Handing back a long-term loan car isn’t always easy.
Case in point, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 has been my faithful companion for the past six months or so. It was a pretty interesting time too, what with summer, winter, lockdowns, curfews and Melbourne’s infamous traffic experienced at polar opposite ends of the scale.
And, like a faithful hound over some 6500km, the GLS has been there through thick and thin, and I think it’s pretty fair to say I’ve grown pretty fond of the big bus.
You see, despite my initial reservations about the sheer volumetric size of the GLS, I am actually going to miss seeing it in the driveway… not that it really fit all that well.
So read on to find out what I liked the most about the ‘S-Class of SUVs’, and what, if you’re in the market for a big chunk ‘o Benzo, you need to be aware of before you buy your own GLS.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450|
|Engine configuration||Inline six-cylinder turbocharged petrol (with 48V mild-hybrid)|
|Power||270kW @ 5500rpm (+16kW EQ-Boost)|
|Torque||500Nm @ 1500–4500rpm (+270Nm EQ-Boost)|
|Transmission||Nine-speed (9G-Tronic) automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle claim)||9.2L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle on test)||9.1L/100km (touring)|
|Fuel tank size||90L|
|Sales category||Upper-Large SUV (premium)|
|Key competitors||BMW X7 / Audi Q7 / Land Rover Discovery|
First things first, pricing and value.
Originally stickered at $147,100 before options and on-road costs, our full-size Mercedes adds Selenite Grey Metallic Paint ($2100), the Night Package (black trim elements, AMG Body styling and 22-inch wheels for $2500), Interior Innovation package (adaptive lighting and augmented-reality navigation at $800) and of course, E-Active Body Control ($13,000).
This creates an invoice of $165,500 before on-road costs, for our MY20 GLS450.
However, for the 2021 specification car, the base price increased by $9200 to $156,300, with no change to the option inclusions or pricing. Making a ‘new’ example of our car $174,700 before on roads.
It’s a big jump, but still under the identically specified diesel GLS (GLS400d) at $163,000 before options, and well under the $267,100 AMG GLS63. It’s also more affordable than the twin-turbo V8 petrol BMW X7 M50i ($181,900) but a considerable step up from the inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel X7 30i ($135,900).
Worth noting too, that the GLS450 is also about 25 per cent more pricey than the smaller GLE450, which shares the same powertrain and much of the equipment, in a 289mm shorter, two-row (or optional third-row) format.
But while we’re throwing numbers around, the S-Class of SUVs is about $100,000 less than the S-Class of, well, S-Classes with the ‘regular’ wheelbase S450 hitting the ground at $240,700. It’s also less than what people are pitching ‘last chance’ Toyota LandCruiser Saharas at. Read into that what you will.
So yes, the GLS isn’t cheap but it is reasonable in the context of its peers, and you do get a whole lot of car for your dollar.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450|
|Ground clearance||199mm (adjustable)|
|Boot volume||355L / 890L / 1470L (2040L to roof)|
|Tow rating (unbraked / braked)||750kg / 3500kg|
|Wheels/tyres||22-inch – 285/45 R22 front, 325/40 R22 rear Continental|
Which leads into the headline of the ‘what we liked’ about the GLS list, is the space.
The car is simply huge, but importantly it’s also spacious and practical. If you think those things are always aligned, go and have a look at a large American car and work out how they manage to make something so physically big, feel so small on the inside.
Not so the biggest Benz though, as there is luxurious space in all rows and even the boot.
In our time with the car, we used it as a very capable five-seater with a heap of luggage space, as a seven-seater with plenty of room for all the shopping, and even a two-seater to transport bikes, boxes, and a set of Sportline rims for the 190E.
And each time, with room to spare.
Don’t get me wrong, enjoying all this space comes at the cost of parking spots, lane widths and garage heights. I did get used to the dimensions of the jumbo G, but it is absolutely something you need to consider if a plus-sized seven-seater is on your shopping list.
I’d suggest a test drive to take in your specific driveway and parking situation, and also some movement around your regular haunts to see how it handles a u-turn in your suburban shopping strip and deals with the hubbub of the school run and supermarket carpark.
Physically it will fit, it’s not ‘that’ big, but it (or more correctly, you) might not feel as comfortable as you are used to.
To be clear, even in the waning hours of my time with the GLS I still avoided the tight lanes and hungry kerbs of the Prahran McDonalds drive-through, and there were a number of multi-story parking structures I simply didn’t attempt to access.
Even the car hole deep beneath the CarAdvice / Drive office had clearly defined no-go areas for the GLS, and if anyone needed to move the big Benz, it required an experienced pilot of sorts (usually muggings here) to navigate the correct channel of pylons and walls, like some sort of lethal concrete reef.
Back inside, there’s great headroom for everyone, adjustable legroom for the middle (and thus, the rear) along with storage and amenities to keep the whole gang comfortable. My only real gripe with the interior was the second-row not returning to the same position they were in when you move them (powered) to access the rear-most seats.
Further, to get heating in the second row you need to add a $3900 Energizing Package (that also adds heated cup holders), which feels a bit much. Window blinds in the doors (powered, no less) are also optional, further stretching the friendship an additional $1300.
These aren’t big things, but given the buy-in of the GLS and the fact a version of both these items aren’t particularly high-tech and can be had on a Kia or Hyundai for half the price, it’s a bit disappointing to not have them as part of the standard setup.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450|
|Colour||Selenite Grey Metallic|
|Options as tested||$18,400|
|Servicing, three years||$2700|
|Servicing, five years||$5200|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
The list of what is included though is very long.
Power, heated, ventilated, massage, memory front seats are a particular highlight of mine, as is the expansive MBUX operating system and twin 12.3-inch LCD screens.
From voice input to hyper-customisation and excellent integration with all the car’s functions, the car’s operating system establishes it as a true technology platform, beyond its baseline practicality.
Even things like the dynamic high-beam headlamps are ‘wow’ moments when they activate. You see the car ‘draw’ a secondary beam of light above the already bright LED wash, and then move and adjust that light to suit the road, your steering angle and even oncoming vehicles and reflective signs.
It works on dark suburban streets as well as it works out in the unassisted countryside, and best of all it works automatically.
And that is the key with all the tech in the GLS, as noted in our previous update, it’s all so well ingrained with the entire car that it just works seamlessly. Note though, I didn’t say it works 'perfectly' as there were a few technical functions we found a couple of minor issues with.
For example, as noted in our country touring update, your voice-driven instructions aren’t always accurately interpreted, the car’s lane-keeping aid will occasionally forcibly tug you back into the lane when you may have good reason for moving out of it, and the automatic braking for corners didn’t always seem to consider other vehicles or even the inherent ‘I got this’ nature of human driving behaviour.
Note that I chose words like ‘occasionally’ as the majority of time spent with the GLS and its myriad technologies were essentially faultless but perhaps those occasional hiccups serve as a real-world example of just why, even in such a clever car, we’re still a long way off full-autonomous driving.
With that in mind then, another area where the GLS really impressed was as a long-distance tourer. The 3.0-litre inline-six with its 48-volt mild-hybrid pairing came close to its urban fuel consumption claim of 11.4L/100km with regular around-town tanks sitting in the low 15L/100km range.
But on the open road, the GLS sat well into single figures, with a couple of trips as low as 8.4L/100km, against a highway-only claim of 7.9L/100km and a combined cycle of 9.2L/100km.
Given the car’s 2656kg mass, and block-of-flats style body, this is a really impressive result, especially for a petrol car.
The comfort and ease of use on longer trips was a real standout of our time with the big Mercedes, and it was where the car felt most at home. Definitely, something to consider if your family use regularly takes in some regional travel legs.
Something else that the jury is still out on, is the design.
Personally, I quite like it, particularly from the rear. It’s unapologetically big and brash, but I will concede the GLS is not the most attractive car that Mercedes-Benz has produced in recent years.
In our car’s dark grey with AMG-line goodies, it is perhaps at its style peak (although I’d always opt for Cavansite Blue, and I did catch a glimpse of an Emerald Green one once, which did look pretty slick) as turning up the design dial any more tends to push the boundaries a bit too far.
Case in point, have you seen the Maybach variant? Yeah… no.
So then what we have is a car that does a very good job of answering the ‘S-Class of SUVs’ brief, albeit not a completely perfect one.
It’s mostly handsome, is big on comfort, spec and practical size, does an impressive job at delivering a suite of technical features and innovations that mostly work well, and offers a flexible and impressively efficient driveline, for a price.
As the top of the SUV range, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS450 was never going to be a cheap option, and while arguably ‘fair’ value in terms of its peers, probably can’t sustain too many more price increases without a subtle tweak to the standard specification.
If it fits your budget though, it will fit everything else too, as if you are looking for the grandest of grand family tourers, the GLS is pretty hard to beat.
MORE: Long-term report one: Introduction
MORE: Long-term report two: Urban Living
MORE: Long-term report three: Touring
MORE: Long-term report four: Technology
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