2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

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Key Specs

of the 2011 Mercedes‑Benz GL‑Class. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Well-damped ride
  • Commanding driving position
  • Comfortable front seats
  • Linear braking
  • 7,500-pound towing capacity

The Bad

  • Lackluster low-end power (diesel)
  • Occasional clunk from transmission
  • Leather seats optional
  • Navigation system's keypad controls
  • Limited cargo room behind third row

Notable Features of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

  • Gas or diesel power
  • Seats seven
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Standard power-folding third row
  • Standard Pre-Safe collision-protection system

2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Road Test

Mike Hanley

Let's face it: If you're smitten by Mercedes-Benz's GL-Class full-size SUV, the recent run-up in prices at the pump probably rates somewhere between insignificant and unimportant in your car search. With seating for seven, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a big SUV — and it gulps fuel like one. Even the most efficient version, the GL350 Bluetec diesel we tested, manages just an EPA-estimated 17/21 mpg city/highway. Likely more important to you would be a comfortable ride with commanding views, space for the family and all their stuff, and a level of luxury to justify a $60,000-plus base price.

While the GL350 Bluetec diesel delivers the cushy ride, a combination of limited interior space and some irritating qualities weigh on this already-heavy SUV.

In models where both gas and diesel engines are available, the diesel is typically more expensive. In the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, however, the diesel GL350 Bluetec, with its $60,950 starting price, is the most affordable trim in the lineup. (Two V-8-powered gas models — the GL450 and GL550 — are more expensive.) Optional features pushed the price of our tester to $72,135. For a side-by-side comparison of the three trims, all of which have all-wheel drive, click here.

Full-Size SUVs Aren't What They Used to Be
If it's been a few years since you've driven a full-size SUV, you'll probably be surprised by how far this vehicle class has come in terms of ride comfort and handling poise. A decade ago, full-size S...

Let's face it: If you're smitten by Mercedes-Benz's GL-Class full-size SUV, the recent run-up in prices at the pump probably rates somewhere between insignificant and unimportant in your car search. With seating for seven, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a big SUV — and it gulps fuel like one. Even the most efficient version, the GL350 Bluetec diesel we tested, manages just an EPA-estimated 17/21 mpg city/highway. Likely more important to you would be a comfortable ride with commanding views, space for the family and all their stuff, and a level of luxury to justify a $60,000-plus base price.

While the GL350 Bluetec diesel delivers the cushy ride, a combination of limited interior space and some irritating qualities weigh on this already-heavy SUV.

In models where both gas and diesel engines are available, the diesel is typically more expensive. In the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, however, the diesel GL350 Bluetec, with its $60,950 starting price, is the most affordable trim in the lineup. (Two V-8-powered gas models — the GL450 and GL550 — are more expensive.) Optional features pushed the price of our tester to $72,135. For a side-by-side comparison of the three trims, all of which have all-wheel drive, click here.

Full-Size SUVs Aren't What They Used to Be
If it's been a few years since you've driven a full-size SUV, you'll probably be surprised by how far this vehicle class has come in terms of ride comfort and handling poise. A decade ago, full-size SUVs had a primative body-on-frame design, leading to imprecise steering and poorly controlled body motions. Many of these flaws have been engineered out of today's models, and the GL-Class shows how good things can be.

The GL350 is a very comfortable highway cruiser, and credit goes in part to the standard Airmatic height-adjustable air suspension. The big SUV floats softly over big dips in the road, and while you do feel it when it hits a bump or pothole, the impact is damped to the point that it doesn't disturb you or your passengers.

The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class models also give you a high driving position and great forward visibility — something that's a supremely important factor for some shoppers.

Diesel Power
The GL350 Bluetec's 3.0-liter diesel V-6 makes 210 horsepower. There's some familiar diesel clatter when accelerating, though the noise is nothing like an 18-wheeler. The sound is more akin to that of the newer diesel pickup trucks from Ford and Chevrolet, but it's not as inconspicuous as today's quietest clean-diesel cars.

If you're considering the GL350 over a gas-powered GL, it may be because you've heard that diesels produce a lot of low-end power, or torque, providing spirited acceleration from a stop. This one does — the engine makes 400 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm — but the delivery isn't as satisfying as in some diesel cars, like the Volkswagen Golf TDI. The Golf TDI wallops you when accelerating, pushing you back in your seat. By comparison, the GL350 feels burdened by its hefty 5,423-pound curb weight. It gets around well enough, but it doesn't move out authoritatively.

Diesels also typically hold a fuel economy advantage over gas engines, especially the large-dispacement V-8s that you would find in the GL550. The GL350's combined EPA rating of 19 mpg is about 27 percent better than the 15 mpg combined rating the GL450 gets with its 4.6-liter gas V-8. However, the GL350's combined rating lags those of other large diesel SUVs, including the BMW X5 xDrive35d (22 mpg) and Audi Q7 TDI (20 mpg).

That said, in everyday driving it's easy to achieve average fuel economy figures that are higher than the EPA estimates. An hour-long drive on highways and suburban roads around Chicago returned average fuel economy of about 25 mpg. With a large 26.4-gallon fuel tank, the cruising range could easily stretch to 600 miles, which is good for both road trips and the inevitable day you have to hunt for a station that sells diesel.

