The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which debuted for 2007, was the company's first three-row midsize SUV. This year, a GL550 model that offers more power is available, while the smaller V-8 and a diesel engine are still available. The three GL-Class models are the GL320 diesel model and the gas-powered GL450 and new GL550. The GL competes in the same class as the Acura MDX and BMW X5.
Like Mercedes' R-Class people-mover, the GL-Class has three rows of seats but manages to wrap them in a package that avoids the vaguely minivan-esque profile of the R-Class. A raked hood imparts a sporty appearance that is augmented by the muscular flared wheel arches. Twin power domes running the length of the hood recall similar cues in the company's classic 300SL Gullwing sports cars.
The GL550 is differentiated from other GLs by a different front grille, fender flares and 21-inch wheels.
Mercedes says the GL-Class was designed specifically for the U.S. market. To prove it, the company touts the presence of cupholders designed to withstand the mass of 44-ounce Big Gulp drinks. The interior is as finely appointed with leather and wood as one would expect in this category, but the car is blighted by Mercedes' difficult-to-use Comand electronic system for entertainment, navigation and climate control.
Under the Hood
The GL550's V-8 makes 382 horsepower and 391 pounds-feet of torque. A 335-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 gasoline engine powers the GL450, and a 210-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 diesel engine sits under the hood of the GL320.
The GL-Class uses a combination of cheaper-to-replace bolt-on steel crash boxes and lightweight aluminum sections to minimize weight and repair expense while maximizing crash safety. As with every Mercedes, the GL-Class is loaded with smart airbags, load-limiting seat belts, antilock brakes, stability control and nearly every other safety doodad available. Side curtain airbags for all three rows help prevent ejection in rollovers, while seat-mounted side airbags provide additional torso protection in side impacts for passengers in the first and second rows.
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