Lots of medium-large crossovers offer a third row. Almost all of them offer very little room in that row. It’s the dilemma of room vs. size.
The Mercedes GLS is among the few its size — and length — that has the room you’d otherwise have to buy something bigger (and longer) to get.
It’s also got some other things way back there, including heaters for the third row.
And there’s something else. Two of them, actually.
What It Is
The GLS is a three-row ultra-luxury crossover SUV that fits in places a full-size sedan like the Mercedes S-Class would find tight — while fitting several more people inside. Comfortably.
It has nearly 35 inches of legroom in its third row, which is about 4 inches more than is typical in the third row of most crossovers its size (and length) that offer a third row.
The Benz also offers something else — a twin-turbo V8 in two versions: a 483 horsepower version and a 603 horsepower version.
It’s hard to find anything that can carry seven people that fast.
Prices start at $76,000 for the six-cylinder (and partially electric) GLS450, which comes standard with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, an adaptive suspension system, full-length LCD dashboard and a Burmester premium audio system.
The $98,850 GLS 580 includes a 483 horsepower twin-turbo V8, standard massaging driver and front passenger seats and five-zone climate control.
If you have $132,100 burning a hole in your pocket — and want to burn some rubber — there’s the GLS63 AMG, defined by the 603 horsepower twin-turbo V8 under its hood, plus upgraded brakes and a more aggressively tuned suspension to match.
This Benz got a complete makeover last year. It probably to put some more distance between it and its chief rival, the BMW X7, which was all-new in ’19.
The main change for 2021 is the addition of the 603 horsepower GLS 63 AMG to the roster — probably to put the 523 horsepower X7 M50 a bit farther in the rearview mirror.
An S-Class for seven, really.
Third row isn’t coach class.
Standard six; two available V8s.
What’s Not So Good
The excellent E-Active Body Control system is only available with the much-more-spendy GLS 580.
There’s no low range gearing; if you need to take seven off-road you’ll need an SUV with truck-type underpinnings and 4WD, such as the Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover Sport or the Lincoln Navigator.
Even though it can cycle its gas engine off, gas mileage isn’t that great: 20 city, 24 highway.
Under the Hood
Like several other Mercedes models — such as the E-Class sedan — the GLS comes standard with a 3.0 liter straight six augmented by a generator/starter system (and 48 volt electrics) that’s used to regularly cycle the six off and on, to boost gas mileage and lower gas (carbon dioxide) emissions.
When a gas engine isn’t running, it emits zero emissions — just like an electric car (well, just like an electric car … at the tailpipe). But unlike an electric car, the GLS continues running — and without the waiting.
Gas mileage is 20 city, 24 highway. That isn’t great, but then again, it’s pretty good for a plus-sized, seven-passenger crossover with 362 horsepower under its hood that can get to 60 in 5.8 seconds.
If you need more speed, the V8-powered GLS580 delivers it — courtesy of the 483 horsepower twin-turbo’d V8 under its hood. It gets to 60 in just over 5 seconds. And if that’s not enough speed, the GLS 63 AMG’s 603 horsepower V8 gets you there in 3.6 seconds.
On the Road
The main thing the GLS offers is executive-class travel for everyone — not just the driver and passenger. Though perhaps it’s business class for second-row passengers. And steerage for the third-row unfortunates.
The other thing the Benz offers that larger SUVs with viable third rows do not is a nearly flat floor, which allows for a center aisle rather than a center hump, which most SUVs have because most are built on truck-type chassis, with a separate steel frame and a body bolted on top of it. The hump running down the centerline makes space for the driveshaft — at the expense of space for the passengers.
At the Curb
You can go six — or seven. Seats, that is.
Benz offers both configurations, with captain’s chairs for the six-seat layout. Either way, they all fold flat — at once — at the touch of a single button. Or individually, as you prefer.
An available executive package includes a fold-out/down center console, a tablet to control the infotainment/climate and heaters for the all-the-way-in-the-back seaters. That’s a uniquely Benz luxury amenity, certain to be emulated but for the moment, exclusive.
The GLS is more rugged and capable than most crossovers, which aren’t designed for more than light-duty towing, especially. But it’s not as capable of going off-road as an SUV, which has the gear for that kind of duty.
What you have is a ride that doesn’t feel flimsy, and handles athletically, which can pull a pretty serious load — more than 7,000 pounds — without feeling clunky in the curves and without the hump on the inside.
With everything you can get — and expect — in an S-Class.
The Bottom Line
Luxury for all aboard is what this Benz is all about — and delivers.
SET IMAGE) epe051121adAP.jpg (END IMAGE) (SET CAPTION) View the Benz GLS this week. (END CAPTION)
Eric’s latest book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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Last Updated: Monday, May 10, 2021 15:06:43 -0700