Competes with: BMW X7, Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade
Looks like: Mercedes spent most of its time updating the interior; for a redesigned model, this looks an awful lot like the last generation
Drivetrain: 362-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder (GLS450) or 483-hp, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 (GLS580), both with an electric-compressor boost for another 21 hp in short bursts; nine-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Later this year
The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class is making its debut at the 2019 New York International Auto Show, and the latest generation of the three-row SUV comes with big changes on the inside even as the outside appears much the same.
Big leaps in cabin technology and roominess are important additions for the GLS, especially amid new competition from the BMW X7, which hit dealerships in March. We tested the big BMW and found it to have formidable luxury, technology and passenger space — things the GLS seems to have added as well in this redesign.
Despite its all-new billing, styling changes are mild on the GLS. It gets tweaked headlights, a bit more chrome on the lower front bumpers and a slightly different grille. Mercedes calls the grille “octagonal,” but it comes off more oval-shaped. The rear has a bit more differentiation, thanks to thinner taillights and more prominent chrome trim that spans the dual tailpipes.
Both the GLS450 and the GLS580 have new wheel designs as well, ranging from 19 to 22 inches on the GLS450 and a gigantic 23 inches on the GLS580. The most significant change outside pays interior dividends: The GLS’ wheelbase grows 2.4 inches, which adds cabin room.
The enlarged wheelbase benefits the second row the most, it has 3.4 additional inches of legroom with the seat slid all the way back. A bench seat is standard for a total seating capacity of seven, but Mercedes also offers captain’s chairs, which lowers capacity to six. All seats feature power adjustments and multiple locations for controls, including switches on the left and right of the cargo area. Further sprucing up the passenger area is the available Executive Rear Seat Package, which adds a large center console between the second-row seats with a 7-inch tablet to control various vehicle functions. The console also features wireless smartphone charging . Not enough? Then spring for the Executive Rear Seat Package Plus, which adds massaging second-row chairs with heating and ventilation.
Mercedes also has big claims for the GLS’ third row, where it says the seats are suitable for passengers up to 6 feet, 4 inches tall — something we’ll be sure to put to the test. The GLS offers up to five climate zones (standard on the GLS580), which include a designated zone for the third row with its own electrically powered heater and air conditioner.
The front of the cabin also gets a big update, though it will look familiar to those who’ve seen recent Mercedes products. A pair of standard 12.3-inch screens sit high on the dash alongside each other to give the appearance of one large widescreen. They’re powered by the Mercedes-Benz User Experience multimedia system, which debuted in the A-Class.
Under the Hood
The GLS450 and GLS580 have new engines that each feature Mercedes’ 48-volt light-hybrid system. Via an integrated starter generator, the system can provide 21 hp and 184 pounds-feet of torque in short bursts to aid performance — Mercedes calls it EQ Boost, not to be confused with Ford’s EcoBoost — but the system also helps power various engine and vehicle functions.
The GLS450 features a 362-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder that makes 369 pounds-feet of torque. The GLS580 goes bigger with a 483-hp, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 making 516 pounds-feet of torque. Both vehicles have standard nine-speed automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive. The AWD system is capable of sending full torque to either the front or rear axle.
An auto-leveling air suspension with adaptive shock absorbers is standard, but Mercedes also will offer the optional E-Active Body Control Suspension. With what Mercedes claims is the only system on the market that can adjust individual spring and shock response at each wheel, the optional suspension works with sensors to scan the road ahead for bumps and curves, then prepares accordingly to stay flat in a corner or prepare for an oncoming bump. Mercedes claims it will actually lean the big SUV into curves to mitigate body roll.
As you might expect, the GLS comes with a long list of standard and available safety features. Automatic forward emergency braking, a 360-degree camera system, blind spot warning and a driver attention monitor all come standard. Options include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane change assist and an emergency stop system that can detect if the driver is no longer actively driving the vehicle. Mercedes did not reveal pricing details yet for the big SUV, but it says the GLS will go on sale sometime before the end of 2019.
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