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Most SUVs that terrorise the streets are bought with the sole intent of intimidating other drivers. If that was your one and only ambition, the new Mercedes Benz GL-class of vehicles can’t be matched for sheer size and road parting ability.
Surely there are other uses for such a behemoth of a thing? That’s what I was interested in investigating. A quick trip to DaimlerChrysler H.Q had me seated in the top-of-the-line GL500 model.
Without a doubt, the first thing you notice is the sheer size of this thing. The roof line is taller than I am, the doors could clobber two people at once and the boot emits a continuous beeping noise to ensure that nobody is trapped during its closing manoeuvre.
Turning the motor over unleashes the full fury of the 500-series engine that is available throughout the Mercedes sedan range (except C-class). The 5.5-litre V8 motor is good for 285kW and a face-slapping 530Nm of torque. With a jab of the throttle, the GL is ready to get down and boogy, unleashing plenty of mambo for a 2.4-tonne monster. The power is sent through a smooth as silk 7-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption was quite reasonable at 13.9-litres/100km.
As you could imagine, interior room is certainly not in short supply. There is easily enough room to fit five adults with plenty of breathing room. There is also a third row of seats that accommodate for mammals of an adult’s stature. The third row is electronically controlled and can be lowered with the touch of a button.
Although most people won’t delve too far off-road, I headed straight for the bush to see what this giant was like off-road. With a low-range gearbox, centre and rear differential locks, along with height adjustable AIRMATIC suspension, it’s not hard to imagine that the GL conquered any terrain thrown at it. It never bottomed out or showed any signs of relent during the muddy expedition, proving that it’s far from a glamour only four-wheel-drive.
Two models are available in the GL range. There’s the GL320 CDI and GL500 (being test driven). They are priced at $103,900 and $146,900 respectively.
You can expect to see the following features in the GL500 model being test driven: 19” alloy wheels; auto dimming rear view mirror; COMAND system with DVD navigation; active bi-xenon headlights; fog lights; auto closing tailgate; electric folding side mirrors; electric windows and mirrors; Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 sound system; driver and passenger seat memory with electric steering wheel adjustment; Nappa leather upholstery; seat heating for front and second row of seats; quad-zone climate control; fog lights; panoramic roof; front and rear parking sensors; auto windscreen wipers and cruise control.
Safety features include: ABS brakes; Brake Assist (BA); Electronic Stability Program (ESP); Electronic Traction Support (ETS); hill descent control; engine immobiliser and a raft of airbags.
One feature missing from the GL-class as standard equipment is a reversing camera. Although the vehicle is equipped with front and rear parking sensors, it’s often hard to see what’s happening around you. The other gripe I had was with the incredibly small passenger side wing mirror that provided little visibility.
Overall, the Mercedes GL-class serves its purpose – in style. There’s more than enough room to cart a horde of adults around and the GL isn’t shy of getting a bit of mud on its tyres. The amount of features you get for the asking price is quite generous when you consider the vehicle as an overall package. As one passer by commented, the Mercedes Benz GL looks like a ‘bad-arse’, I think there’s no better way of summing it up.
CarAdvice rating (out of 5):
- by Paul Maric