2016 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

A gentle and luxurious giant, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a full-size, seven-passenger crossover that impresses with a comfortable cabin and a refined ride.

The standard GL is offered with diesel engine and two gasoline-burning units. A ludicrous 550-horsepower GL63 AMG model is also available.

Recent Changes
For the latest model year, the GL-Class gains a new twin-turbocharged V6.

Billed by Mercedes as the S-Class of crossovers, the GL-Class is indeed quite similar to a larger, tougher version of the company's oft-lauded flagship sedan. Inside, silver chrome controls, generous amounts of wood trim and soft leather upholstery with contrasting stitching help create an air of high luxury worthy of the S-Class.

Niceties such as heated front seats, a power tailgate, and a sunroof are fitted as standard, as is a cloud-based mbrace system that furnishes access to a concierge service, location-based traffic and weather updates, stolen vehicle location assistance, automatic collision notification and more. Available apps add internet browsing, Google local search with street view, Yelp reviews, Facebook access and news reports. Owners can even use an mbrance smartphone app to remotely lock, unlock or locate their GL-Class.

There's space for seven adults across three rows of seats, with even the rearmost row being a snap to access thanks to power easy-entry second-row seats. Cargo space measures 16 cubic feet behind the third-row seats; fold down the third row, and 49.4 cubic feet are available, while also stowing the second row unlocks 93.8 cubes.

Powertrains and Handling
The GL-Class is available in three different forms: the diesel-burning GL350 BlueTEC, the V6-powered GL450 and the range-topping GL550.

The entry-level GL350 BlueTEC features a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that produces 240 horsepower and a healthy 455 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The next rung up the powertrain ladder is the GL450, which is motivated by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque.

Finally, the GL550 packs a direct-injected 4.7-liter V8 engine that makes 429 horsepower and a stout 516 lb-ft. of twist.

All three motors are paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels through Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. For those intending to put their GL-Class to work as a tow vehicle, each model is rated to pull up to 7,500 lbs with an optional Class IV trailer hitch.

The GL350 BlueTEC returns 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, making it the efficiency champ of the lineup. The GL450 returns 17/21 and the GL550 is rated at 13/18.

The GL-Class rides on an AIRMATIC air suspension that automatically adjusts to suit road conditions and can be had with an optional Active Curve System, which works to compensate for body roll during cornering. An optional On- and Off-Road package gives AIRMATIC the ability to raise the GL-Class and provide 12 inches of ground clearance a 23.6 inches wading capability. The package also includes a two-stage transfer case with reduction gearing, a skidplate and a longitudinal differential lock; the three buyers looking to take their GLs off-road will surely be thrilled.

Standard and Optional Features
The GL350 BlueTEC and GL450 are fitted as standard with leatherette upholstery, genuine Eucalyptus wood trim, heated and eight-way power-adjustable front seats, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, a rearview camera and an AM/FM/CD stereo with HD radio and a six-disc CD/DVD changer. Additionally, both the liftgate and folding third row seats are power-operated for extra convenience. On the outside, the wheels are 19-inch alloys.

The range-topping GL550 gets even more goodies, including 10-way heated and ventilated seats, three-zone automatic climate control and rear air-conditioning, and a Harman Kardon Logic7, Dolby 5.1-certified surround sound system. The Parktronic system with Active Parking Assist is standard as well, as is Burl Walnut wood trim. The standard wheels are 21-inch AMG alloys with a twin five-spoke design.

A long list of options is available, with highlights including a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a trailer hitch for towing up to 7,500 pounds, 20-inch wheels and a surround-view parking system that uses front and rear cameras to create a bird's eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings. There is also a plethora of special order items that include special various leather and color combinations as well as aluminum trim.

The GL350 BlueTEC and GL450 feature the option of a Parking Assist package that uses the PARKTRONIC with Active Parking Assist for automatic maneuvering in and out of parallel parking spots and includes a surround view camera. It takes images from four cameras around the vehicle and shows the combined view on the display. The two models will also have the optional Lighting package that includes Bi-xenon headlamps that turn in their housings to follow a curve. This also includes Adaptive Highbeam Assist and a headlamp cleaning system. Both packages are standard in the top-rung GL550.

Occupant Safety
All GL-Class models come standard with dual front, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag and traction and stability control systems. A Crosswind Stabilization uses targeted braking in the event of strong crosswinds to keep the vehicle on its intended course.

Also standard is a radar-based Collision Prevention Assist system that works to prevent or mitigate collisions. Between 20 and 155 mph, the system monitors the distance between the GL and the vehicle in front of it, emitting visual and acoustic warnings and priming the brakes if it senses that a collision is imminent. Working in conjunction with Collision Prevention Assist is Pre-Safe, which automatically tightens the seat belts and closes the sunroof if a crash is detected.

An ATTENTION ASSIST system can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S.A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.

Optional safety gear includes Active Lane Keeping Assist, a technology that warns the driver if it detects that the GL-Class is drifting into an adjacent lane and can apply steering inputs to remain on the proper course. Also available is Active Blind Spot Assist, which uses radar to detect if a vehicle is in the blind-spot area. It provides driver alerts and can also steer the car out of harm's way if the driver accidentally starts to merge into a vehicle.

Key competitors
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class seven-seater is up against a strong class of established competitors, including the Audi Q7, Cadillac Escalade and the Infiniti QX80.