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2018 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class Overview
After a 2017 refresh that included new front and rear fascias, engine options, and interior, the 2018 GLS-Class receives minimal updates.
The GLS-Class is a seven-passenger luxury crossover that is able to compete with shorter wheelbase versions of large SUVs. This magic combination gives the GLS-Class an edge on the competition. With a greater sense of prestige, higher pedigree, and intelligent design, the GLS-Class bests both domestic and European rivals.
Mercedes-Benz offers the GLS-Class with three powertrains, all of which come exclusively with the brand’s “4MATIC” all-wheel-drive system (AWD). The base model is the GLS 450, which gets a 3.0-liter biturbo 6-cylinder engine, making 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque and paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy stands at 17 mpg city, 22 highway, and 19 combined on premium fuel, and the GLS 450 can hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.
Buyers can upgrade to the GLS 550, whose powertrain is a 4.7-liter biturbo 8-cylinder good for 449 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, paired with the same 9-speed automatic as in the GLS 450. While fuel economy shrinks to 14, 19, and 16, the 0-to-60 time also shrinks to 5.2 seconds. On top of the engine upgrade, the GLS 550 benefits from sportier front and rear profiles and uprated wheels.
Lastly, there’s the AMG GLS 63. Nearly every component of the AMG GLS 63 has been re-assessed by Mercedes-Benz’ renowned AMG performance house. The first upgrade ist a hand-built 5.5-liter biturbo 8-cylinder that puts out 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque, with an AMG-built 7-speed automatic transmission. There’s a sport-tuned suspension, recalibrated AWD, high-performance brakes, and tuned exhaust, all of which allow the AMG GLS 63 to defy physics for a vehicle in this size—its 0-to-60 time drops to an unbelievable 4.5 seconds. Fuel economy, however, suffers, rating 13, 18, and 15.
Capability is where the GLS-Class shines against softer-sprung competitors. All versions come with the automaker’s AIRMATIC air suspension system, which automatically adjusts the dampening rate and height based on speed and cargo/passenger loads. It can also be used to manually set ride height. The GLS-Class returns a consistent tow rating of 7,200 lbs for the 450 and 550 trims, and 7,500 for the AMG (with the optional tow hitch). The GLS-Class’ DYNAMIC SELECT system grants drivers five basic driving profiles to choose from: Comfort, Sport, Slippery, Off-Road and Individual.The AMG GLS 63 also includes an exclusive Sport+ mode. Equipped with the Off-Road package, the GLS 450 and GLS 550 get a second Off-Road mode, plus a low-speed transfer case, and a greater ability to increase ride height and fording depth.
The GLS-Class’s interior is classic SUV, with upright surfaces, substantial controls, and dark grey plastic that’s both rugged and high-quality. The dashboard and door panels get great expanses of glossy or matte wood on the GLS 450 and GLS 550, or optional aluminum trim on the AMG GLS 63. Sitting at the top of the dashboard is Mercedes-Benz’ familiar COMAND infotainment system, replete with every modern feature, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The seats are configured with two front-row seats, three middle seats, and two seats in the third row. There’s no option for captain’s chairs in the second row, but the outboard second-row seats are as substantial and comfortable as the driver’s and front-seat passenger. Like many crossover SUVs, the third row is best reserved for children or small trips. But Mercedes-Benz does what it can to make third-row occupants more comfortable by employing independent rear suspension that lowers the load floor and creates more space. It’s also a relatively square-backed SUV, so occupants have sufficient headroom to keep from touching the top of the rear hatch. And, there’s an option for push-button folding second-row seats, making getting in and out of the vehicle easier for third-row passengers.
Mercedes-Benz has bestowed the GLS-Class with an impressive suite of standard and optional tech features. High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights are standard, with adaptive LED headlights and automatic high-beams available. There are also sound-system upgrades like a 12-speaker 830-watt Harmon/Kardon setup or a 14-speaker 900-watt Bang & Olufsen system. For the front seats, heat and power are standard, but passenger memory, cooling, and a massage feature are optional. Occupants of the second and third rows can enjoy options like tri-zone climate control, a rear-seat entertainment system, and heat for the outboard second-row seats. Adaptive cruise control and a park pilot are just a couple of the available driving aids on the GLS-Class.
Safety is inherent in a giant vehicle like the GLS-Class, but Mercedes-Benz has taken additional measures in this category. The vehicle gets frontal, knee, and side airbags for the first row and side curtain airbags for all rows. It also gets PRE-SAFE, a system that preps the car for an impending crash by closing the windows, adjusting the front passenger seat, and tightening the front seat belts. There’s a full array of collision-avoidance features as well, like an attention-assist function to warn drivers visually and audibly, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, and forward collision warning/mitigation. The GLS-Class has not been extensively-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) but is expected to perform well in most types of crashes.
The GLS-Class price range is wide and includes a number of fierce competitors. Still, it comes out ahead with Mercedes individual take on an SUV with modern construction and classic capabilities. That, combined with its eye-catching design, high-quality finish, and surprising performance, makes it more than worthy of the storied three-pointed star badge.
Kyree is new to the automotive journalism scene, but has voiced snarky public opinions about cars for quite some time. When he's not drooling over the latest European luxury sled, he's designing web experiences or writing backend code.
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