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Mercedes SUVs: There Are Many, So Which Is Right for You?

buying-guide-mercedes-benz-suv.jpg Cars.com illustration by Paul Dolan |

Long known in the U.S. for a luxury car lineup topped by the iconic S-Class sedan, Mercedes-Benz has pivoted to bulk up its premium SUV line to meet the shifting tastes of upscale buyers, 69% of whom through March drove home one of its premium utility vehicles. Mercedes now has one of the freshest SUV lineups because most models got major updates for 2020 (the oldest, the G, was redesigned for 2019).

Related: More Mercedes-Benz News

The brand’s array of SUV models and variants is dizzying. They range from bite-sized to super-sized and offer a wide range of personalization, luxury options and powertrains. All Mercedes SUVs offer sportier (and more expensive) AMG performance versions. The GLC and GLE also offer alternative fastback “four-door coupe” body styles alongside their more traditional SUV versions. And the cherry on top for exclusivity (with a price to match) is a separate uber-luxury Maybach version of the GLS.

2021 Mercedes-Benz SUV Starting Prices (Least to Most Expensive; Includes Destination)

  • GLA-Class: $37,280 to $55,550
  • GLB-Class: $39,100 to $51,600
  • GLC-Class: $44,250 to $85,550
  • GLE-Class: $55,800 to $117,050
  • GLS-Class: $77,050 to $161,550
  • G-Class: $132,800 to $157,500

GLA-Class

Price:  $37,280 to $55,550

Number of seats: Five

Cargo room: 15.4 cubic feet behind the backseat

EPA-estimated combined mpg: 23-28

Towing capacity: Not rated for towing

Fits three car seats across: No

Length: 173.6 inches

Mercedes’ smallest SUV in the U.S. is the subcompact GLA that was redesigned on a new platform for 2021. The much-improved starter SUV has gained a little size, gotten updated multimedia and safety tech, and has a new profile that’s more SUV-like than the hatchback look of the first generation, though we also find it a little less distinctive compared to  rivals. The base GLA250 is pricier than many mainstream rivals with similar features in this competitive market class, but it has a more upscale interior and, of course, the status of a big Mercedes star on the front.

The new GLA shares some mechanical and tech bits with the latest generation of the entry-level A-Class and CLA-Class sedans that preceded it in the U.S., as well as the bigger GLB SUV, and it now has the latest-generation MBUX multimedia system. A 221-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers the GLA250; we’ve found it peppy and capable, but also found some funkiness in the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that makes it hard to drive smoothly in low-speed traffic. If you want to turn up the heat, opt for one of two AMG performance versions: the 302-hp GLA35 or 382-hp GLA45. 

The Good

  • High-quality interior
  • Excellent forward visibility
  • Top-notch multimedia system
  • Peppy engine in base version
  • Solid ride and handling
  • Comfortable seats

The Bad

  • Rubber-band throttle behavior
  • Touch-sensitive steering wheel controls
  • Pricey options
  • Torque steer and wheelspin (front-wheel-drive model)
  • Standard vinyl seats
  • Second-row head restraints obstruct back window

Shop the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 near you

Mercedes-Benz Certified
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Base 4MATIC
13,581 mi.
$42,890
Good Deal | $210 under
CPO Warrantied
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Base
8,271 mi.
$41,995
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What Else You Need to Know About the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

GLB-Class

Price:  $39,100 to $51,600

Number of seats: Five to seven

Cargo room: 24.0-27.0 cubic feet behind the backseat; 5.1 cubic feet behind optional third row

EPA-estimated combined mpg: 23-26 

Towing capacity: Not rated for towing

Fits three car seats across: No

Length: 182.4 inches

All-new for 2020, the GLB fills a tiny parking space between the GLA and GLC SUVs in both size and price. The GLB is more conservatively styled than its five-seat siblings with a traditional upright shape, and it has the least sporty driving feel — but it stands out with an optional two-seat third row, which also sets it apart from almost all other compact SUVs. The GLB250 is powered by a 221-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, while the performance AMG GLB35 version gets a 302-hp turbo four. We’ve found there’s a lot to like about it, but beyond the third row, nothing seems special in a premium market crowded with pleasant compact SUVs.

