2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class first drive assessment: “The S-Class of SUVs” earns its title


Mercedes-Benz likes to name the GLS-Class “the S-Class of SUVs.” That is a fairly lofty boast. Whereas technically true — so far as nomenclature is worried, anyway — I contemplate the S-Class sedan the gold customary for luxurious sedans, whereas the earlier era GLS by no means felt just like the benchmark in its class. So when the 2020 GLS-Class debuted claiming the identical S-Class razzmatazz, I used to be initially skeptical.

However the brand new GLS feels extra like a flagship than ever earlier than. It options promising and progressive powertrain choices, it appears to be like fairly darn good for a giant ol’ field and advantages from a wave of latest cabin and security expertise that I’ve loved in different fashionable Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Possibly this time “the S-Class of SUVs” is extra than simply advertising.

Resculpted design

The GLS was already the biggest SUV in Benz’s steady, however there was apparently nonetheless room to develop. The SUV is a bit bigger throughout for 2020, stretching out to about 205 inches in total size. The GLS advantages from a wheelbase that has grown by 2.Four inches. Which means backseat passengers have three extra inches of legroom. Benz claims that you would be able to now match as much as a 6-foot, 4-inch tall passenger on the third row — relying, after all, on the way you divvy up the house with the sliding second row bench.

Throughout all three rows, the passengers will recognize extra shoulder and headroom for this era GLS, the latter of which is enhanced by a large (optionally available) panoramic moonroof, with a devoted little sunroof opening for the third row.

Up entrance, the GLS options simplified and toned-down tackle Mercedes-Benz inside design. Hallmarks such because the 4 round vents within the middle stack have been reshaped to extra compact rectangles, and there is much less shiny piano black trim. There’s an effectivity to the design that I like, nearly as if Benz has infused the cabin with a little bit of Audi DNA. Nonetheless, elements of the design — just like the chilly aluminum trim and the large pretend plastic vent to the precise of the infotainment show — do not have that “S-Class” weight and heat that I’ve come to count on.

MBUX expertise

What the GLS’ cabin lacks in opulence, it greater than makes up with tech, rocking the Mercedes-Benz Person Expertise (or MBUX) system in its dashboard. This dual-screen system dedicates one in every of its 12.3-inch shows to an enormous digital instrument cluster and a second show to conventional infotainment capabilities. An out there (and pretty giant) customizable head-up show places automobile pace, present pace restrict, navigation or audio supply info nearer to the motive force’s subject of view, bringing the variety of screens within the GLS to 3.

I’ve examined a smaller model of the MBUX system within the Mercedes-Benz A-Class the place it impressed me with a way more intuitive interface and far smarter menu group than the S-Class’ older COMAND system. Within the GLS, MBUX continues to showcase good options like augmented actuality navigation, “Hey Mercedes” pure language voice command and a model of Benz’ Energizing Consolation cabin management system.


There’s a powerful quantity of customization out there for the GLS-Class’ digital instrument cluster.

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The approaching of MBUX to the dashboard can be the tip of the COMAND management wheel, which has disappeared from the console. Now, drivers work together with the infotainment with quite a lot of contact surfaces — a haptic contact pad on the middle console, the touchscreen on the middle of the dashboard and the 2 touch-sensitive thumb pads on the steering wheel. I will miss the tactile nature of twisting the knob, however I recognize the simplification of what was a really redundant consumer interface.

Choose your powertrain

The third-generation GLS is offered in two flavors: The ability hungry will likely be drawn to the GLS580 with its 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine making 483 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Most drivers will likely be content material with the extra affordable GLS450, with its single-turbo, 3.0-liter inline-six, making 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet. I say “extra affordable” however that is nonetheless extra energy than BMW’s X7 xDrive40i’s turbocharged I6 engine, and we’re solely simply getting began…

Whichever engine you select, the GLS’ efficiency is additional augmented by Mercedes-Benz’s EQ Increase 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Along with recapturing wasted braking power, smoothing out the anti-idling system’s stops and begins and powering a number of the extra energy-hungry auxiliary system, EQ Increase is ready to add an extra 21 horsepower and an electrifying 184 pound-feet of torque with the faucet of the motive force’s toe for a burst of acceleration.

That entire hybrid package and caboodle is mated to plain 4Matic all-wheel drive through an additionally customary nine-speed computerized transmission. With the EQ Increase system ironing out the dips between shifts, the GLS is remarkably easy and quiet. Nonetheless, the added hybrid grunt signifies that even the six-cylinder mannequin feels V8 potent when it comes time to move.