The engine teams with a seven-speed automatic transmission. There are manual-shift paddles on the steering wheel, but they seem even more out of place in the GL than they do in most vehicles. They do, however, provide a way to hold a gear on steep grades that wouldn't otherwise be available, as the SUV uses Mercedes' stalk-style gear selector rather than a traditional shifter. The only real downside to the transmission during my test was that on two occasions, just after getting under way, it clunked when shifting at moderate speeds and light throttle. Hardly the kind of thing you'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz cars don't always have the best brake-pedal feel, but it feels pretty natural in the GL350. Stopping response is very linear, and the brake pedal has deep travel that lets you finely tune braking response.

The Inside
The GL's cabin is finished in nice materials — that's the price of entry in this class — but the interior design isn't especially memorable. Fit and finish are also good.

Ranking as one of the more unusual upholstery decisions I've seen, the GL350 has a stitched leather dashboard but simulated leather seating, something Mercedes-Benz calls M-B-Tex. While MB-Tex is remarkably good at emulating the real thing, you have to pay extra to get real leather on the seats — which is incomprehensible in a $60,000-plus luxury SUV.

Mercedes' keypad interface for the optional navigation system got easier to use the longer I drove the GL350, but I'm still not a big fan of it. The screen's menus look the same as those in the automaker's S-Class and E-Class cars, but instead of the relatively intuitive knob controller Mercedes-Benz uses in those models, there's a little keypad to the right of the screen. It leaves a lot to be desired in terms of usability. If I already have to reach toward the dash to adjust the system, just give me a touch-screen, please.

While the Mercedes-Benz GL-class provides a commanding view of the road, it's not a huge climb up into the driver's seat, which shorter drivers will appreciate. The front bucket seats are large and comfortable, neither too firm nor too soft.

I was expecting the GL-class' second row to be spacious because it's a big SUV on the outside, but this row managed to just accommodate my 6-foot-1-inch frame. The biggest limiting factor is legroom; with the front seat adjusted to where I'd sit, my knees were nearly touching its backrest, and they would have been pressed against it were it not for the indentations in the seatback. The second-row backrests provide a few recline positions, but the seat itself is fixed, so you can't slide it rearward for more legroom.

For a third row, the GL-class' isn't bad. I was able to sit in the third-row rear-seat, though I had to splay my legs to make them fit.

Cargo Room
As is the case in many large SUVs, despite having room for seven people in its three rows, the GL leaves little room for luggage when all its seats are in use; there's just 14.3 cubic feet behind the third row. There's some space underneath the cargo floor, but it's only suitable for smaller things, like jumper cables.

Full-Size Luxury SUV Cargo Room Compared (cu. ft.)
  Behind 3rd Row Behind 2nd Row Behind 1st Row
2011 Cadillac Escalade 16.9 60.3 108.9
2011 Infiniti QX56 16.6 49.6 95.1
2011 Lexus LX 570 15.5 41 83.1
2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 14.3 43.8 83.3
Manufacturer data

The GL-class has a standard power-operated third row, which is a great feature because it transforms what could be a cumbersome process of folding and opening the third row into a simple operation. It even works when the second row is reclined.

Safety
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the first and second rows, side curtain airbags for all three rows, active head restraints for the front seats, an electronic stability system and Pre-Safe. When Pre-Safe detects that an accident may occur, it can cinch the front seat belts and close the sunroof and side windows.

Check out the Standard Equipment & Specs page for more information, or visit MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check to see how various child-safety seats fit in the GL.

GL350 Bluetec in the Market
The GL350 Bluetec rides and handles as well as anything in the full-size luxury SUV segment, and its interior is appropriately luxurious. Despite its problems, it's also a strong seller in its class. Perhaps its most formidable challenge, however, is the stricter fuel economy standards that loom on the horizon.

Whether through eliminating weight, downsizing drivetrains or adding advanced technology, automakers will need to increase the efficiency of big SUVs. Even the Bluetec diesel version of the Mercedes-Benz GL-class may need to become more efficient. All these steps are likely to raise vehicle prices, so if you're interested in a big luxury SUV as it is today, you may want to act soon.

Send Mike an email  

 


What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.4)
Performance
(4.2)
Interior Design
(4.2)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(3.9)
Value For The Money
(3.6)

Latest Reviews

(1.0)

Benz stinks

by Ang1 from Grand rapids, mi on July 14, 2018

It is a lemon major engine issues transmission issues turbo issues the list goes on Do not purchase any Mercedes ever. The quality of the name is long gone. Very sad actually. Read full review

(1.0)

In the shop continually

by Neil from Thunder bay on May 30, 2018

Like the ride and style but way to many problems with it for the price (crazy) not worth owning one ,it's in the show every 3months really Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class currently has 3 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    unlimited months / unlimited distance

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Mercedes-Benz

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, trip-interruption services, trip-planning services and Carfax vehicle history report

  • Limited Warranty

    5 years / Unlimited Miles*

    Up to 5 years/Unlimited miles from original in-service date if purchased while under original warranty, or 1 year/Unlimited miles if purchased outside of new-vehicle warranty; no deductible, transferable to subsequent owners
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 75,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a Rigorous inspection by factory-certified technicians.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The GL-Class received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker