It might be audacious to claim that the Mercedes-Benz GL is the best sport-utility vehicle ever. But, when you slip behind the wheel into the designo auburn brown leather contoured seats, push the start button and hit the road, you realize that, while that statement may may be audacious, it’s also hard to dispute.
Seriously, I could live in the GL. The recliner in my living room isn’t this comfortable, nor does it massage, heat and cool at a few pushes of the button. There are cup holders that keep your latte at just the right temperature (whether you like it hot or iced), and even little soundproof pods that separate you from the kids in the back if they get too rowdy. (Ok, not really, but the optional dual-screen entertainment system, with Bluetooth headsets and screens built into the headrests, serves a similar purpose.)
The GL is also an incredibly smart vehicle, with advanced safety features that alert you to vehicles in blind spots, steer you back into place if you wander out of your lane (probably because you’ve been lulled by the smooth ride and impossibly comfortable cabin), and apply the brakes if you get too close to the car in front of you. Basically, it helps you to be a decent driver, in spite of yourself.
Which is not to say that you should, or would even want to, relinquish all control. The GL is a big vehicle, able to seat seven passengers in three rows, but it is an absolute pleasure to drive: nimble, quiet, powerful, responsive and, did I mention comfortable? The one I drove was equipped with the 240-horsepower turbocharged BlueTEC diesel engine, which achieved impressive fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon city, 24 highway and 20 combined. And before you turn up your nose at the word “diesel,” I assure you that modern diesel engines are nothing like the smoke spewing diesels of old that you could hear approaching from miles away. This engine is smooth, responsive, quiet, and achieves a little over 37 percent better fuel economy than the V-8 engine standard on other models. It does deliver fewer horsepower than the V-8, but still felt sufficiently powerful.
And, on top of all of the luxury, safety, performance and convenience features, the GL is one handsome vehicle. It has been completely redesigned for 2013, with a chiseled, sleek look and an impeccably appointed interior. Cargo space is flexible and easily configured; third row seats fold completely flat, either together or separately at the push of a button. Alternately, if you’re hauling people in the third row, it is similarly accessible via the optional power or the standard non-power Easy-Entry system.
All GLs are equipped with full-time 4MATIC all-wheel drive for driving in all weather conditions; an optional On/Off-Road package gives it true all-terrain capability.
What solidifies the GL as the best sport-utility vehicle I’ve ever driven, in a class that includes such worthy contenders as the Range Rover, the Porche Cayenne and the Lexus LX? It’s luxurious, yet rugged, hauls cargo and people with equal ease and comfort, it’s safe, and fun to drive, and comes in enough iterations and price points to suit most any luxury lifestyle. It’s at home heading to a mountain ski vacation with the family or on urban excursions. And if you don’t believe me when I tell you it could be the best SUV you can buy, Motor Trend echoed my sentiment, naming the 2013 GL Sport/Utility of the Year.
Naturally, all of this luxury comes with a lofty price tag. Starting at $62,400, the price climbs quickly when checking off boxes on the options list, reaching $93,040 for the GL350 BlueTEC I drove for the week. Well worth it, in my opinion.
Power and Price:
GL350 BlueTEC, 240-horsepower V-6 turbodiesel, starting at $62,400
GL450, 362-hp direct-injection biturbo V-8, starting at $63,900
GL550, 429-hp direct-injection biturbo V-8, starting at $86,900
Price as tested: $93,040
Transmission: 7-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 18/24/20 (GL350)
Safety Ratings: Not yet rated