2020 Mercedes GLS Test Drive Review
We do a detailed road test review of the 2020 Mercedes GLS.
Car Tested: 2020 Mercedes GLS 400d; Road Test No. 1266; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 1,19,00,582/-
Outstanding comfort, superb road presence and a smooth diesel engine make the Mercedes GLS a great ultra-luxury family SUV
The Mercedes GLS is the biggest family SUV Mercedes offers. The GLS is seen as the S-Class of SUVs. With even distant relatives of SUVs selling in high numbers, having a good SUV in your lineup makes a huge difference. This year Mercedes has updated the GLS, giving it all the equipment and tech almost every Mercedes car gets, and have brought it more in line with the status quo of the brand.
Exteriors – A curvier design, squared-off headlamps, and slim tail lights. This has vaguely been the theme of updation of the recent iterations of all SUVs Mercedes makes. The first thing that stands out about the GLS is its sheer size. It’s a massive car, all the proportions are big. This does mean that this car, with its massive wheels and tyre width, has a demeaning road presence.
The squared-off wheel arches with good amounts of chrome all around give the GLS a bold and muscular look
The front end looks smart. The squared headlamps work with the bigger proportions, and the large bonnet has a few lines and creases, so it does not look unnecessarily large. Mercedes has not messed with the grille, and hence it fits in well with the front end design. The side is where you can see the sheer length of this car, 5.2 metres of it.
The squared-off wheel arches, and the crease at the rear, where the fender bulges give it a macho look, almost like a Jeep Grand Cherokee from certain angles. The 21-inch alloy wheels suit the size of this SUV. The rear looks quite modern with its slim tail lights. The most notable aspect is the lack of a gradient at the rear. Big cars such as this usually taper the roofline at the rear to make the perceived size of the car a bit smaller.
The GLS’ simple design language without any cuts and creases comes across as a mature and sophisticated SUV
However, Mercedes have chosen to leave the roofline as is, dead straight, and to free up more space for the 3rd row. There is also little overhang at the rear, presumably to benefit the long wheelbase of the car, another design trait of this new GLS. Overall it is a very neat looking exterior and fits in very seamlessly with what Mercedes have been doing with the “GL” lineup’s design.
Interiors – The interior of the new GLS is plain luxury. Mercedes have found their mojo when it comes to designing and most importantly assembling car interiors. There are very little panel gaps, and overall, the choice of materials is very high quality. The ambient lighting is pretty much woven into every edge they could find, and looks really good at night.
Mercedes’ MBUX is one of the best infotainment systems featuring voice commands and connected car tech
The infotainment system is the latest MBUX UI Mercedes offers. This means that you would be getting voice assistant features using “Hey Mercedes” and this car also comes with Mercedes Me connectivity built-in. The 2nd row is very spacious and comes with a tablet which is essentially a mirror of the functionality of the infotainment system.
This car does come with a 5-zone climate control, 2 for the front, 2 for the 2nd row and 1 for the 3rd row. The third row is quite spacious for what it is, although is quite slow to get into, with the electric movement, of the 2-row seats. The panoramic sunroof does not extend to the 3rd row, so it does take a bit away from the airy feeling. A special “mini moonroof” would have certainly helped with that, like with the BMW X7.
The large sunroof coupled with the beige upholstery and large windows bring in loads of light into the cabin
This interior is a very comfortable place to be in, and long drives will be easily undertaken in this cabin. The tech is plentiful, and, will satisfy even the savviest of riders. Most importantly the interior delivers on quality, even considering this price point.
Performance – The Mercedes GLS is available with both petrol and diesel engine options, our tester is powered by a 3.0-litre, straight-six diesel which produces 330 BHP of power and 700 Nm of torque. This oil burner is terrifically refined, can barely be heard at idle and even when you start driving, engine noise is kept well out of the bay. Turbo lag is well contained but the 9-speed gearbox isn’t the fastest with shifts, so it does take a few milliseconds more to give you a downshift. That said, the gearbox is very smooth with shifts and power delivery is linear.
The diesel motor has segment-leading NVH levels and also keeps road and tyre noise outside of the cabin
This being the 400d, one would expect some kick in the pants feel in the mid-range but none of that is to be found, instead, there is a continuous surge in acceleration in the mid-range with the motor becoming vocal in the top-end of the rev range, but in a good way. 0-100 km/hr takes just 6.3 seconds which makes it quick, although you don’t feel that speed, the GLS 400d is still a quick SUV for its size and weight. There are 3 drive modes on offer – Eco, Comfort and Off-Road; Mercedes hasn’t given this SUV a sports mode. The models alter the engine, gearbox, steering and suspension.
Driving Dynamics – The Mercedes GLS is a heavy car (tipping the scales at 2500 kgs) with the suspension being on the softer side, it gets an air suspension which can vary the ride height (depending on the drive mode) although the ground clearance is more than ample. Ride quality isn’t the best at low speeds due to the massive tyres, big wheels and soft suspension but as you speed up, the car glides on the road with a cushiony feel! Due to the softness and the size, the GLS doesn’t really enjoy being pushed hard although it remains very glued to the road at high speeds.
Ride quality at low speeds isn’t that great but as the speed increases, the GLS just glides over any tarmac
The steering is light at low speeds but weighs up quite well at high speeds, but there is a lot of body roll around the corners which can be felt even though grip levels and steering feel is in plenty. Mercedes has skipped e-Active Body Control for India which gets active anti-roll bars for improved handling, not that you would miss it much but since this is the S-Class of SUVs, it should have got everything but the kitchen sink. Brakes are strong but there is nose-dive under heavy braking.
Verdict – The new Mercedes GLS SUV is a very solid option if you are considering this segment. If you want a big Mercedes SUV, and like what Mercedes has been doing recently, this car scales it up. The car is very comfortable to be in and can easily carry 7 people. It has off-roading prowess and comes with all the necessary tech to go along with it, although we doubt it would be used.
There is strong competition in this segment, especially with the BMW X7, as all manufacturers are upping their game in this segment. However, this car as said before ticks all the right boxes and is a very strong contender if you want an SUV in this price bracket.
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Alternatives – BMW X7, Audi Q7, Range Rover Vogue, Lexus LX570, Volvo XC90
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