The Good

  • Ride quality
  • Strong engine
  • Cabin quality
  • Driver assistance technology
  • Cargo space
  • Augmented video navigation

The Bad

  • Low-speed transmission behavior
  • Lukewarm handling
  • Wide turning circle
  • Safety systems can get expensive
  • Legroom in optional third row

Shop the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 near you

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 Base 4MATIC
13,142 mi.
$44,000
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 Base 4MATIC
19,179 mi.
$42,000 $2,600 price drop
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What Else You Need to Know About the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class

GLC-Class

Price: $44,250 to $85,550

Number of seats: Five

Cargo room: 19.4 cubic feet behind the backseat, 17.7 cubic feet for coupe

EPA-estimated combined mpg: 17-25

Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds

Fits three car seats across: No

Length: 183.3-186.9 inches

The GLC was redesigned for 2020 with new styling, powertrains, interior freshening and Mercedes’ latest-gen MBUX multimedia system. It continues into 2021 with this winning combination of refinement, comfort, technology and safety — though without the discontinued GLC350e plug-in hybrid variant. Yes, it’s expensive for a compact, but we think it’s also a value as a luxury SUV.

The GLC300 is powered by a 255-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, but you also can opt for more entertaining driving and less of a carpool look with the medium-hot AMG GLC43 (385-hp turbocharged V-6) or hot-hot AMG GLC63 (469-hp or 503-hp, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8). And as if that’s not enough choices, buyers that value fashion over useful interior space can have the GLC in most of these flavors in a fastback “four-door coupe” body style. If you have to ask why (we do), the coupe’s probably not for you.

The Good

  • Cabin quality
  • Slick multimedia system
  • Impressively quiet cabin
  • Front-seat room and comfort
  • Fast in AMG form
  • Optional driver assist tech

The Bad

  • Lag on initial acceleration
  • Cramped backseat
  • Visibility in coupe versions
  • Some bounciness in base versions

Shop the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 near you

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4MATIC Coupe
10,648 mi.
$61,000 $2,100 price drop
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Used
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 Base 4MATIC
10,820 mi.
$52,999
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What Else You Need to Know About the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class

GLE-Class

Price: $55,800 to $117,050

Number of seats: Five to seven

Cargo room: 33.3 cubic feet behind the backseat, 27.5 cubic feet for coupe

EPA-estimated combined mpg: 16-23

Towing capacity: 5,950-7,700 pounds

Fits three car seats across: No

Length: 190.0-194.3 inches

The GLE mid-size SUV — an SUV version of the mid-size E-Class sedan — has become the heart of the Mercedes SUV lineup. It’s the automaker’s bestseller in the U.S. so far in 2021, edging out the less expensive GLC. Redesigned for the 2020 model year, the latest GLE now has so many configurations and personalities, it’s almost a line of vehicles in itself. You can have it with two or three rows of seats in some models. You can pick from the GLE350, 450 and 580, with steps up in trim, features and price and with different powertrains: a 255-hp four-cylinder, 362-hp inline-six or 483-hp V-8, respectively. There’s also the sportier AMG GLE53 model (429-hp inline-six) and a full-blown AMG GLE63 S hot rod with a thunderous 603-hp, twin-turbo V-8. And both of these AMG versions are offered in SUV and coupe body styles.

What all these variations have in common is a luxury driving experience regardless of engine, top-drawer interior materials, generous room (at least for five people), decent cargo room, the latest MBUX touch and voice multimedia interface, Mercedes’ impressive twin 12.3-inch displays and an array of coddling options that would make a sultan blush.

The Good

  • Top-quality interior materials
  • Available augmented reality navigation
  • Roomy backseat
  • Media touchscreen usability
  • Smooth ride
  • Huge head-up display option

The Bad

  • Brake pedal feel
  • Optional third row best for kids
  • USB-C ports only

Shop the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 near you

Used
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 Base 4MATIC
12,179 mi.
$61,788 $200 price drop
Great Deal | $1,123 under
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 Base 4MATIC
28,015 mi.
$59,000 $3,000 price drop
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What Else You Need to Know About the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

GLS-Class

Price: $77,050 to $161,550

Number of seats: Four or five in GLS600, six or seven in the rest

Cargo room: 42.7 cubic feet behind the second row; 17.4-18.4 cubic feet behind the third row

EPA-estimated combined mpg: 16-21

Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds

Fits three car seats across: No

Length: 204.9-206.4 inches

For decades, the S-Class has been a benchmark for big and meticulously crafted luxury sedans. But many more upscale buyers now are choosing the sedan’s prestige counterpart, the GLS SUV.  The latest GLS, redesigned for 2020, is similarly smooth and bristling with the latest Mercedes powertrain and chassis technology, twin 12.3-inch dash displays and MBUX multimedia system — so much tech overall that we’ve found it somewhat complicated to actually operate as you climb the learning curve.

The GLS also brings space and practicality that the sedan cannot match. Most GLS models have three rows of seats for up to seven except the Maybach GLS600 version, which is the top of the line for exclusivity, elaborate luxury trimmings and price. It has first-class seats for just four or five along with such luxury touches as reclining rear seats with footrests and massage, and the options of a fridge and champagne flutes for the backseat occupants. All GLS variants are decked out with sophisticated driving tech including a standard electronically adjustable suspension and options such as a system that can ease cornering forces by tilting the GLS’ body to bank in a turn like a motorcycle. The base model in the U.S. is the GLS450, powered by a mild-hybrid turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder producing 362 horsepower. Next up is the fancier GLS580 with a 483-hp, mild-hybrid 4.0-liter V-8. The fire-breather (which looks the part, too) is the AMG GLS63 powered by a 603-hp V-8, while the uber-luxury Maybach GLS600 has a 550-hp V-8.

The Good

  • Luxurious interior
  • Powerful and even more powerful engines
  • Magical E-Active Body Control system
  • Smooth ride
  • Versatile cabin for people and cargo
  • MBUX multimedia technology

The Bad

  • “Hey Mercedes” accidental activations
  • Touch-sensitive steering-wheel controls
  • Options make a pricey SUV even more dear
  • Some options only available on pricier trim levels

Shop the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 near you

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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC
16,081 mi.
$77,001
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 4MATIC
8,978 mi.
$82,995
Great Deal | $3,800 under
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What Else You Need to Know About the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

G-Class

Price: $132,800 to $157,500

Number of seats: Five

Cargo room: 38.1 cubic feet behind the backseat

EPA-estimated combined mpg: 14-18

Towing capacity: 7,000 pounds

Fits three car seats across: No

Length: 189.7-191.9 inches

The G-Wagen has been around since the 1970s — before SUVs were a thing — and the latest generation, all-new for 2019, remains true to its rugged, off-road-capable roots and boxy old-school look. The latest G is a little longer and wider, much more comfortable inside and technologically planted in the 21st century. No longer feeling and driving like a high-end Jeep Wrangler, the G requires less compromise by buyers. It’s even more capable as an off-roader, but now it’s been stretched, softened, silenced and slicked up to legitimately compete with the likes of the Land Rover Range Rover.

Some allowances still have to be made. The brick shape contributes to side-wide instability and doesn’t help the low fuel economy, and the backseat is still small. Also, the G still has last-generation multimedia tech, not the latest MBUX system. And not everyone will warm to the traditional spare on the back and side-opening rear hatch. If the distinctive look and 416-hp, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 of the G550 are not enough — and money is no object — you can opt for the more aggressive AMG G63 with a 577-hp V-8.

The Good

  • Updated iconic styling
  • Far more comfortable backseat
  • Slick interior displays
  • Benchmark interior quality
  • Off-road technology
  • V-8 power and rumble

The Bad

  • Side-wind instability
  • Dismal fuel economy
  • High price tag
  • Old-style Comand multimedia, not new MBUX
  • Side-hinged rear hatch
  • Touch-sensitive steering-wheel controls

Shop the 2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class near you

Used
2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class G 550 4MATIC
28,729 mi.
$160,000
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Used
2021 Mercedes-Benz G-Class G 550 4MATIC
5,481 mi.
$180,001
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What Else You Need to Know About the Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Mercedes SUVs Ranked by Fuel Economy, Cargo Room and Towing

Combined MPG (Base Trim, Highest to Lowest)

  • GLA-Class: 28 mpg
  • GLB-Class: 26 mpg
  • GLC-Class: 25 mpg
  • GLE-Class: 23 mpg
  • GLS-Class: 21 mpg
  • G-Class: 18 mpg

Source: EPA

Cargo Room Behind Backseat (Base Trim, Biggest to Smallest)

  • GLS-Class: 42.7 cubic feet
  • G-Class: 38.1 cubic feet
  • GLE-Class: 33.3 cubic feet
  • GLB-Class: 24.0-27.0 cubic feet
  • GLC-Class: 19.4 cubic feet
  • GLA-Class: 15.4 cubic feet

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Cargo Room Behind Third Row (Biggest to Smallest)

  • GLS-Class: 17.4 cubic feet
  • GLE-Class: Unavailable
  • GLB-Class: 5.1 cubic feet

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Maximum Towing Capacity (Highest to Lowest)

  • G-Class: 7,700 pounds
  • GLE-Class: 7,700 pounds
  • GLS-Class: 7,700 pounds
  • GLC-Class: 3,500 pounds
  • GLA-Class: Not rated for towing
  • GLB-Class: Not rated for towing

Source: Mercedes-Benz

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