Drivers have their selection of engines, however 4Matic AWD and the gentle hybrid EQ Increase system are customary both approach.

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Forward of the Curve

The 48-volt system powers one in every of my favourite additions the GLS’ bag of tips, the optionally available E-Lively Physique Management system. This upgraded model of Benz’s Airmatic suspension is ready to extra quickly regulate the habits of every wheel, permitting it to react to modifications within the street or the motive force’s habits immediately and extra naturally than a traditional air suspension. This speedy response permits for some attention-grabbing proactive behaviors.

When geared up with E-Lively Physique Management, the GLS’ sensors are capable of actively scan the street forward for upcoming bumps and dips within the SUV’s path which the air suspension can compensate for, flowing easily over and thru the imperfections. This made for extremely easy cruising by the mountains throughout my first drive — my usually carsick co-pilot was happy  and I can not wait to see how the system offers with undulating interstate enlargement joints.

The GLS’ coolest social gathering trick, nevertheless, is the E-Lively Physique Management “Curve” function which leans the SUV into bends type of like a 5,700 pound, seven-seat motorbike. The approach helps to cancel out physique roll for extra snug and extra dynamic cornering. The Curve mode can be capable of compensate for squat and dive when accelerating or decelerating, serving to to maintain the SUV’s chassis feeling steady throughout aggressive maneuvers.


The E-Lively Physique Management suspension is a powerful improve that improves consolation, comfort and efficiency.

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There are three ranges of Curve to select from through the MBUX infotainment system, and the choice to disable the system through the drive mode selector. However even on the highest stage, the Curve impact is a refined one. I did not discover the lean as I tucked the GLS right into a nook, however I did really feel a marked distinction in how steady the SUV felt and the way I felt much less tossed to-and-fro, within the driver’s seat. My usually carsick co-pilot additionally regarded noticeably much less inexperienced across the gills over the twisty mountainous roads.

Driver help tech

Rounding out the GLS expertise is the complete may of Mercedes-Benz’s superior driver help suite. The total-sized SUV might be had with adaptive cruise management that may preserve a set following distance behind a number one automobile even in stop-and-go visitors, superior lane-keeping steering help that actively facilities the SUV in its lane, and a lane change help function that may even steer into an adjoining and empty lane. Aiding security are computerized brake help for entrance and rear collision mitigation, evasive steering help — which helps drivers to swerve round doable pedestrian or bike owner collisions — and, when an influence is inevitable, the automaker’s Pre-Secure techniques which prep the automobile and its passengers for influence.

The GLS can be able to car-to-X communication, which implies the SUV is ready to transmit and obtain details about driving circumstances and warning messages from different automobiles and infrastructure. That does not imply all that a lot for many drivers as we speak, however it’s a little bit of future proofing will likely be a profit down the street as extra roads, infrastructure, visitors lights and automobiles grow to be linked.


The posh SUV class is getting crowded, however the GLS-Class arrives able to tackle all comers.

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The S-Class of SUVs

When it arrives at dealerships later this 12 months, the brand new GLS-Class will compete most straight with the brand new BMW X7 and Roadshow’s former Automotive of the 12 months, Volvo’s XC90. These searching for one thing just a little extra “home” ought to contemplate the Cadillac Escalade, although it is honest to recollect the GLS is assembled at Benz’s Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant.

Cross-shopping will favor the Mercedes with its superior energy, efficiency and expertise, however a value improve for the 2020 mannequin 12 months — because of that EQ Increase system and extra customary tools than ever earlier than — signifies that the brand new GLS may even be probably the most costly rides in its class. Anticipate the 2020 GLS450 to start out at $75,200 earlier than choices and a $995 vacation spot and supply cost. Drivers who have to get from Zero to 60 miles per hour barely sooner will have the ability to step as much as a V8-powered GLS580, which begins at $97,800.

I am not the largest fan of the GLS’ inside design, however I believe it will simply must develop on me. Nonetheless, each different side of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class lives as much as being known as the “S-Class of SUVs.” It is trendy and splendid, snug but surprisingly agile and loaded up with a considerate strategy to expertise that take it past simply being straightforward to dwell with — it is a pleasurable expertise.


With extra customary options and that EQ Increase hybrid system, the GLS is a little more costly for 2020.

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