumbersome, carlike body structure (a la crossover), which makes the SUV more economical and sportier to drive.
For 2013, Mercedes is updating the GL but isn’t messing with that winning formula; not much was wrong with the outgoing model. The big utility vehicle does look more muscular and is more spacious, especially for third-row passengers. But is it the best choice among the overgrown brutes in the full-size category?
We drove the new 2013 GL recently in and around Santa Fe, N.M. Here are our initial thoughts.
Spacious, high-quality interior: Mercedes calls the GL the S-Class of SUVs, and that is reflected in the vehicle's top-notch interior materials. Precision controls, exemplary fit and finish, and an attractive, modern layout make the GL a great place to spend time.
Controlled handling in a class of beasts: The GL's unibody platform and standard air suspension give it far more control than its truckier rivals. It drives smaller than its considerable size.
Power and more power: The base diesel engine is powerful and fairly fuel-efficient. A pair of twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter gasoline V8s offer even more power, and a twin turbo 5.5-liter V8 is yet to come in the G63 AMG.
Prohibitively expensive: Prices start at $62,400 and range up past $100K. That puts the GL out of the price range of most families.
Cumbersome to park: Though it's more controlled than its competition, the GL is still big, making it hard to park and less than agile.
Thirsty: The GL350 BlueTec's diesel engine has an overall EPA fuel-economy rating of 20 mpg, but the GL450 and GL550 are rated at 16 and 15 mpg, respectively. Get yourself a good gas-station rewards card.
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