The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 is all-new for the 2020 model year. Now in its 3rd generation, it is longer, sleeker, and packed with more technology than most, if not all, of its competitors. But at $95,500 CAD ($75,950 USD) to start, is it a bit too much for a luxury three-row SUV?
Engine – Two engines are available at the time of writing this article. A standard 3.0L turbocharged inline 6-cylinder with EQ boost and a 4.0L bi-turbo V8 with EQ boost. An AMG variant will eventually come in the form of a GLS 63 AMG but this demo GLS is equipped with the standard 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine and what an engine it is. It develops 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque which can accelerate the GLS 450 from standstill to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds. A pretty remarkable feat considering the Mercedes GLS 450 tips the scales at 2,480 kg. Whatsmore, it can also tow up to 3,500 kg which is on par or slightly better than most mid-size pickup trucks.
However, the most impressive feature of this engine is its fuel economy figures. Because it is an EQ engine, it uses a 48-Volt hybrid system to provide an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque when accelerating. This hybrid system can also shut off the engine as you coast at speed or when coming to a stop. The end result are EPA fuel economy figures of 12.4 L/100km (19 mpg) in a city and 10.2 L/100km (23 mpg) on a highway. That is very impressive especially for city fuel economy.
Transmission – The inline-6 engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Because of the 9 gears, it keeps the engine’s rpms very low when cruising on a highway. But when you put your foot down, it reacts very quickly to downshift to a lower gear for quick overtaking. When driving normally in city traffic or on a highway, shifts between gears are smooth and almost unperceivable.
Braking – With large drilled rotors and calipers, the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 stops confidently for such a large SUV. The pedal travel is a bit longer than in other Mercedes vehicles but this allows for smooth deceleration when coming to a stop. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the GLS 450.
Handling – First and foremost the GLS 450 is meant to be a comfortable luxury SUV. It’s not meant to take on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio around a racetrack. That’s the job of the AMG variant. This Mercedes GLS450 is meant to be driven gently around corners to give the occupants the best riding experience. It puzzles me then as to why the front and rear tires are wider than those of a sports SUV like the Jaguar F-Pace SVR. 315 wide section tires in the back if you’re wondering.
But unnecessarily wide tires aside, the GLS 450 is equipped with air suspension. It does a pretty good job of keeping the heavy body level when going around corners. This particular demo vehicle is also equipped with the Sport package which adds Adaptive Damping System that can stiffen or soften the damping of the air suspension. It’s not a drastic difference in suspension stiffness between Sport & Comfort and you’d be perfectly fine even if you leave it in the stiffest setting around city streets.
Ride Comfort – When the Mercedes GLS is in the normal Comfort setting, it makes long journeys very relaxing. The suspension absorbs all road imperfections and there is absolutely no transference of road bump shocks into the cabin. The seats provide good support for all body sizes and they would be even more comfortable if this demo vehicle had the optional massaging seats feature. Sadly it didn’t but you can get it as part of the Comfort package for just $1,900.
Interior Space – This being the largest of the SUVs that Mercedes-Benz offers, interior space is plentiful. Front occupants have an abundance of leg and head room with plenty to spare if they are on the taller side. Second row occupants also have a large amount of space, even if they are as tall as myself at 6’4”. The third row is not quite as commodious for tall adults but average sized adults will fit right in the third row.
The only issue is getting in and out of that 3rd row. It’s not difficult but rather time consuming. The second row captain’s chairs are power operated which make it very easy to move forward and backwards but the electric motors are agonizingly slow. It takes a good 20 seconds for the second row seat to move forwards or backwards. That may not seem like a lot of time but it becomes an eternity if you’re waiting outside of the vehicle in the rain until the seat moves forward enough to get into the 3rd row.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Under day-to-day driving conditions, you almost forget that the GLS 450 is powered by a gasoline engine. It is quiet and one of the smoothest engines on the market right now. Even when the engine shuts off or is restarted, there are absolutely no vibrations that transfer into the cabin.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – This being the entry-level GLS, it comes equipped with most of the features that one would expect from a luxury SUV. Heated seats, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, automatic multi-zone climate control and even heated armrests for the front and 2nd row occupants. But this being a luxury German SUV, the options list is extensive with items such as ventilated front seats, heads-up display, massaging front seats, Nappa leather, soft-close doors, augmented reality for navigation and surround view camera are extras for a price.
However, this particular demo vehicle is not fully loaded. Instead it has options that fall more in line with what most customers will opt for when they purchase or lease a Mercedes-Benz GLS 450. The GLS 450 starts at $95,500 CAD ($75,950 USD) and this demo came equipped with the Premium, Sport, & Intelligent Drive packages for a price of $106,700 CAD ($86,200 USD). Not too bad for a comfortable luxury 3-row SUV.
Interior Design – The design of the GLS’ interior is slightly different than other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The air vents are not circular like in many other Mercedes models but rather square. There are also large grab handles on the center console to grab onto if you do decide to take the GLS450 off the beaten path. Other than those changes, the GLS retains the same 10.25” displays for the driver instrument cluster and MBUX infotainment system as found on other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Controlling the infotainment is done through steering wheel touchpads, center console touchpad, the screen itself or via voice commands. As well, this being a Mercedes, ambient lighting bathes the cabin at night with a wide range of colours. Always a feature I enjoy.
Exterior Design – From the outside, the Mercedes-Benz GLS has a wide and muscular stance. The wide tires are covered by significantly flared wheel arches that give the GLS a solid-looking stance, especially from directly behind. One thing that Mercedes could have changed though are the exhaust pipes. They are pointed downwards and are completely covered by the rear bumper. Overall though, the design doesn’t attract unwanted attention but it still looks like a 6-figure luxury SUV.
With a starting price just shy of 6-figures (in Canadian currency), the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 may seem like an expensive 3-row luxury SUV. But you’re getting quite a bit of car for your money. It is more powerful than the competition from BMW and Audi, it is more fuel efficient and unbelievably comfortable, even for an “entry-level” 3-row luxury SUV.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca